Grandfather of Mine

April 5, 2018

I.

For a while I had all these dreams of grandpa.
One night he escaped from the hospital, plastered with bloody bandages.
The next night I dreamt of grandma, who tried to kill herself with a pocket knife but missed and cut her fingers instead. She kept saying “we”, “grandpa and I”. She is so f***ing lonely.
What would Freud say?
The recurring dream was the last time I saw his face: Stone, like a clay mask, an imprint of a past chuckle. Eyes gently closed, naked without glasses, mouth wide open; a fish gasping for water.
Doctor, why can’t I forget this corpse, skin pulled taught like wax – this leech in my mind?

 

Maybe it’s true: the only cure is time.
Just last night I had a different kind of dream, finally seeing him as he was, alive and full of light. I watched him from outside my window, seeing him try to get in, but the door was locked and the key out of reach. I let him in, we sat down for lunch and he ate with ferocity off my plate, laughed, coughed and patted my knee.

When I dreamt that, it felt so real and I started looking for his face in the crowd, at the opera, next to a little old woman with a cane. But, he’s not in the audience, he’s not outside the bathroom, he doesn’t have a plate set out for him.
The man at the restaurant is not him. The grey curls tousled and glasses, burgundy sweater and chuckles are as estranged as my dreams.
Feel the plummet in your stomach, the pull in your chest, let yourself cry.
It’s not a familiar face at all, it’s just another old man,
somebody else’s grandpa. Not mine.
Not the grandpa who taught me to find clams with my feet in the mud,
who let me ride his back in the water and count his birthmarks and scars like constellations,
and who called me his favorite granddaughter, even though I was the only one.
He taught me about the hermit thrush, waltz tempos and Picardy thirds,
he reminded grandma of that old friend’s last name,
he wriggled his ears like a magician,
he stayed up late playing Oh Hell! with bent cards,
he was the most sought-after trivial pursuit teammate,
his rough hands rubbed my back as he counted until I fell asleep,
he taught me which mushrooms to eat,
he slurped shells at the bay, reveling in the salt,
he could imitate any bird call, teaching me the “chickadee” and the cardinal,
he let us go to Gabriela’s - I’ll never know if he liked the food or he did that for me.
He picked the sour, bitter berries in buckets and made pie with beach plums and graham cracker crumbs burnt at the edges,
he yelped with every hand cramp,
he always wished me a happy “unbirthday,” in honor of Alice,
he finished the leftovers,
he loved Carvel soft serve chocolate ice cream,
he felt there was “a music for everyone”,
and he reminds me of a sweater: soft, comforting and hearty.

 

II.

December 24th: the day we all sing.
Messed up melodies, out of tune keys, wrong religion,
but it’s a tradition.
Grandpa always sits on the piano bench to sing and play.
This year, the show will go on, as it always does,
the piano will sound just as beautiful,
the harmonies will still be slightly off key,
and the carols will be just as haunting.
Grandpa isn’t here anymore,
but the music goes on.

 

October 28th, 2017 he wrote about the white-throated sparrow and her song: two pure, whistled notes, usually a musical fifth apart followed by a 6/8 measure consisting of a dotted 8th note, a 16th and a plain 8th which are then repeated.
November 11th, 2017 he wrote about his “good last walk in the cold, windless air” and he promised to write again.






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