Motherhood & Words

I’m sitting here in my small office, that tiny room of my own, staring out the window. The wind is scattering the fluff of milkweed across our lawn, and I know that next spring it will pop up everywhere, pushing through grass, undeterred by the mower, which will plow it down, again and again.

I want to thank you so much for your words of support, and for keeping me—and of course my grandpa—in your thoughts. He’s doing okay: not as bad as he was last Thursday, but not altogether better. And this bothers him, I know. He has never *not* gotten better.

Yesterday he handed me a medical book, which he had bought at a garage sale for 25¢, and asked me what I thought caused the fluid in his abdomen, his discomfort, and his inability to sleep.

I paged though the book, but even if it had a chapter on congestive heart failure, which it didn’t, I don’t think I would have been able to tell him. And really, it’s not my place. This is something his doctor should tell to him, a doctor trained in doling out disappointment and hope. (I’m not even sure which one is order here.)

“I don’t know,” I said slowly.

“Don’t tell me it’s because I’m old,” he said.

“Well, Grandpa,” I said. “You are one hundred.”

He snorted, disgusted with my lack of imagination.

The man has been healthy his whole life. He’s had a couple of surgeries on his knee. He’s had his gall bladder out, but he’s never taken a daily medication, not ever. And he’s not ready to die, or even to begin to die. He is undeterred, and he plans to be here in the spring.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Ines on November 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I love your Grandfather's attitude, Kate. What a wonderful way of living.

  2. kristenspina on November 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    And no matter what happens, he will be here in the spring because a spirit like that lives on and on regardless of time.

  3. Once A Mother on November 10, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    if he is set on being there in spring, i believe he will be! sending you both prayers for strength.

  4. Clockwinder on November 10, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I thought you might like to see how Thoreau echoes your comments about milkweed.

    “And for this end these silken streamers have been perfecting all summer, snugly packed in this light chest, a prophecy not only of the fall, but of future springs. Who could believe in the prophecies of a Daniel or of Miller, that the world would end this summer, while one milkweed with faith matured its seeds? Densely packed in a little oblong chest, armed with soft, downy prickles, and lined with a smooth, silky lining, lie some hundreds of seeds, pear-shaped, or like a steelyard’s poise, which have derived their nutriment through a band of extremely fine, silken threads, attached by their extremities to the core. At length, when the seeds are matured and cease to require nourishment from the parent plant, being weaned, and the pod with dryness and frost bursts, the extremities of the silken thread detach themselves from the core, and from being the conduits of nutriment to the seed become the buoyant balloon which, like some spiders’ webs, bear the seeds to new and distant fields. They merely serve to buoy up the full-fed seeds, far finer than the finest thread. Think of the great variety of balloons which, at this season, are buoyed up by similar means. I am interested in the fate, or success, of every such venture which the autumn sends forth.”

    Thoreau also wrote in his journal “If you sit at an open attic window toward the end of September, you will see many a milkweed down go sailing by on a level with you, though commonly it has lost its freight—notwithstanding that you may not know of any of these plants growing in your neighborhood. I notice milkweed growing in hollows in the fields, as if the seed had settled there owing to the lull of the wind in such places. Thus, the quietest behaved carries off the prize while exposed plains and hills send forth violent winds to hale the seed to them. The calm hollow in which no wind blows without effort receives and harbors it.”

  5. cath c on November 11, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    kate, it's good you're there with him.

  6. Carrie Pomeroy on November 12, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    I second what kristenspina said–but the truth of her comment certainly doesn't take away from how painful it must be to see your grandfather suffering and struggling right now.

    Blessings to you all.

  7. kate hopper on November 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you, again. Miraculously, he seems to be doing a little better. He is undeterred, indeed.

    And Clockwinder, thank you for the Thoreau quotations.

  8. Mummy mania on November 15, 2009 at 4:39 am

    does he know what an inspiration he is to a load of gorgeous women? wht an amazing man – can you post a picture? Give him my love – from an Irish admirer