I ran crying to Uncle Jim, standing by the barn door.
We hugged, and I tried to hold the smell of him,
of Vermont -- Old Spice, oatmeal, rotting leaves in crisp October air.
"Oh, kid, you and me, kid ... you and me," he said.
But the car was waiting, all packed.
My grandparents yelled one more time, to come.
He stood alone, waving goodbye, his head held
to one side, a war injury.
Perhaps that's why he drank.
Or maybe it was living so far away from us,
in a wild place, where snow is measured in feet.
On winding roads, I cried for two hours, through valleys of orange and yellow and graveyards of granite, where men with stovepipe hats and ladies with hoop skirts lay side by side underneath the green.
A blur of steeply pitched roofs went by.
Was Uncle Jim, by now surely in his house watching snowy TV, crying, too?
Uncle Jim is dead, at least he told me so, as he stood by my bed one night.
Even now, when I think of Uncle Jim, and how he held me, what he said to me in 1963, I still cry.