Study Guide

One of the Lives Family

By M.S. Merwin


If I had not met the red-haired boy whose father (1)

Family matters are already being introduced. We're not to the speaker's family yet, but it's important nonetheless.

as he was dying had not had an elder brother (6)

Merwin is weaving all the family ties together, even if it's a family far removed from the speaker's.

leaving two children one of them with bad health (8)

Again, Merwin is showing the interconnectedness of families and how they continue on through the generations.

had not taught my father to drive at the age of twenty (14)

There's the old man! Our speaker begins to relate all of this family business to his own. It's getting slightly more personal.

in Pittsburgh where my mother was working and if (16)

And here's mom. We see where this is going!

my mother had not lost both her parents when she was a child (17)

We thought we were moving forward to the speaker's birth, but here we take a mini-step back to his mom's family, before she officially meets our speaker's dad.

so that she had to go to her grandmother's in Pittsburgh (18)

Location! Home! Pittsburgh is significant to our speaker's family. But also, family is important to our speaker's family. Here we see his mother going to her grandmother's after her parents die. In a way, it's like she's going back in time (to be cared for by her older grandmother), yet she remains connected to her family—just like our speaker. Jinx!