Writing EDD 1/14/2016 — Grandpa
It’s been so long since I’ve seen him, and maybe 30 years or longer since I’ve had a meaningful relationship with my Grandpa, but the text message this morning hit me hard. He is dead, killed by a stroke, brain damage and finally a heart attack.
I remember his smells. A hint of alcohol, and cigarettes, which as a young and innocent Mormon boy, were foreign smells to me. Smells that I couldn’t place until later when I smoked and drank, and those smells reminded me of my Grandpa.
I remember summers in Big Sky, Montana, where we would stay at his cabin on the lake surrounded by mountains. He took me fishing for the first time, and I can still feel that fish twisting and slippery, and the surprise at how strong such a small thing could be as it tried to rip itself out of my young hands. The smell stained my hands for a couple of days, and I’m not sure if I even tried to wash it out because that reminder of my first fish and his experienced hand over mine as we reeled it in, and watching as he spared me the task of hitting its head on the rock to kill it, brought a mixed up but exhilarating feeling of pride and guilt.
Not as much guilt as what was in the locked closet. A stack of magazines, some from France, and those are the ones that I still remember. The French women with huge, natural hair and breasts doing things that I hadn’t yet imagined, but would stay with me. That mix of excitement, guilt, shame, and pleasure doesn’t leave you, and as I got older, I searched it out.
He never intended for me to find that stack, or for me to smell the alcohol or tobacco, and that isn’t how he would choose to be remembered, but we don’t get that choice, and these memories are special to me, because they are memories of a good man, a flawed man, a real man.