Shifting the Sun by Diana Der-Hovanessian

When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.

“Shifting the Sun” by Diana Der-Hovanessian, from Selected Poems. © Sheep Meadow Press, 1994.

I have been looking for this for 2 months. Finally found it today. A friend sent it to me via FB messenger right after my dad died. I thought I had stashed it somewhere easy to find. That as pretty silly of me.

It will probably make you cry a little. It made me tear up, again. But, it helps my heart, too.

Tomorrow is my parents 56th wedding anniversary.

_____________________

Ded said “Garrison Keillor read that on The Writer’s Almanac the day before my dad died. I was alone in the office in the very early morning, which was a good thing, because I knew my dad was dying, and I ended up sobbing. I also knew it was a gift, and I worked to find a copy of it (this was 1996, before you could find anything on the interwebs) to be read at his funeral. On the first anniversary of my dad’s death, Garrison Keillor read it on The Writer’s Almanac again. Since then I have always shared it with friends when their dad’s pass, and it was read at the funeral of my children’s father. It means a great deal to me; I’m glad it means a great deal to you too.”

dna

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Names

My friend has a son who is 10. I have been in a room with him. But, we haven’t actually been introduced other than “This is my friend, Kitty.” directed to his grandmother, who was in the room at the same time. I have no clue what he is expected to call me. It will be interesting to see if he ever actually calls me by name.

When I was growing up, I had an Aunt Nel and Uncle Carl who weren’t actually related. But, they have known me since I was a year old and are still good friends of my mother. I, also, had Mr. Jim, Mr. George and Miss Esther, who were friends of my grandparents. Also, no actual genetic connection. But, close enough not to require the formality of last names.

An African-American friend once told me that her parents taught her never to Miss This or Mr. That to anyone because it was a slave time holdover. And I can see that. But, that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the names we used for the older family friends. I told Diane about Miss Esther and Aunt Nel and she said “Hm. That’s interesting. I’ll keep it in mind when I hear those used in the future.”

My sister works in a daycare. The children there call all the teachers Miss Firstname. So, my sister is Miss Amanda to her 3 and 4 year olds. I’m not sure why the school chooses to do that. It is surely no more difficult to say than Miz Whoever.

Because I am called “Kitty” (birth certificate says “Katherine”), I get the extra silliness of Miss Kitty. If you are of a certain age in America, you watched Gunsmoke on TV. Miss Kitty was the madam working at the saloon in Dodge City. Even the director of my department at work adds that superlative to my name. And that feels odd. “Miss Kitty” from someone under the age of 20 would fit my family’s traditions. But, from people my own age or older, it is just peculiar.

Artichokes

When I was 14 or 15, a frequent habit in my family was to go to church on Sunday and then have our big meal, usually in the dining room instead or the breakfast nook off the kitchen. It wasn’t always a huge feast that my mother had spent hours over, just the biggest meal that was getting fixed that day. It could very well be chicken salad and pimento cheese with choices of bread or crackers and some chips.

But, one Sunday when we came home, she got stirring around in the kitchen and shooed me out when I came to help. I didn’t argue. I didn’t get let off that hook very often.

After a while she called us into the dining room, where there was nothing on the table except napkins, some silverware and glasses of tea. She was clearly pleased without herself as she told us to sit down and whisked into the kitchen.

She came back with salad plates holding steamed artichokes. And she brought little dishes of melted lemon butter.

We were baffled. She sat down and showed us how to gently pull the leaves off and scrape the tasty bits off with our teeth. My sisters and I had a blast dipping in the butter. My parents seemed to think it was fun to enjoy their artichokes and to watch us having a big time. Eventually, we got down to the choke. She showed us how to scrape off the fuzzy part and cut the heart into bite sized pieces to eat the best of the artichoke.

When we had all finished, she whisked the plates and artichoke debris off the table and banged around in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. Then she brought in bowls of Campbell’s soup and a plate of peanut butter and honey or jelly sandwiches (which was a fairly usual lunch for us).

I looked at my soup and said,”I’m not complaining about the meal. Soup and sandwiches is great. But, it’s kind of anticlimactic after the artichokes.”

She almost looked sheepish and said, “I rarely see fresh artichokes at the grocery and when I do they usually only have 2 or 3. The other day they had 5! One for each of us. So, I got ’em. And if you ever find yourselves faced with one, you’ll know what to do with it.”

So, that’s my mother.

Cake!

This photo was taken to mark my second birthday. My father had turned 24 the previous April and there was chocolate cake.

little kitty

I have always loved chocolate cake. And I decided that I wanted a piece of that birthday cake. So, I pushed a chair over to the kitchen counter and cut myself a slice.

I don’t remember where I got the knife. What I remember is standing on that chair eating the slice of cake that I was holding in my left hand and holding the knife with my right hand. My mother walked passed the kitchen door and didn’t register me standing there for a second. I suspect that the horrified expression on her face when she backed up to look in the kitchen is what welded it to my mind. As I recall, she swooped in to pick me up and relieve me of the knife while I diligently chomped away.

About 50 years later, she asserted that children have no memories of any time before they are 3. I asked her how old I was when that happened. She said, “You couldn’t possibly remember that. You were only about a year and a half old!” I said, “You never told me that story in my life. I even remember the dress I was wearing. It was a baby blue dress you had smocked.”

Her jaw dropped. She said,”I guess you do remember.”

Looking for ice

When my Nanny died, we all had to travel to the funeral. NONE of her children or grandchildren lived nearby. So, we were all piled up in a hotel and taking care of the business of getting her buried and as much of the household stuff taken care of as we could.

People brought food to the house, omigod the food! We did NOT have to worry about what to eat. Or drink. Bottles of soda and jugs of tea came in, too. But, her freezer couldn’t handle the load. There were 12 immediate family members, plus friends and extended family coming by to offer condolences.

So, my husband, brother-in-law and cousin’s husband made an ice run. When they came back, they were all hurting themselves laughing.

The first Kwik Stop place they went to didn’t have an ice chest out front, so they went in to ask if they even carried ice. The girl behind the counter drawled, “Naw, we don’t have ice, but we got come nice night crawlers.”

Because those 2 things are interchangeable. :joy_cat:

Ruining a steak

I saw this graphic on FaceBook this morning and it made me think of my grandmother:

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Kate grew up in the country. Her father was a farmer with a third grade education. They didn’t always have a lot of ready cash, but they were never, ever hungry. It was kind of a shame that she didn’t like “vegetavles,” because they were abundant. She was a bread-and-meat kind of girl. And, when she was old, she enjoyed going out for dinner to a steak house.

I took her to a Western Sizzlin’ or whatever equivalent was in Morganton, NC, one time, and freaked out the guy taking our order when she asked for a filet mignon cooked well done. He said “It will be a charcoal briquet if we do that.” She insisted that was always how she had her meat cooked. He found his manager to deal with her because he was at a complete loss for what to do. The manager said, “We can butterfly it and cook it that way, but a filet is too think to make it well done and still be edible.” I said that would be fine.

When it came to the table, she was delighted. It was the best steak she had ever had.

Sometime after that, I took her out for dinner, again, and, again, she ordered a filet cooked to death. The server got this appalled expression and started to say something. I stopped him, smiling, and said, “Just have the kitchen butterfly it and cook it that way. She will be delighted with it.” He kind of shook his head and wrote down the rest of our order.

And she was delighted. I was, too. It made me happy to have the ability to make her happy and de-stress the people who were helping me do that.