We called my maternal grandfather, Bubba.
Upon visiting his home,
we would ring a bell and wait for entry.
Peering through the sheer curtains,
we would handle the softest metal door knob.
A cadence of impatience.
Bronzed gold turned black green.
Dirty hands of friends, family, and peddlers; afforded a build up of patina.
Then, a white bulbous head peeking around the wall, or from the kitchen door.
Dish towel in hand,
he would approach.
Squinting to discern the audacity of a visitor.
Wiggled gait, lifted chain.
The home of a former Marine.
Not as expected, but more of a museum honoring our grandmother gone to cancer.
Everything unchanged, so time could remember her stamp.
Dust, and kitchen grease.
Boston Water and Sewer shop steward trousers, and a Fruit of the Loom tee.
His paunch rivaling that of Santa Claus.
A work of years.
An immediate left would bring you to the living room.
Shades drawn in the deep of day.
The glowing light of a television centered the room,
and back from that, was his Archie Bunker chair.
Full of waiting, and sweat, and muffled farts, and disappointment, and laughter.
There are photos of him holding baby versions of us, while sitting in that chair.
A greasy tray table full of Knick-knacks nearby, and a two-liter bottle of Pepsi at the right of his chair.
Room-warm and ready to pour.
He would sit and hold court.
Jokes, quips, stories, warnings.
All the things Bubbas are great at.
Sing-a-long songs, presided over by an outstretched index finger that became a conductor’s wand.
His finger so soft and smooth,
a touch of leather tissue paper.
And always a glint in an Irish-American smiling eye.
Tales of Sean Sean the Leprechaun, and of how a Native American sniper once dealt with a unit of Japanese soldiers in a Nagasaki swimming hole.
How serious he became when he would report that each of them had been shot in the temple from an outrageous distance.
Him playing it out with an imaginary rifle, stock pushed into shoulder, safety unlocked, scope affixed to eye, other eye squinting, trigger pulled:
pewww! pewww! pewww!
Then just as natural, scoring the local feats of professional athletes.
By the time we could talk,
we could report without doubt,
that Bobby Orr was the greatest hockey player of all time.
Then he would take an afternoon nap.
It would get amazingly quiet, and then he would snore, and finally talk in his sleep.
He would call out to Mayzie (short for Mary).
It was the kind of imploring call that you here upon people separating, that somehow know they will be apart for an indeterminate amount of time.
It was sad and hopeful.
When awake again, he would show great interest in our lives.
Then he’d take us by the hand to Collier’s Market, and buy us baseball cards or bubble gum.
Those packs of gum seemed to last forever.
Although, it was a house full of cultivated shadow, to hide from the pain of impermanence that comes of loving someone so well for so long and then losing them.
It was also a place where we learned that loving doesn’t stop when someone leaves this world, but carries on in small eternal waiting moments of grace.
It carries on in living memory by the stewards of love that bore witness to and felt its existence.
We all got a share.
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