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3.2.03 She has sailed away

My husband's mother died yesterday. She was nearly 98. By the time I met her, maybe 25 years ago, she was a Southampton matriarch. Her fussiness about how many kinds of toast to serve with breakfast made it hard to know the real person.

I only got to know her after she got Alzheimers and we started sorting through her papers.

She was a political activist and world traveler, but the Olive I love best is the young woman barely in her twenties, full of longings and full of discoveries. She was in love with the man who would be her husband for 70 years. He saved her from the poverty and provincialism of her family, but also introduced his own family's brand of tight-lipped discipline. She wanted to be wild. She saw beauty in emotions. But all around her were the lessons in how she was supposed to be good.

She wrote this poem during those years. It's as fine a eulogy as anyone could write.

There will come a dawning
Where the sun is dazzling gold
When those who would restrain me
Will have to loose their hold.
Then I shall buckle tight my sandals
On impatient, eager feet,
And dance off -- bound off -- shouting
To the world that lies far off.
Then I shall reach a wide wide sea
And find a boatlet there
In a green and silver baylet
Where I'd left it till such time
As those who would restrain me
Had to let go their clutching hold.
Then I shall push far, far out
And stand -- my arms outspread
Reaching, touching, straining
For the things in me not dead
And I'll sail and dream and dream until
My arms have tired of seeking
And my sandals are all worn.
Then I'll come back, come back gladly
To be held again by those
Who would give me what now I want,
Desire in me dead.
And I shall want restraint
And quietness and peace --
Peace about me while I sleep.

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