ENTITLEMENTS by Betty Bleen
Every winter day, in some predawn hour,
Grandfather would drag his shivering bones
out of bed, don that old wool coat over his
long johns, then shove cold feet into worn out
mining boots to go outside into the biting cold.
He’d trudge across the outside porch that led
to the old basement door, then enter that dank
foyer and descend the worn concrete steps
to the coal room, where coal chunks glistened
like black diamonds under a bare incandescent
bulb. Upon opening the iron door of the
furnace his calloused hands would shake the
grate, then grip the old coal shovel and hurl fresh
coal on top of the glowing red and blue embers.
He did this while Grandmother slept comfortably
on the ground floor; my parents, sisters and I
on the warmer floor above. He repeated this
routine without complaint, day in and day out.
No one ever thanked him. Each morning we
grandchildren would rise, walking the warmed floor
on tiny bare feet, accustomed to the comfort of
the kitchen with our hot tea, toast and jam, as if
it were an entitlement. How were we to know?
How were we to know what’s taken years to
comprehend? How love comes in oh so many
shapes and sizes; how even in this, Grandfather’s
ritual, was hidden a wealth of unspoken love?