Gumpy is an old teddy bear that my paternal grandmother sent me as a gift when I was about 3 or 4 years old. She lived in Germany and I never got to meet her, but she always sent presents for Christmas and birthdays. Often they were beautiful dolls with ceramic faces that my mother wouldn’t let me play with for fear I’d break them; she kept them in a drawer for years and only occasionally took them out for me to see. But Gumpy was different. He was a gift I could play with, and play with him I did, even though in general I wasn’t a big fan of stuffed animals. Because I was so little when I got him, people thought I’d named him Grumpy and was just mispronouncing it and I had to constantly correct them because I knew the difference and his name was Gumpy.
A few days ago, a friend acquired a large stuffed bear, which started an interesting conversation between several friends about our various stuffed bears. After I told them about Gumpy, one of them said, “There’s a story there.” That was the seed that grew this poem.
Gumpy The Bear
Gumpy is mad at me.
We’ve been friends for years so,
trust me, I know.
He won’t even look me in the eye.
He’s pouting and I’m not sure why.
Maybe he heard I said
he sounds more like a cow
with a belly ache than a bear.
He used to have a sense of humor
about things like that.
He might just be tired
of being misunderstood.
We had a big row once
where he ranted at me
for giving him a name
that no one ever said correctly.
I couldn’t deny it.
His whole life I’ve been telling people,
“He’s Gumpy, not Grumpy!”
My daughter and I have had the same argument,
though her name’s not Gumpy or Grumpy.
Maybe it is my fault and I’m just bad at names.
Maybe he’s just feeling tired and tattered;
neither of us are spring chickens anymore,
and sixty is old for a bear, after all.
His fur has thinned with the years—whose hasn’t?
And he’s still wearing the clothes he wore
when arrived at my door
even though they’re old and falling apart.
He doesn’t seem to mind that much;
he’s never been vain and he likes to rub it in
that not many people still fit into the same size for as long as he has.
He’s right about that too—I sure don’t.
I tried to give him a hug,
but he remained stiff and aloof.
I don’t remember him looking away when I was small,
but these days that’s all he seems to do—
stare glassy-eyed into the distance.
I wonder what he’s thinking.
Is he looking back to when we were young,
or looking forward to what old age might bring?
Whatever it is, he’s keeping it to himself.
Gumpy’s always been good at keeping secrets.
Elise Skidmore ©2018