My godmother has died at the age of 96, my uncles wife, the last member of their generation, my parents generation. Webrothers and sisters and cousins--are now next in line. (In fact, one sister and two brothers-in-law, as well as several cousins, are already gone, as well as a lovely niece, from the next generation.) Linda Pastan has two poems that convey some sense of what we are feeling. The second of them, "The Last Uncle," provides the title of a collection of her poems that has much on relations among generations.FOR A PARENT Move to the frontof the linea voice says, and suddenlythere is nobodyleft standing between youand the world, to takethe first blowson their shoulders.This is the place in bookswhere part one ends, andpart two begins,and there is no part three.The slate is wipednot clean but like a canvaspainted over in whiteso that a whole new landscapemust be started, bits of the oldstill showing underneaththose colors sadness lendsto a certain hour of evening.Now the line of lightat the horizonis the hinge between earthand heaven, only visiblea few momentsas the sun dropsits rusted padlockinto place.THE LAST UNCLEThe last uncle is pushing offin his funeral skiff (the usualblack limo) having lockedthe doors behind himon a whole generation.And look, we are the elders nowwith our torn scrapsof history, aloneon the mapless shoreof this raw, new century.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

Also by this author
© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.