4 Unkie
By Kara L.C. Jones

Unkie died
(First of the
Days of the Dead)

I may have been an
apologetic child,
but as a grown woman,
I apologize for nothing.
Everything about me
is strong, sometimes even offensive.

My body odor is
heavy, scented
with all the old Italian
myths & women
who have gone before me.
My hair is dark,
a vibrant purple
which I do not come by naturally with
several streaks of gray
which I do come by naturally.

My body itself is thick and coarse
and can pick up any
ailing child or man and
carry him to safety
and yet
these curves are sculpted
smoothly over my bones
from years
of grieving--
a dead grandmother
whose life is celebrated each year
at Day of the Dead
with homemade pierogi
just like she used to make;
one son who
was a healthy 6 lbs., 4 oz.
& 19 inches long
when they pulled
his dead body
from my womb tangled
in a twisted umbilical cord;
and, now, an Unkie
who was the only grandfather
I ever had, whose heart
was eaten alive
by cancer cells over populating
his body, one at a time until
he was consumed.

This kind of grief
is loud, obnoxious,
rude, & invasive.
I do not apologize
for my breasts,
heavy with sorrow,
full of milk
for a dead child
who never drank.

I may have whimpered
as a child, begged
for forgiveness
but today
on this day of death,
for my Unkie,
I embrace my grown woman,
& I do not apologize
for all that I have lost
nor for all the ways
I go on living.
Today of all days,
I do not apologize
for anything I have become,
for I have been made
by my grandmother, my son, my Unkie.

My mother called,
said Unkie--
the only man who had
been decent enough
to be a grandfather to me--
was dying.
She went on to say
I didn't need to come home.
I almost laughed as I
hung up quickly, saying
"I'm finding a flight now,
I'll call you back later."
And I ran
with angel's wings carrying me
all the way from Seattle to
Cincinnati. I was feeling rushed,
had to get there, and then I turned,
looked out the plane window to my right.
There I saw it:

the sun was setting,
a brilliant pink with
a layer of dark clouds across the horizon
and the moon hanging
The dark clouds parted
like elevator doors--
I remembered it was the first day
of Day of the Dead, the day
Spirit children cross over first, the day
my son would return--
a whisp of a cloud
came out of the brilliant pink opening in the dark
horizon layer and a moment later
two whisps of clouds went back into that
pink door-    -way
and the dark clouds slid closed again
And I knew:

My son had crossed over,
taken my Unkie by hand,
& both had crossed back.

The sun set, leaving
the moon alone
with a misty red cloud ring
wound around it,
Blood on the moon.

My heart stopped racing,
I didn't panic when they told me
my connecting flight
was cancelled, that I was being
diverted to Atlanta, then flown
to my destination, Pittsburgh,
where my plane was to land
close to midnight Halloween.

It did not affect me.
I didn't care.
It was too late.
He was already gone.

My reaction
to the funeral
was not typical.
Family everywhere,
some I hadn't seen
for 10 or 12 years,
wailing widow
comforted by other widows,
sobbing grandchildren seeing
death up-close
for the first time.
But tears did not come
for me.
I'm sure
this seemed heartless
to those who were
watching closely.
But how to mourn,
be sad, shed tears,
when Unkie was now
with my child
in Heaven?
To know my Kota
has the love & care
of the man I adored so much--
how to grieve that?

If I can't cross over now,
if I cannot lay down
and forever sleep with my son
in my arms, then
it is an honor
to have my favorite elder
cross over
for me.

It is selfish,
but I cannot

Written in loving memory of
Henry C. Jedlowski
July 16, 1918 - October 31, 2000
Dakota Jones
Born and died on March 11, 1999


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