Today’s my grandfather’s birthday. He would have been 106 years old. I don’t have a lot of memories of him. We moved away when I was very young and I only saw him a handful of times after that. But the memories I do have are special.
I wrote this a few years back. For what it’s worth, you can see the bowl of grapes in the photo…
A plastic bowl of grapes.
The dusty, almost-black globes
polished by our fingertips.
The tart snap of the skin between my teeth.
He teaches me to spit out the seeds,
the stones bitter on the tip of my tongue.
Wrestling old Smoky to the ground,
he bites the dog’s ears, both of them growling.
I watch, I laugh,
wondering if he will get fleas.
The rigid line of his dentures,
sticking them out at us when no one was looking.
Laughing, terrified by the sudden appearance
of that slick pink plastic, the crown of his teeth.
The walking sticks, later the canes
by the door.
The carved one, the snake’s head
poised to strike.
Wrestling him to the shag carpet
in my aunt’s apartment.
Two year old champion, I pin him down
and I strike.
My mother flares with anger: “Don’t you hit my daddy.”
the stiff movement of home movies.
Memories, stories told around the family, heirlooms.
So little I can claim for my own.
His voice, surprisingly high.
Rusty, wavering and punctuated
by strange, inarticulate sounds
like a crow in flight.
Surprising myself with tears,
when I introduced my wife to him.
She in black, long hair pulled back.
He already under his stone, so long.