Saturday, November 22, 2008


The Sunday Scribblings prompt is "Gratitude".

Gratitude! I looked at that prompt and felt overwhelmed. How could I possibly begin to express gratitude for the great messy canvas of my life with its liberal splatters of joy? How could I possibly encompass everything from the squirrel just now flirting its tail on the redwood branch outside of my window to the memory of a child’s hand held trustingly in mine or the comfort of my true love still beside me after sixty-seven years? The good fortune to be born to the best parents in the world? To be able to take pleasure in the colorful juxtaposition of a magenta sweater thrown down on a pale green bedspread? A border of brilliant and pungent marigolds? No, I thought, I can’t list a million things nor do I want to slight even one of them. How can I rein them in?

Then I happened to glance at my calendar and realized that today, Saturday, November 22, is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of John. F. Kennedy. More than a generation of Americans do not have a memory of the deep wave of grief that enveloped the nation. It was personal. It was real. (Yes, I’m still writing of “gratitude”. Bear with me!) I felt that my sorrow would never go away. We watched the funeral on our little 4 inch sometimes-operational television screen in its huge console. Thanksgiving followed, and it was a somber one. We drove up to our retreat in the redwoods of northern California. On our dashboard was the new issue of LIFE magazine with a photo portrait of the young president. I had laid on it a blossom from the last red rose blooming in our garden.

The day after Thanksgiving, I wrote the following sonnet, expressing my gratitude for those factors that helped mitigate our crippling grief:

and still we mourned. While chill November lay
upon your hill, we gathered close beside

our fires, and, as you had proclaimed a day
of thanks, gave thanks to God though you had died.

We thanked Him for Himself, and asked He lead

the sad man with the gray November face
who now must bear your load and rue the deed

that forced him to replace your summer grace.

Thanked God, that, through grief shared, our festal board

extended North to South; and that the past

sent Brahms to comfort us, and Donne to warn,
sent Whitman’s sprig of lilac; that a horde

of varicolored races sat at last

in common sorrow. And still we mourn.

The splatters of joy on my canvas outweigh those of grief a thousand fold, and included among them are those voices from the past that once brought comfort and are also a current joy and to whom I am grateful. And now, more than ever, I am grateful for our sense of unity as a people.

I hope you all enjoy a happy Thanksgiving.


paisley said...

how thoughtful of you to tie in the anniversary of the assassination of kennedy...

i think in todays society the furor that surrounded JFK has never been known to a generation of people,, who now see that possibility in obama...

many do not even realize that JFK was a 'first' too.. the first catholic president....

it is my sincerest hope that mr. obama lives long beyond the scope of his presidency,, and this generation never comes to know the gravity of the previous generations grief when JFK was taken...

Linda Jacobs said...

Beautiful poem you wrote! Love "gray November face" especially.

I remember those sad days so well. I was in 9th grade and my mom and I sat there blubbering when John John saluted as his father went by.

Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

What a lovely remembrance.

Every time I stop by to view your latest blog entries, I am so encouraged.


Lucy said...

your poem and post were so touching.
I was only 4 Gran, but I remember so clearly how everyone was crying and I couldn't get cartoons on t.v. I remember feeling scared by the sorrow.
it is beautiful how you took grateful and drove it around to encompass so much.
wishing u, otto and your crew a very blessed thanksgiving. xo

linda may said...

Thank you for sharing another bit of your extraordinary life.
That happened when I was in primary school and living in sydney.
It is strange but when something so momentous happens we remember the tiny details and can recall them clearly, i.e like exactly what I was doing when I heard news of the twin towers terrorism and when Lady Di was killed to name a few.

tumblewords said...

Excellent post. You've interwoven gratitude and loss in a lovely frame.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I, too, was watching on a small screen on the other side of the Atlantic! One feels gratitude for there having been figure-heads. We need them although we sometimes lose them.

Lilly said...

I'm always glad to visit your blog. I always discover something new. Great piece!

Maggie May said...

Your poem was really lovely.
I think we all (who are old enough) can remember the horror of JFK and where we were when we heard of it.
Your post exuded gratitude through a loss.

anthonynorth said...

Delightful as always. Although I cannot share your gratitude over Thanksgiving. Being a Brit, I'VE got to wait until Christmas for MY turkey :-)

BJ Roan said...

Nice post. Not only did your words define 'grateful', but you managed to pay homage to JFK, as well. All of us old enough to remember him, admire him. The day he was killed, the whole world cried.

J at said...

This is truly lovely. I am not old enough to remember, being born a few years later. But when I imagine what that would have been like, it is difficult. My mother told me once that between the deaths of JFK, RFK, MLK, and the war, it felt like the world was coming apart at the seams. I've never forgotten that image.

danni said...

such a thoughtful post and how softly and skillfully you wove in the memory of THAT DAY - for me as much a part of my life as every other great event that has touched me by birth, mirth, death, and celebration!!!

anno said...

I always enjoy your graceful and thoughtful poems, and this one even more for the portrait of loss that you've rendered here.

Wishing you & all your family and wonderful Thanksgiving!

Alisa said...

Granny, this was lovely! I am of the generation you mentioned that doesn’t remember JFK or the sorrow after his death, but our generation has seen many others. Parents who believed in, and taught, the principal of ‘unity of people’, raised my generation. Nevertheless, we have often wondered at, and been frustrated by, the lack of progress towards that promise of unity. Now, I feel, the future is bright and I am grateful. I’m glad you are too!

keith hillman said...

I always find it difficult to find
something to way when commenting on an event as personal as this to the American people. But your words are as inspiring as ever and I'm so glad to have read them

Tammy said...

What a touching tribute and a beautiful sonnet. I have high hopes that we will know that kind of unity very soon. HUG

alister said...

Yet another enchanting post, Granny! You have that way about you. I’m one of the wave, but have read enough about JFK and immediate family to feel love, strangely, for them, supposedly complete strangers to me. Even in death, JFK’s charisma is there, capable of reaching people.

And your poem is also another example of your skill and in-touchness with the core of out there and in here. “…that the past sent Brahms to comfort us” was delicious, true. And back outside of the poem, “our sense of unity as a people” hit me. I’m still not used to that and when I remember it, I feel such excitement and joy!

Mary said...

Wow! I've been reading a lot of these grateful scribblings today, but I was more taken with this simple line than any of the other I've seen.

"To be able to take pleasure in the colorful juxtaposition of a magenta sweater thrown down on a pale green bedspread"

I also thought your sonnet was beautiful. Well written.

Tinker said...

Though I was just a little girl, I still remember seeing my mom's and my grandmother's tears - not fully understanding, yet feeling sad myself for our country's loss of our young president, and the loss to his family. Reading your post brought all of that sad November day back. I remember the grown-ups - all of us really - being much quieter, more somber and thoughtful that Thanksgiving dinner.
Thank you for sharing your poem, and memories of that day. Even though there may be many things we should forgive, there are still some things we should never forget, if we hope to truly change.
Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving.

Giggles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giggles said...

So much fruition in this post. You are such a dear and loving soul. Very blessed are we for knowing you! This was a phenomenal post Thank you for sharing, and reminding us of this anniversary a time etched in my heart and soul!

Hugs Sherrie

*~sis~* said...

your sonnet was excellent, i felt that day, eventhough i am one of the ones who wasn't around at the time. my parents spoke of that day often, how the world stopped.

Leslie said...

This is such a powerful post. I remember my parents crying and mourning the loss of JFK-such a sad day in American history.

You are so awesome Granny Smith with your words, poetry and gift of LOVE to the blogging world.

Thank you for sharing,


Thanks For 2 Day said...

I enjoyed your writing here. I was 6 when JFK was shot. My mom recalls having to pull of the road while listening to the car radio...I remember lots of tears and sadness at home during that time. Happy Thanksgiving:) Jan