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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 1, March 2016

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Mel Goldberg
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico


The Long Shadow

When I was sixteen, my father brought his mother, my grandmother, to live with us after my grandfather died. She was devastated by his death and had difficulty remembering things. Thinking to help her, I pulled out an old album and showed her photographs taken when we visited her and my grandfather many years before. One photo was of her, me, and my father. “Who is that?” she asked pointing at a child of seven. “That’s me, Grandma. It was taken a long time ago.” She smiled, paused for a moment, and then said, “Oh. And who is that man holding your hand?”

winter sunset
the clouds
on the horizon
outlined in gold
day slips into night

After Mother’s funeral, my father, my adult children, and I went to a nearby deli to bind our emotions with Jewish comfort food—lox and bagels and eggs fried with matzos. We were saddened that several family members were not able to travel from other countries to be there. My father said, “At least the rest of the family is together if only for a little while.” While we ate, he told stories about the lives he and my mother had when they were first married, the lives we all had together, and the lives they had after my brother and I had left home. I choked up when he spoke about all the enjoyable things we had done together. I tried to speak but tears strangled my words. He smiled. “It is understandable to have problems speaking. What is terrible is to have problems remembering.”

after the burial
the gathering of family
brightens a sad day
eliminating, for a while,
the long shadow of death

The call came from the nursing home near Phoenix, less than two miles from where I lived: “Your father is having trouble breathing.” I rushed there and sat by the side of his bed. He knew he was dying. I asked him if he were in any pain, and he answered no between gasps. I held his hand until he breathed his last. He wanted to be buried beside my mother, his wife of 55 years, who had died several years before. But the cemetery was a three-day drive across the country, covered by snow and ice and whipped by howling storms.

in the urn
on the shelf
over the fireplace
my father's ashes
await spring burial

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