© Joe Canning 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Grandma called me over, “Come in lad! close the door!
Grandpa’s things need sorting now he’s not here any more”.
I’ve called you here to help me sort some things he left behind;
There’s things I want and things I don’t, but I can’t make up my mind”.
We went to her bed chamber, “I’m clearing it today,
I’ll just go put the kettle on and then we’ll start, OK”?
I said to her, “whatever Nan, you go make the tea;
we’ll soon get all this sorted, and Gran, no milk for me.”
She’d piled things by the wardrobe door
Old boots and shoes bought years before,
old pairs of glasses, most with just one ear;
Things the old man hoarded down the years.
The old man’s things sat neatly in a sturdy cardboard box,
his pinstripe suit, his shirts and ties and some of his old socks,
an old brown sweater, hat and scarf, a belt and vest or two.
she sighed and whispered to me, “sure they’ll do some soul some good.”
She’d set some things to the one side, a photo of a groom and bride,
she drifted off in memories to the days of years gone by,
She held that photo to her breast, against her frail and wheezing chest,
“’twas Donegal we went to at the time”.
She gifted me a medal with a ribbon and a bar,
“he got that for his part in Ireland’s independence war,
he never spoke a word about it ever, after that”,
He hated talk of fighting but was proud he played his part.
She then gave me a picture of their very first bought car,
she said she went in style each time he took her to the park,
“I waved to all my friends” she said, “I felt I was a queen, but;
I never ever told him that I hated it being green.
Just then the doorbell sounded, at her door St. Vincent’s man,
calling for the things we packed to fill St. Vincent’s van,
Grandma poured him tea as well and he went on his rounds,
“he’ll put them on his shelves to sell for dollars, cents or pounds”.
He took the box I gave him and the plastic bags of blue,
he thanked me very much and then he thanked my grandma too,
and off he went a whistling, as happy as a lamb.
Soon grandpa’s stuff would be enjoyed and dress a needy man.
Gran went back in silence and she sat upon their bed,
I kissed her gently on the cheek and stroked her old grey head,
“I’ll miss not seeing all his things! Do you think me a fool”?
I told her, “Gran just like you said, they’ll do some soul some good”.
As she wiped away a welling tear I caught a little smile,
she pointed to the wardrobe and the shelf within it high,
upon the shelf a pair of boots, a pair of old brown shoes.”.
“I had to keep some things” she said, “or he wouldn’t be amused”.
She said, “those boots have been to London, been to Paris, France,
Dublin, Derry, Galway, Wexford, Sligo and Belfast.
Those shoes he wore the day he walked me up St. Eugene’s aisle,
and turf he dug in those old boots to keep the cold away.”
“Those brogues he wore on Sunday’s when he went to pray to God,
and he would shine them every time he went to find a job,.
he’d keep them in the wardrobe or the shelf beneath the stairs,
and they’d get him into trouble if he placed them on my chairs”.
So me and Nan we sat and had another cup of tea,
she gave me his old pocket watch, his cufflinks and his ring.
Some things she wouldn’t part with and she told me why, in truth,
“there’s not a man that walks this Earth could fill your Grandad’s shoes.
Photo: Donegal, 1961 Photograph by Robert Sisson, National Geographic