Life Starts Loudly, Ends Quietly

Family Roots: Eyes of Experience, Natalie Costa

Did you see the newspaper headline today?
It read, “Life starts loudly, ends quietly”
It made me think of you

It made me think of that photograph of you that hangs on the wall in your wine cellar
You are laying in the grass, gaping smile, sunlight streaming into your squinting eyes
You said, “I was your age in that photo, I had just given birth to my first child”
And I remember how you looked when you said this

Your hair electric white and glowing
Your eyes cast upward, looking into that photograph
Seeing into the you who you were
The you who you keep down there in that wine cellar
To remind you that she still exists

You took me down to that cellar one night
Opened a bottle of wine and we drank it
“One more glass” you said
And we did
“Just one more” you said
And we did
Until we were falling off of those tiny wooden stools
Bellies aching from laughter

“Just one more bottle” you said, corkscrew opener in hand
And we did
Until our eyes were wet and our chests heavy,
You spilling years of your life into the air
Me eager and listening

And then you asked me,
“Have I told you about my daughter?”
And I hesitated
Because you had told me, many times
But I said, “No”

So you told me how she took her own life
and that she was my age when she did it

I looked up at the two photographs of her on the wall
She was a child in one, smiling and toothless, tight curling pigtails
And a woman in the other, standing knee-high in the ocean, tan body glowing under the sun

We finished our glasses and you poured us each another
“Last one” you said
And this time I knew you meant it

You told me about your travels
About your romance with a Russian sailor
Latin America
We spoke in Spanish as much as we could
Using English and Dutch when we couldn’t

I remember that night how you told me that I was at the beginning of my journey
And that you were at the end of yours

I remember what you said next and how you said it
Just before we crept up those rickety wooden stairs
Back to the main floor, flooded with early morning light
You said, “My life started as an outer exploration
Now it’s an inner exploration”

I said nothing to this, just hugged you goodnight
Fifty years of life
The only thing between us.