In memory of Eleanor Jones
Nov. 10, 1921-April 15, 2023*

The day Eleanor died, I changed out 
the photos of the grandchildren
as I have every year since they were born.
I’d been crying a lot. How could I not
grieve for the friend who knew me 
since I was born, who took me seriously 
when I was a child who wanted to write, 
who sent me Wind in the Willows when I was six
and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology when I was ten.
When I was an adolescent with an alcoholic father 
and a silent mother, Eleanor acknowledged
my complicated life and told me to call her any time.
When I was an adult we talked and wrote and emailed
about families and griefs and how, for a writer, 
everything is material. 

I saw again the older photos of the children 
stuffed into the backs of the frames.
I thought of about impermanence—how I would not 
keep the children small, even if I could.
Now there is no baby to hold, 
but a grandson who plays music with me. 
Now there is no baby to rock,
but  a granddaughter who likes to read fairy tales
and play with my old dolls. 
And I thought about Eleanor
and the way she watched me grow 
and I thought about the way she grew. 
How she told me that being very old was a different country 
no outsider could understand. How after she couldn’t see
and started falling and had to move out of her house,
she thought of writing about the quirky people
in the place she got moved to—
the woman who ate only potatoes and hard-boiled eggs,
and the man who liked to sink Cheerios with his spoon. 
And I changed the photos.
Instead of Arthur in a wizard hat
there’s Arthur playing a guitar
because now he can play a tune on anything,
and instead of Ruth Eleanor on a bike with training wheels, 
there’s one of her engrossed in a book about Marie Tharp,
because now she can read.

*Not a typo. In 2022, Eleanor had an argument with a pharmacist who insisted she could not have been born in ’21.
This entry was posted in family.

3 comments on “CHANGING PHOTOS

  1. Maggie says:

    Oh my dear Cousin Mary,

    My love, my heart are near you in your grief. She must have been wonderful to have on your side. And your grandchilds are grand.

  2. Jul says:

    More time than most
    Still, change and changes
    Grief of holding fast to slipping sand
    Words, deeds, countless (imaginary) moments together
    Imagine me forever
    Never far

  3. Christine Moore says:

    ‘being very old was a different country
    no outsider could understand.’ What a wonderful statement. I am so very sorry for your loss, but happy for your knowing her.

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