Dearest Clyde & Jailene,
(Note to Jailene, your beautiful husband was, of course, not named Clyde. His parents, who agreed on loving their children, did not agree on what to call him. His mother, who will remain my sister-in-law forever because she never served me with divorce papers, insisted on calling him by an abbreviation of his middle name Alexander – the third Alexander in the Ettinger family. His father, my sweet brother, insisted on calling him Johnny. They both drove me crazy, so, at first, I called him Scooby Doo – because he liked the cartoon. Then I eventually switched to Clyde. I love that he goes by John. His dad’s name, his grandfather Jacky’s name – Jacky & Jack are both diminutives of John, his great grandfather’s name – John Simpson Alexander Ettinger.)
So Clyde, I viewed a video of Ezrah sitting up
& for a brief moment, I saw baby Clyde in your son’s face. And I wished that my brother John, your daddy, could be
with us to see his son in his grandson’s face.
That John could watch his namesake John play football, that he was here
to see James & John & Ezrah grow up.
I do believe your sweet daddy is watching over us. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was with your Grandma Jean when she passed.
Amazing moments happen in the most normal of circumstances.
This afternoon, I sat down at my computer & picked up a stack of pictures I wanted to send to Walgreen’s to blow up. One was of your cousin Nick as a little boy in diapers sitting at a computer. Another was of Nick hanging from our neighbor’s tree, his baby brother Sam crawling across the sidewalk toward his big brother.
In the stack of pictures that I want to blow up
& frame, were two cards. I had
pulled them out of a case of some of the things your grandmother Jean saved. Our certificates from Mrs. Knippe’s Swimming
School, birthday cards, a bulletin from Coronado Baptist Church with your very
young Aunt Janet listed as a soloist, a playbill from one of the programs
Janet, John & I performed each year at Christmas. (Always written & directed by me . . .)
One of the two cards I discovered was a birthday card for your father, John. It had a quote from an ancient Sanskrit poem. I have always been quite fond of translations of Sanskrit poems. Inside, I wrote a poem in honor of your father’s birthday, dated 1977.
Apparently, it was written during a time in my writing life that I still longed to be a poet. Poetry is a difficult discipline. Every word is essential. There are spatial restrictions. I no longer write poetry. It is too disciplined & too confining for me.
But on that day, I wrote a poem for your father. And now I give it to you, John, & to Jailene & to the beautiful son you share.
It is dated 04/30/1977, the day before your daddy’s May 1st birthday.
(Note: I was not big on capitalization in those
to John, in honor of your birthday, 1977
where and when to travel.
don’t just be a passenger
along for the ride,
holding on for safety.
fly the wind
choosing your moments
to let go,
resting until it is right
to move on.
--but grab your life—
take the wind
and reach out
because there are too many
and other crossings
along the way.
Clyde, I want all of those things I wrote to your daddy for you, for your beautiful, loving wife & for the precious life God has given to you both in trust, for Ezrah.
Teach him to soar.