I love stories.
I love to read them. I love to live them. But mostly, I love to tell them.
I have a terrible memory really. Sometimes that can be a good thing. It allows me to creatively fill in the missing information in my stories to make them even more interesting. Even make me more interesting.
And of course, make looking back at the past easier.
While most forget the details and simply hang on to the general facts of a story, I’m different. It’s usually the opposite for me.
For instance, when I was very young, about 8 years old, I remember visiting my Grandpa in his nursing home. St. Ann’s, was the nursing home he shared with his ex-wife, my Grandma on my Dad’s side. (Actually I suppose it should be ex-squared since they were divorced twice. No one can say they didn’t really try.) Every visit to the nursing home had to be twice as long as it should have been because one of them refused to be in the same room with the other while family visited. I assume it was my Grandma. My memories of her are not nearly as endearing as those of my Grandpa. I remember once she hung her large, white underwear to dry in our bedroom when she stayed with us. Now, in all likelihood, they hung in the bathroom over the shower rod but my childish memory of this horrifying act forces me to remember them being suffocatingly close. Close enough to strangle me if I ever turned my back on them. I slept not a wink until they were folded and tucked safely away in her suitcase.
But let’s get back to some happier memories.
I remember walking with Grandpa to purchase my very own can of coke – something that made the occasion that much more special to this child who always had to share with my many siblings – from the vending machine in the windowless hallway as Grandpa rattled the change in his pocket that I was sure he had saved up just for me. I also remember as if it was yesterday sitting in the screened-in porch on the rattan furniture. I was wearing a dress, I believe it was the orange one with the front ruffle that I wore for my school pictures that year. I loved the sweet, comforting smell of his cherry tobacco as he puffed on his pipe and he crossed his thin legs. And I am the only one in my family who ever remembers him telling of our family name being changed slightly when his relatives immigrated from Ireland. They removed the Mc at the beginning. Maybe this information was supposed to be our little secret, maybe it was just my imagination.
I do not actually remember anyone else being with us. Just me and Grandpa, that’s as far as my memory will take me. Of course there were others. My parents drove me there and my two sisters, maybe even the youngest of my four older brothers must have been there too. But I remember it being just me and Grandpa. A man I loved dearly and yet barely knew. I can see his face as I type now and I remember how loved and special he always made me feel. The look in his deep brown eyes as he spoke, made me feel loved and valued.
He had this superman-like ability and I doubt he ever knew it. I was never old enough, while he was alive, to even think to tell him how special and safe he made me feel.
I hear stories now about his life, the poverty and alcoholism, and think how I wish I had known then that more than likely he needed to hear how great he was at something, at being a Grandpa. Maybe, hopefully, his eyes were actually saying that I made his life feel valuable and him feel loved.
I am sure I remember things differently than any other person who witnessed that day or more of his life. But I choose to keep these memories intact no matter what others may say. I am just sure it is how Grandpa would want to be remembered.