One December Afternoon
He was making them laugh when he died. Had the nurses in stitches one second, gone the next. Grandpa’s death was a shock. We didn’t know cancer had crept through his body. He was in pain, never said a word. He’d grit his teeth as he concertinaed his tall body into his little, blue Hillman; drove me to and from my exams, went into hospital the day after exams finished. Doctor said he could attend the end of year assembly to hear my final speech as head prefect. I visited yesterday. I’ll see him tomorrow. Afternoon spent preparing the hall for the junior school social. Arrived home, found family and friends gathered around the kitchen table folding local newspapers. Through tears his maiden sisters spoke in unison, We all must carry on. Dad’s mate helped my brother deliver the papers. Mum cooked some sort of dinner. Nanna tried to help. We ate. Went to the junior school social ‒ duty bound. A teacher found me crying in the toilets, What’s wrong? I couldn’t answer.
Following retirement from teaching in 2011, Pat Lee turned to her poems and other “drafts of a lifetime” that she had kept in an old munitions box. With that work, she joined Friendly Street Poets in 2012, and was first published in its annual Reader the next year. Her poems have subsequently appeared in further Friendly Street Readers, and in other publications both here and in New Zealand. With Parkinson’s disease, Lee was a 2014 Recipient of an Arts SA Richard Llewellyn Arts & Disability Emerging Artist Grant. Today’s poem is from her first published collection “Nudge the Morning”, which was launched this month and can be found here.