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I come of age eight

A loss of innocence poem

By Barbara Steinhauser Published 2 years ago 3 min read

Mommy’s hand is clammy sweat.

We depart the sanctuary behind

Daddy, who practically carries

his weeping mother down

the long aisle past

throngs of sad, wrinkled faces

staring at us with sad eyes.

“He was too young.”

Pursed mouths frown at Mommy.

Old grumps wag fingers, moving

the reception line forward, slow

as Sunday communion.

The Lutheran church basement

echoes hushed voices from its

pale walls and glistening steel ovens

and I might cover my ears but

Mommy chose me to stand by her side

because I am eight.

Jan is only five and

Craig is a boy, who

belongs beside his father

at a time like this.

I am eight and understand

the consequences of funerals.

No more summers at Great

Uncle Sanford’s cabin, for one.

Grandma doesn’t wish to go now,

or ever.

Grampa fed chipmunks at that lake.

He lay down on his tummy and

handed that striped cuteness a peanut.

She will be too sad without him.

People in line say,

“He was such a hard worker.”

People in line say,

“He was a good man. He is

with God in heaven.”

I remember the eye of the storm from science class.

People in line wonder,

“How will Olive survive without him?”

I try to listen and wiggle only a little.

I must stand firm, beside Mommy. Gossipy ladies offer

knuckled fingers for her to squeeze.

This is not comfort like I am to Mommy.

Their hands are cold when they

smooth my pageboy.

Their words freeze like icicles dripping

down my back in Spring.

“Take care of that husband of yours,” they say.

“Do not let Walt’s son die of a heart attack,” they say.

“Robert has his father’s constitution,” they agree.

Then I know they are not Daddy’s

friends, who call him “Ob.”

These are quaint aunts with

no relation to me.

Quittances who knew Mommy

as church secretary and are

mean to pay their respects.

I lean into Mommy and stop listening.

There was a hymn sung very

loud in the funeral called,

“On Christ the solid rock I stand,

all other ground is sinking sand.”

Great Uncle Sanford’s beach had sand

and plenty we consecrated

to build castles and forts.

I will even miss the devil waves that

drank these castles up; their tides

arisen by the moon.

Back in the day,

I was sad to see our strictures go.

“We wouldn’t want to attend your

Daddy’s funeral any time soon.

Protect him, Lorraine.”

Circles of ladies surround my mother

with snooty snarls.

They scratch my freckled

cheek with broken, pointy fingernails.

I glare up at them.

They stand tall as scorched

pine trunks by the lake.

“Oh for dumb,” I want to shout.

I would stomp my foot if this

coffee room wasn’t God’s kitchen.

No one needs tell me to protect Daddy.

I will be good for all my life.

I will do my part of the dishes and never

sass Mommy again.

If the moon rises on his sinking sand, I will

stand like a rock against its tide.

I love Daddy with my whole

heart and always will.

He is butter and sugar on lefse.

He is agate-hunting along our dirt road

and softball throws in the backyard.

We would be a sad family

without Daddy’s silly faces

scrunched up to

make us laugh.

“Take care of that fragile father of yours.”

I lean past these ladies to peer at

the man they call fragile.

His face did crumble into

the telephone receiver,

upon news of Grampa’s death.

His black suit hangs from his thin frame.

Mommy had no time to alter it.

He looks like a little boy lost. His

James Dean hairstyle sweeps past the

aristocratic forehead Grandma loves,

highlighting bags beneath those

beloved chocolate brown eyes

generally filled with warmth and welcome.

Mommy always finds him in a crowd, for he

stands taller than most, she says.

I inhale a breath deep from my stomach and

jut out my chin. I am eight years old.

I will guard my Daddy from harm.

I understand the consecution.

sad poetry

About the Creator

Barbara Steinhauser

MFA Writing for Children and Young Adults

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