My father was a relentless genealogist, adding the names, birthdates, marriages, and other details of more than 30,000 of my relatives and direct ancestors to his database before he died. He was particularly enamored with his maternal grandparents’ lines, as he started the research after his mom, my Grandma Alice, died of pancreatic cancer when I was four. He revered her and missed her terribly, which started a journey that was part obsession, part consolation, part valuable historical record, part giant ongoing gift for his only child—me.
His maternal grandmother, Lois, had two sisters, Kate and Maud. My middle initial is for “Aunt Kate,” my great-great-aunt. Maud was a music teacher in the Seattle Public Schools for fifty years, starting in the 1890s—her portable pump organ now resides in my dining room.
Of course, Maud had no way of knowing that one of her great-nephews, my father, would have a daughter who’d play the halting instrument as a child and then bring it to Oregon in the new millennium and plant a mini orchard there. She couldn’t know that great-great-niece would grow up to be a poet who would subscribe to another poet’s Dream Delivery Service that—in June 2021, as a global pandemic not unlike the 1918 flu continued to circle the globe—would mail her dreams for objects all over the country, including the organ. She couldn’t have known the organ would dream this dream:
I’d like to think Maud, and particularly my dad, would be delighted. He wanted to hold beloved people from the past in memory, to keep their names and worth alive for me, as I now try to do for him. I have sometimes felt like a failure in not continuing his genealogical research, but there are other ways to let people live on through stories.
Soon my partner and I will travel to say goodbye to a dear family member in hospice, someone related by marriage, not blood, who will nonetheless loom large in my memory for the rest of my days. I think the organ partly dreamed this dream for him:
The Dream Deliverer is fellow Sidebrow poet Mathias Svalina, who generously said this about Borderline Fortune:
Learn more about his work and subscribe to the next delivery on his website, and get his gutting, consoling collection The Wine-Dark Sea from Sidebrow. And maybe, make a little music of the kind only you can make, while you can make it.
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