Gargoyle 8cover photo by Stan Waymanpublication date 12/2/1977
Here is the familiar home of the holiday visits and the gathering of the
families: small children running in and out of the closets, tangling in
great overcoats and scarves, slipshod sofas covered and reupholstered in
pastels and dim plaids, Geographic and Philadelphia magazines piled up
on the coffee and end tables. Dark, highly polished mahogany. Near the
oval doorway there’s always activity and, as a result, a draft. Silverware
and dishes are clattering in the kitchen, barely audible above the many
voices. A standing wall clock pipes its music in softly, A few ladies are
whispering to each other by the piano, the piano covered with framed photographs.
Your grandfather dozes heavily in the enormous leather-armed chair. His
hands are posed on either hand rest, and his head leans slightly then drops
back anonymously on the headrest of the chair. The sleeper, infant-like
with his mouth open, seems protected by the chair. Indeed, his grandchildren
think he is the chair and ignore the soft swelling of his breath. Your
grandfather dreams not of his grandchildren, whom he dotes on and enjoys
so when awake, but of his own children. His daughter and his son occupy
his unconsciousness, he wonders where are they headed, like all travelers,
having left their homes and not having yet arrived. He twitches and his
eyes open but only for a moment. They do not focus on the ceiling or the
cobwebs floating free from where the walls meet.
There are eight chairs in the room, two are rockers and the others are
wooden not like his green leather chair. On the walls are photographs and
paintings of your cousins, sisters and great uncles, A family tree, done
in watercolor with the appropriate names etched in on branches, hangs beside
the house in the mountains.
You walk around the chairs and their occupants, voices fade in and out
of the Bartok on public radio. You look back at your invulnerable grandfather,
who is dreaming of your own father and mother, sagging contentedly in his
green chair. A newspaper having fallen from his lap is propped upright
on the floor. An overhead lamp glows in the rounded glass of his bifocals.
He is unlike anyone you’ve ever known. Now the music begins again.
You consider your grandfather from his right side–his profile is that
of a gentle man, though the chin is taut against his buttoned collar. In
the white light his wrinkles are wiped out. The face of an infant fascinates
you. Laughter comes from the dining room. It doesn’t concern you.
You pull up a chair facing your grandfather and for want of conversation,
pretend to browse the bookshelves. His legs are crossed and his hands are
folded. While you gaze at your grandfather a strange pleasing inertia settles
in. Your chair becomes a reservoir, and you rest. In a moment, you too
doze off. You head drops back, and your lips slightly part.