this isn’t very linear. i appologize in advance. my brain is swimming. my grandpa is in the hospital with horrible pneumonia and congestive heart failure. i’m just sort of… failing as well, you know? i want to pray, as that is all i can do, but i am unsure of what to pray for.
if any one person has defined my life, that person is my grandfather, poppo. he raised me from infancy along with my mother, grandmother, and aunt, all in the same house. i don’t believe i have ever loved or trusted anyone more, or know that i ever will.
well, “trust” is a funny word for me, because really i don’t trust anyone. especially because i am terrified of vampires. i used to be convinced when i was a kid that it was only a matter of time before the night came where i would be awakened to find that my entire family had turned into vicious, bloodsucking vampires ready to sink their teeth into my young flesh. sometimes these fears even carried into the morning, whereupon poppo and i would be riding to school in his rickety, blue datsun pickup truck. i would stare out at the grey sky fizzing with dry autumn leaves and think, “if poppo turned into a daytime vampire right now, that would be so scary. but at least he would make me a vampire too, then me and poppo would be vampires together.”
i was a strange child, but i loved my grandfather very much.
in fact, everyone has always loved him. my mom and aunts used to call him “the phantom of san gabriel” because sometimes he would rake other people’s lawns as well as ours and on the eve of trash day he would go around to several of our neighbors houses and, under the cloak of twilight, drag their trash cans out to the front for them. and this was before all the trash cans had wheels.
when we were little, he made all of us laugh and scream by turning his eyelids inside-out. whenever my mom got really pissed she would tell him to spank me with his belt. he would take me to his bathroom, where he kept all of his belts rolled and filed in the wooden drawer. he opened the drawer and showed them to me menacingly, but he never hit me. never once.
the scent map i made of him is original old spice deodorant, the cracked vinyl of the seats in his truck, yard work sweat, the cheap wooden cabinets of his bathroom, cepacol mouthwash, and old, yellowing hardback books.
he taught me to always have a pen. he taught me that you can make a game of the dictionary. he read me a story over and over again that taught me that art can save your life. he taught me that republicans suck. he taught me to go out of my way for others. he taught me to appreciate a good pun. he helped teach us all every fucking thing we know about love.
he has been in a home for about a year, i think, or a little more. they (i say they) had to put him there when he started wandering away from home. i rarely visit. it breaks my heart. i know it is selfish. i gave him my letter then never followed through.
the alzheimer’s disease has killed his memory. he does not remember me. he does not remember how i used to say, “i love you poppo!” and he would say, “thank you!” and then i would say, “poppo, that’s not the answer!!!” and then he would smile and say “i love you too.”
today, in the emergency room, i leaned down and tried to choke the words out, but i don’t know if he could hear me. i would have given anything for him to just say “thank you!” i would have known what he meant by that.