Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A poem for grandpa

Still Fighting

Grandpa showered us little girls in rare silver coins.

Half-dollars, Silver B. Anthony’s, maybe even Pocahontas’s,

He’d pull them out of his pocket and we’d run to him

I have hundreds now, a child’s treasure box.

I remember many things,

But mostly gathering ‘round a recliner while grandpa recited “Paul Revere’s Ride,”

gesturing boldy with his war-crippled fingers,

speaking the 130-line poem from memory.

His voice boomed and I listened wide-eyed, eating slices of frozen pizza.

I didn’t understand belfries and British muskets.

Yet every word of his poetic rhyme mesmerized this young mind,

and there kindled a love for literature and poetry.

Grandpa always dresses in his Sunday best, even sitting at home

Crisp trousers, gold rings and a sweater vest

A comb ran through his hair before a picture.

There is no a holiday, nor get-together

Without grandpa raising a glass to his family

With an Irish limerick or “ode to someone.”

Never passing up a moment to teach, humor and inspire.

When grandpa talks, it hushes my boisterous family

And although they won’t admit it,

They fear him when he approaches a game of poker,

Dropping that heavy purple cloth bag of change on the table

He is many things, my grandpa:

A man who questions the world around him,

A professor, a poet, an orator, a veteran,

but mostly the proud patriarch of his family.

Now 85 years young and married 65

We almost lost him in May

Survived two gunshot wounds in Iwo Jima and now,

A third heart attack, the heart still beating – his body refusing to let go

I bet he’s wondering “Why me?”

As famously repeated in his Iwo Jima poem.

They said he’d die, but no-

He’s on the homeland, yet fighting still

Grandpa makes a mockery of the doctor’s assumptions,

And keeps waking up in the morning.

They take his vitals and say he’ll expire soon,

But, no, they don’t know my grandpa.

He jokes with nurses, that glint still in his eyes

Says he’s given up reading for Lent,

And raises his hands in a helpless shrug when someone asks him if he’d like a beer,

Answering “I’ll try,” when I say he better be at my September wedding.

Robbed of his ears in the war and now his heart,

A valve damaged on the operating table,

Grandpa sits in a nursing home, biding away his time.

Smiling lovingly into grandma’s eyes, and writing her love notes.

My grandpa's name is William Madden. At left, is the book in which his poem was published, and the book was also named after him by the author. You can see his poem by looking inside the electronic copy on Amazon. Also, the author wrote a nice note to him on the first couple of pages.