With birthdays two days apart,
Evelyn and Eleanor were celebrated together
at the Hunt Valley Inn. Sunday morning
champagne brunch—silver trays of scrambled eggs,
fat French toast, cut fruit, croissants, pastries.
We raised fluted glasses to toast
the triumph of old age, two sisters
nearing the century mark, 95 and 99,
with the same thick white hair,
stylishly cut to frame shrunken features.
A second cousin, invited as an afterthought,
I was seated in the festive party room
across from the eldest aunt, Evelyn,
two grandsons, and widowed daughter-in-law.
Was I the only one to notice?
How my presence beside my spouse
did little to balance Eleanor’s larger share
of the table with four married daughters
and ten grandchildren, three with babies
passed from lap to lap.
Was I the only one to wonder?
Why one sister buried a teenage daughter,
young husband, and middle-aged son
while the other remained grief-free
for sixty years of marriage?
The only one to see that Eleanor
was a tiny woman, too frail
to hug all she had, while Evelyn
was taller, with unclouded blue eyes
stretching speckled fingers
across a red tablecloth
to hold hands with what she had left.