Friday, June 20, 2014

The Passing of Ages

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Jone over at Check It Out.  There are lots of great pieces of poetry to be had there and by following the links!

I don't know what mood I was in when I first wrote this.  Yes, I do.  But that's not important.  I just remember this feeling happening after the second grandchild was about to be born.  It is a strange feeling of wanting to know more, and coming to grips with the idea that this is all I can know and pass on.  Did I do it?  I don't know.  Most likely no, not yet, as I still have unanswered questions myself and realize that for some of these questions I was given an answer once when I was too young to know I would want to remember it someday.

The Passing of Ages

I remember watching my grandparents
enjoying time
with their brothers
and sisters
laughing over
old stories of past deeds,
giving advice from a life lived
I remember as they eased away in life
and then faded in memory
my parents and aunts and uncles
became the keepers of
family stories
life's wisdoms
until slowly they too eased away,
leaving us
to become the keepers,
the knowers -
a terrifying day
of realization -
Did those before feel the same?
Where were the people to ask?
Where were the recipes?
In which village in Newfoundland did my grandparents get married?
Which aunt
        - wait, did you say she was my aunt or my cousin?
Where was that summer cottage?
Who had twins?
Which child died?

And we are next to fade.
I can feel its approach,
have I remembered enough?
have I passed it on?
was it good enough?
will they remember?
our children could never
remember enough
cannot know what we’ve forgotten
Put up new wallpaper
Paint over faded picture squares
But carry the gift forward
all the family knowledge
you can hold
for you too will age
and panic when you are the wisdom holders
patriarchs and matriarchs of family -
When the young ones ask,
      Will you know?
      Will they hear?
      Will they know
             that they are next -
             that they will need
                    to tell the stories?
         ©Donna JT Smith, 2014


  1. This is just so poignant, Donna. I feel the same way. Great writing!

    1. Thanks, Wendy. Wouldn't it have been wonderful to have something written from grandparents and great grandparents - little snippets of their lives? We don't have an excuse with all this digital paraphernalia nowadays!

  2. Poignant - makes we want to pay closer attention to what I hear, remember, and ultimately pass on.

    Over the last few years, when I take mom or dad out for lunch I will often, not too obviously, turn the iPhone voice recorder on and tape our conversation. I try to lead the questions to days of yesteryear… surprisingly old folks love going back in time. It's an interesting lunch to say the least.

    Great post, great poem.

    1. I have a recording of one of my great-aunts up in Newfoundland telling some family stories. Back when I did it I had to buy a special digital recorder for lots of money. Oh, to have had my iPhone then for her or for my parents!
      What a treasure you will have with these conversations!

  3. Wisdom holders, story keepers. Some stories stay, some stories will be lost forever. Beautiful poem.

    1. Thanks, Terje. Wish I could remember more. I do have much genealogy information, so at least the family lines have been worked on. But so many stories lost. It would be so nice to have just a bit of story to go with each relative.

  4. Donna,
    I could revisit this poem again and again. What truth rests within its lines. I'm grateful for the stories my grandparents told over and over as those are the ones that stayed though I can't tell them as they did all of those years ago.

    Loved these lines (and many others):
    Put up new wallpaper
    Paint over faded picture squares
    But carry the gift forward


    1. Wish I'd thought to ask more questions! But when you are young you don't even know what questions to ask.

    2. But at least we can start. Maybe it's too late to ask from those who had passed away, but it makes for a good reminder. When the elders engage us in a conversation, do hear instead of sitting to humor them while actually letting every words float in the air. Things we do in youth. I wish I listened to my grandparents...

  5. Lisa here. Can't use my main website's OpenID.

    It is exactly this kind of feeling giving me much regrets for not starting journaling sooner. I should have swallowed all those childish pride for 'girly diarykeeping' instead of losing those stories to the hands of time.

    Do you keep anything to pass on to the younger ones in the family? A family journal, perhaps?

    1. No, I don't have a journal. I had tried to start one when my first child was born, but did not put much in it. Now I have my blog, which has some personal stories mixed in with poetry - some of which is about family and friends.
      My daughter had a diary when she was young. One day I came upon her as she had just finished erasing everything in it to start over! Aaahhh! I guess she'd missed the concept of "get another one when this is full"!

  6. Love this poem. I have so many regrets from not asking my grandparents and parents more about their pasts, and not writing down their stories. Who can know what our kids have picked up and will want to pass on?
    What I do have to pass on is a giant apology to you--I just realized that I have not sent out anything for the first round of the poetry swap! So sorry, and will get something to you very soon!

    1. I know. Don't I wish. I have some stories, but when talking to my daughter a month or so ago, I realized she'd not heard them. Guess I'd better get writing some down!
      The poem....this is for fun, so don't stress about it! The poetry police are pretty lenient.

  7. Such a powerful poem, Donna - so personal and universal. Thank you for sharing. I'll visit it again...

    1. Thanks, Robyn. It is a reminder to me, to ask more questions when I can, and write down more things I can remember while I can!

  8. You tapped into some incredibly universal emotions with this. The sense of urgency at the end is very real!

    1. I am starting to feel a sense of urgency, so I should write more now, so I can stop the urgency and enjoy the day!

  9. This is beautiful. And not just because I feel like I'm living in the same place, which you opened out. Thank you.

  10. I enjoyed hearing a bit of doubt from an elder's point-of-view. It's different from the norm :-) This weekend I met a 75-year-old man who wanted me to write his life story. He wanted to tell it to me on the spot! There is a sense of urgency when people fear their stories will be lost.

    1. What a nice opportunity! When I was in college I transcribed from cassettes, many interviews of loggers from the Maine woods who were then in their 80's. The stories they told were incredible and enormous treasures! I wished at the time I could have been one of the interviewers, but it was still wonderful to hear their stories of ice harvesting, and log hopping. And then there were the tragedies, no search parties, no cellphones, no river draggings...just moving on and getting back to work. I wonder now where all those typed pages from 40 years ago ended up?


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