Sunday, May 11, 2008


So I’ve spent the last two days sorting through boxes of old pictures of my grandparents. My dad’s dad is going to be 90 in June and we’re having a big party for him, and my contribution is to create a “This is Your Life” sort of film for him. With that in mind, I thought a poem about nostalgia would be appropriate.

By Tony Gloeggler

My brother enlisted
in the winter. I pitched
for the sixth grade Indians
and coach said
I was almost as good
as Johnny. My mother
fingered rosary beads,
watched Cronkite say
and that's the way it is.
I smoked my first
and last cigarette. My father
kept his promise,
washed Johnny's Mustang
every weekend. Brenda Whitson
taught me how to French kiss
in her basement. Sundays
we went to ten o'clock Mass,
dipped hands in holy water,
genuflected, walked down
the aisle and received
Communion. Cleon Jones
got down on one knee, caught
the last out and the Mets
won the World Series.
Two white-gloved Marines
rang the bell, stood
on our stoop. My father
watched their car
pull away, then locked
the wooden door. I went
to our room, climbed
into the top bunk,
pounded a hardball
into his pillow. My mother
found her Bible, took
out my brother's letters,
put them in the pocket
of her blue robe. My father
started Johnny's car,
revved the engine
until every tool
hanging in the garage

The speaker tells the story of receiving the news that his brother died in Vietnam. Each member of the family reacts in a different way. Mom prayed, Dad started brother’s car, and speaker passive-aggressively pounded a baseball into his glove. All three are logical and understandable reactions, though I would hold that there are no real “inappropriate” reactions to getting such news.

The reason that I chose this poem is the great number of war pictures that I saw this weekend. My grandfather has never been a particularly vocal man, at least not when it comes to his time in the army. Seeing him in his uniforms, holding his guns, drinking with his buddies, really threw me for a loop. How do I react to seeing pictures of a man in the midst of a war when there is nobody in my life whom I can less easily picture fighting a war? He is calm, laid back, forgetful, and as passive as any human who has ever lived. Today, we met for brunch, which has been planed for a few weeks. He spoke to his daughter (and my aunt) on the phone before we left and told her that he was going to a wedding today. Where he got that idea I have no idea, and when we arrived at the restaurant, I wonder what was going through his head; was he expecting a wedding ceremony?

The point that I’m trying to make is that there is a whole world, a whole life, that was lived by my grandfather that I just don’t know about. He’s told me the story of why he joined the Army (he was sixteen and broke so he lied about his age and enlisted) and he told me about the places he traveled to (Japan, Italy, Hawaii, Alaska), but he never talks about what he went through or the people he knew. Poems like this make me think about that life he lived, and the nostalgia he must feel, even though he never talks about it.

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