Minnesota blues

My grandma has a heart bigger than the Minnesota lakes she grew up on.

She would give you the shirt of her back if you asked for it, feeds the neighborhood squirrels right out of the palm of her hand,

and for as long as I've been alive, she has always been the first person I think of when I think of home.

On Christmas Day, with kids ricocheting from room to room and everybody trying to talk louder than everybody else,

after making enough lasagna and garlic bread and salad and cookies and meat and cheese and cracker trays to feed all thirty of us,

Grandma found out I wanted eggnog and refused to let me go to the store to get any.

No, she pulled out a cookbook and whipped up a fresh batch right there, in a kitchen already bursting at the seams, and poured me the first glass.

Two Thanksgivings ago, when my not-quite-divorced-yet cousin showed up unannounced with her new boyfriend and his four kids, Grandma didn’t even bat an eye.

She just shuffled some plates around and pulled up a few extra chairs. She still invites the now-ex-husband to family gatherings and buys Christmas gifts for the new one’s daughters.

Grandma taught me how to read, how to ride a bike, how to draw flowers, how to make grilled cheese, how to curse in Czech, and how to tell when it’s going to rain just by looking at the soft silver underbellies of the leaves outside.

She also taught me the challenges of reconciliation,

how choosing between the people who raised you and the values you have come to uphold can hurt so much more than bumped heads and skinned knees.

A few years ago she looked me in the eye and said, “Kwanzaa is an artificial holiday.”

When the first black family moved in down the street, she told my mom the neighborhood was going to hell.

I don’t want to resent her, but how do you reason with someone who doesn’t want to be reasoned with? How do you continue to love someone who thinks your sister’s love for her girlfriend is a sin but has no problem with separating innocent children from their families at the border?

They say that blood is thicker than water, that family will always be family no matter what, that I should just stop making everything about politics

but how can I not?

My grandma has a heart bigger than the Minnesota lakes she grew up on

but even the fullest lakes dry up from time to time.

This poem is about: 
My family


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