_____I tell the story of Walter every time I pour some cherry brandy into this small cocktail glass with its stem and etched details. The story is that this crystal flute once belonged to his mother, a woman long gone since Walter was well into his 80’s that school year I lived with my grandmother in New Jersey. Her boyfriend, we called him, when he came for a meal, his thin suit legs crossed on the couch as he waited for a place at the dining room table. Walter with his gray hair and cane was a quiet man and seemed grateful as he leaned over his plate while my sisters and I chatted about this or that. Afterwards, he drove us in his black car past its prime up to Howard Johnson’s for ice cream, the only sounds in the car gears shifting from the floor.
_____When he moved to a nursing home, we took a bus to visit, and found him in a small room, his slippers under a single bed. A clock ticked on the windowsill. We made small talk as Grandma held his hand, and my sisters and I ran down the hall searching for a Coca-Cola. Little did I know then that we were learning right there in that small building of old people that time turns quickly, everything is fragile. A whole set of his mother’s cordial glasses moved to Grandma’s china cabinet after Walter died like something belonging to the heart. Decades later they are in my kitchen where I repeat Walter’s story every time I pour sweet liqueur into the remaining chalice grasping its stem and studying again the spiral of engraved leaves and berries swirling into an old pattern, its narrative on the move, its future home unknown.
Gail Hosking is author of the memoir Snake’s Daughter (U of Iowa Press), the poetry chapbook The Tug (Finishing Line Press), and a book of poems, Retrieval (Main Street Rag Press). MFA from Bennington College. Poetry and essays have been published for years, and some have been anthologized. Two essays were considered “Most Notable” in Best American Essays.