The True Wife, A Poem by Chris Russell

My family would sit in the living room on Thanksgiving when I

was 12. We’d stare out the windows and occasionally smile at each

other awkwardly, in between stuffing our faces with shrimp, nuts and

the usual turkey fixings. Some of us would sit with our legs crossed

and hold a drink, other turkeys would walk around the living room

looking for the next nothing to put together, nothing too terrifying.

What is terrifying for me around Thanksgiving, however, isn’t the

reminder that I won’t have another family to share my daily life with

and be thankful for, since I have friends that I consider mine now,

but that as time goes on it’s getting more difficult to remember the

details concerning the family I’ve lost, and I worry that when I want

and maybe need to remember them to secure a sense of identity, I

won’t be able to, and this is because these days the self seems like

a picture in a shop window that fades over time in the sunlight until

one day it’s just a silhouette of what was, of having been. I worry that even if I were to come down from my wall of forgetfulness

and fading sight, and find some details to crawl into and have a new

experience in, I wouldn’t find a familiar feeling to scallop myself under

and grow roots through. It’s why I’m so grateful I still have a memory

of Grandpa looking through me on Thanksgiving, like he knew, whether

I showed up or not, I would be the final thing he would want to see,

like he knew this oldest grandson would be the one he’d want to fade

alongside, wanting him to be the true wife.