Michael Perry: A gift through generations

January 28, 2019
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Michael Perry

It was a school night, but the child was up and ill, so we stepped outside into the subzero stillness and stared up at the super blood wolf moon in eclipse. Then I gave her some cough medicine and put her back to bed.

There is an afghan on our couch that was crocheted by my grandmother on my mother’s side. If I recall correctly she gave it to me as a high school graduation present. I know it was in my possession during my college years because in those times I was driving a 1951 International Harvester pickup truck that was as much rust as truck and fitted with a heater that couldn’t melt butter in a tanning booth, which is why I used to drive with that afghan across my knees, which is how it came to have a dark stain from the time it came in contact with the black-greased base of the four-on-the-floor shift lever. Decades and many washings later, the stain has lightened and blended into the blue yarn so I can’t find it anymore.

Grandma was an understated powerhouse of a grandma, ever clad in modest church-lady dresses with her hair up in a bun, even as she jumped rope into her 70s and outshot all comers during informal family reunion marksmanship contests. In one legendary session she left a particularly braggadocios son-in-law with an empty rifle in every sense, shaking his head over the tattered state of her bulls-eye as opposed to his relatively undisturbed one. A man of misplaced pride, he never spoke of it again. In her dying days she stayed with my mother, and drew her last breath with all her daughters present in the farmhouse. My younger daughter never met her, but the elder will tell you she remembers sitting on the edge of the eventual deathbed, visiting happily.

The afghan survived my truck and my bachelorhood and is now a fixture on the family couch or the floor adjacent. You will find it wadded more than folded, which is to say our housekeeping isn’t always up to snuff but that old yarn is being used the way Grandma intended. To warm my wife and I as we watch football, to warm the child snuggled with a book, to warm family and guests assembled in our drafty family room. This includes cats and lately, boyfriends. All respectful fellows so far, but sometimes it’d be nice to have Grandma back, just sitting over there in a rocking chair with her rifle.

I had been reading a little too much late night news when the young one came downstairs tonight in tears and suffering a resurgent ear infection. All those current events had me similarly symptomatic, if only spiritually. You look at the child and understand you don’t have any red-hot answers. You just wrap her in an afghan descended from the hand of her matriarchal line and step outside to watch the moon disappear. Then, after medicine, you tuck her back abed, sending her to sleep with a promise that the moon will glow again. Back downstairs you stand at the window and stare at the mudded orb, hoping you are right.

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