Grandpa’s Ticker

Grandpa is a dim, mythical figure,
rarely photographed, a collection
of memories and legends.
Even in his presence, secondhand
tales were told of his daring days
while he presided over family feasts,
benign as a retired dragon.

He rode in the calvary. He docked
Doberman puppies’ tails with his teeth.
Back in Chicago, street vendors
shuddered at his mere approach,
spreading the word, dreading
the potential loss of profit
from the Dutch dealmaker
dragging an embarrassed daughter
to dicker for a winter coat.

“Leaving the city saved his life,”
they’d say, as he sat in a plaid robe
and brown slippers, reading
the Digest or the Daily Press.
Nobody explained how a man
in his fifties could be at deadly risk.

I remember him going off
to deliver water softeners
in a gray uniform.
There was no gold watch
for retirement, only that ticking
heart, sounding deceptively healthy
when he gave me a goodnight hug.


Thanks to my cousin Scott DeVries, family historian, for the photos.

Grandma and Grandpa DeVries

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