I wrote this poem a number of years ago, thinking about how we reflect those family ties that connect and bind us to each other.  While I never met my grandparents, they were vivid in my mind thanks to the wonderful great aunts and uncles that I did get to meet.  


Kinship Shows

On the sofa
sit Kathy and Eleanor
daintily.

Their interacting
politely argumentative,
reveals individuality,
yet points up similarities:
beauty shop hair
ironed print dresses
vocal inflections 
shared blindness.

The stories I know
encircle them,
gentle breezes in the summer heat.

To this coal region came their Scottish father
to do the same work he’d always done.
But in America, work echoed
promise and plenty.
Until he died at 96
Kathy cared for him.
On the Youghigheny in tiny Smithton,
she lived a genteel life.
Yet not.

She and a different sister— Agnes — 
had married brothers
those Stolting boys.
In rural backwater Pennsylvania
in the 1930s and 40s,
Kathy’s husband and Eleanor’s ran a tavern.
Perhaps not purely religiously 
Kathy’s husband chose to give up the bar
to be a minister
providing comforts of a different sort.
From a barman’s to a minister’s wife— 
perhaps that’s why Kathy takes so much
in stride.  

Till 94 she lived in Smithton.
Now, her son Roy cares for her in Texas
as she once cared for her father.
At 98
she is remote
from family roots
and home.
Rooted still in her rural home
Eleanor is surrounded
by fruit trees and family.
Even blind she bakes— 
pies
cakes
cobblers— 
as she always has.
The baby in her family at 93,
she spends her days with daughter Doris Ann
and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren
who all live nearby.
She traveled with her husband Frank
to remote places in Europe
including her father’s homeland.
But always she remained grounded
in her spot in the Laurel Highlands
not far from where she was born.
She looks so like her mother
who died when Eleanor was just a girl.

As they click their teeth
and dispense firmly loving hugs,
I see them
now, but then too,
as the younger women they once were.
I imagine my grandmother Agnes on the couch there too— 
a woman I never knew— 
between them
in age, appearance, views— 

The lovely Robertson girls 
ready to take their town by storm.



(c) Lydia A. Schultz 2000