What Hurts Most Of All
Winter makes me miss my Grandfather which makes me sad which makes me want to write things about him. He loved the holidays, loved sitting at the head of a dinner table laid with Texas toast and gumbo, loved surprising me with gifts of books and angel ornaments. He loved a good fire and swaying in his wooden rocking chair. He loved his daughters and he loved his wife. When he was a pilot in the Air Force, he named his plane after her: Gloria Dawn.
Grandpa passed away in March. I was ten and it was sunny. I was too shocked and didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I asked my father for a bag of Doritos. He bought me a large bag. I sat: eating. I ate the entire bag and still didn’t know what to do with my hands so I started to rub my eyes until the synthetic cheese dust made my eyes water. And then they wouldn’t stop.
I lost Grandpa before I had the chance to know him. He lives in my mind like a strobe light: flashes of his worldmap hands, a large dictionary perched on a wooden stand he carved himself, a needle point that hung against the back wall of his library that read Lord give me patience. AND GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT NOW! He left me all his books. I think I’ll spend the rest of my life flipping through his pages searching for glimpses of his handwriting, the notes he left along the margins. And maybe one day I’ll be able to string them all together and find the hidden message, the kernel of truth at the center of all these words, that will explain why he died before I had the chance to appreciate him.
Everyone says that I’m just like him and I think that’s what hurts most of all. My mother says that she sees him in my humor and my aunt says that she sees him in my writing. Watching me grow up, they say, is like watching him come to life, as he must’ve been when he was my age. But I don’t know how to wear his history and I’m afraid I do it clumsily like a toddler drowning in his father’s penny loafers. Would he be proud of me? Would he look me up and down with a chuckle mooning itself against his lips and say something like Don’t worry. You’ll grow into those arms eventually knowing that my arms, after all, are his arms, that we are mirrors of one another?
Maybe this is too much to think about. The holidays will always make me long for him, long for stories to tell about him, but of those I have few. What I do have are his books and his overalls and his blue eyes and memories of him loving me — perhaps this is enough. I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing poetry about him or reading the love letters he sent my Grandmother during the war or thumbing my way through tweed suit jackets at thrift shops searching for a pattern that matches the one that hung in his closet, but I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay to let a cold winter wind wrap its way around your shoulders and shake you into thinking about all the loves you have lost. In that small way, every wind becomes a tribute, a memorial and so on this winter evening, I think of him: stars pulling at the corners of his mouth, a good book in his lap and a warm cup of tea at his side with steam moving upwards, always up.