You are everything and nothing like my grandmothers

You Are Everything

Towards the end, they both wore black only, just like you.

They both wore black for their husbands, men gone long before the women,
one went so fast I did not see him at all.

Helena was your height, wore glasses, tinted, her hair always wrapped tight
in a bun, and its length, I never knew.

Alice was taller but as time passed, her body slipped down,
lower to the ground, her back curving in on itself, unable to support a body,
even as frail as hers.

Helena was quiet, calling our names, she would go through the list
of daughters in the family, before reaching the one she wanted.

Alice commanded attention, even when her eyesight failed
and it meant reaching her bony hand out
and pulling us to her
not sure which grandchild she held onto.

Towards the end, Helena faltered, and went quiet, while my mother and I
were at the other end of the continent.
We were told days later, and I watched my mother
drop the phone, drop to the ground
and become a little girl again.

Towards the end, Alice’s sight and hearing and breathing went
in a hospital bed
surrounded by daughters, sons, grandchildren, great grandchildren,
I among them
hurting for my father, and his tears that would not fall.

I did not know either of them very well
raised far from the arms of two families
each on a different continent
and family for me
only meant a father, mother and sister

Aunts, uncles, cousins, all thousands of miles away
becoming friends and enemies only after my 18th birthday.

But you, standing in the street,
make me ache
for the grandmother

I did not have.