If my great-aunt Bess were still alive, she would have turned 108 this month. We fell in love when I was a toddler and never fell out. When I stopped going to church in college, she would ask me, every time I saw her if I’d started back. When I finally did, I told her, “I’m going to church and I feel so much better.” Her answer? “Well, of course you do.” I miss her, but I could never begrudge her heaven or heaven her.
Sometimes love has no
other motive. Sometimes
love sprouts up wild
between the rows of corn,
string beans and tomatoes.
At 95, Aunt Bess would
take her cane and walk me
round—down to the mailbox,
over to the swimmin’ hole,
past the garden where she
remembered her only son
shooting a groundhog the day
scarlet fever took him.
At 98, she would sit me down
on the porch and hold my hand.
She talked about old Celly who
appeared like a ghost for dinner
and drew pictures of the Devil.
At 101, she laughed with joy
to see me through the screen door.
She sat in a patch of morning sun,
pulled me close in a kitchen chair,
asked about people long gone.
Judd, Nellie, Grandpa Rex—
family long dead came back to life
and we talked like it was yesterday.
Always, she cupped my face in soft,
bent hands and said, “You are
so dear to me. So dear.”
At 102 I gave her eulogy, told how
she had loved me for no good reason
and how I loved her just the same.