Thank Heaven For (Grandma’s) Little Neighbor Girls: Revolutionary Email Free Verse

Grandma
lived alone,
central Wisconsin cottage
built with her husband’s hands
before he died,
too early,
there.

She was not
cottage-bound.
She could go anywhere.
But there,
she chose to stay
there
in her cottage home
and grow old.

Little neighbor girls
brought her wild flowers,
and colored leaves,
and crayon’d pictures
they’d drawn.

Eager and happy
they would show her,
and she,
with her
“Oh, how beautiful!”
exclamations,
would put the flowers
in a Blatz beer glass
on the bar,
or would tape
the colorful drawings
onto her old, white fridge,
and would chatter
excitedly
to the little neighbor girls
and learn of their day
and teach them cards
and flowers
and wild birds
and mysteries of
the lake
and the woods
and the pond
and hot chocolate.

When I,
first-born grandson,
would visit
from college,
or from traveling,
or to come home,
she would show me
the drawings,
and tell me
excitedly,
about the little neighbor girls,
M and S H’s kids,
and how wonderful they were,
and how they always
came to visit,
and how she loved
talking to them
and sharing with them.

I met them
a coupla two-tree times,
that Wisconsin way,
as they brought
wildflowers
and drawings
and love.

“Oh, how beautiful.”

Time passed.
I was there,
she and I,
alone,
when she did, too.
That sacred experience
etched deep in my mind.
A great soul
flying home.

Sometimes the little girls
would still come by
the cottage,
but it was never
the same.
Her great heart
which had filled
us all
had stilled,
and all we had
were memories
and love.

Many years later
I met
one of the little neighbor girls
unknowingly.

We were both
grown now,
a woman,
no longer little.
She needed
someone tall,
(which I am not).
And I,
aged,
didn’t know I’d seen her
and her wildflowers
and her crayon’d drawings
in Grandma’s kitchen.

We smiled
as we recalled
Grandma’s love
and warmth
and excitement.

Then,
tears welled up
as I thought of
Grandma,
alone,
in that cottage.

Most widows
whither
and dry,
and die.

But she,
surrounded by beauty,
and love,
flourished for decades.
Looking forward
to walks in the woods
and geese flying
and cardinals, finches and chickadees
feeding by the window
and crocuses and daffodils and tulips
and wildflowers
blooming
and ice out
and first frost,
and bright red/orange leaves.

And,
amidst it all,
little girls
who visited
daily,
when I could not,
who loved her
and let her love them
for years.
Extending her life
and her love
for decades.

Sobbing now,
I realize
the great gift
they gave
my Grandmother
and my family.

I don’t know
how to thank them.
I don’t know
if they can understand.
I don’t even know
their names.

I can only say:
“Thank Heaven
for my Grandma’s
little neighbor girls.”
Grandma Bertha Kuhns, Lake Winneconne sunset just before ice out

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