Remember when we used to draw faces on our hands in pen on the subway? I’d giggle at your stretchy skin and play with your popped out veins. You’d take your giant hand in mine and draw lightly with one of those old fashioned pens, and it would tickle and I would laugh. When we’d finally get home, hands covered in pen, Mom would be so mad at us. She claimed I’d get ink poisoning, and of course I never did. I was eight.
Remember when you used to let me sit on your shoulders and comb your hair? I’d give you all these funny hairstyles and just gabber away. You always listened and laughed along with me. Mom would tell me ‘not to torture’ you, but you never minded.
Remember the time we walked to some donut shop on 40-something and 9th? It was chilly out and we walked under some loud bridge. You said ‘don’t tell your grandma’, and to this day, I haven’t. When we got there, I got a plain donut and a sugar donut. You smiled as I ate.
Remember the Christmas Party when I sat on your lap in front of all those people and sang “Must Be Santa”? At first I was scared, but you made me feel safe as I sang my nine year old heart out. Afterward, I sat on your lap and made pig noises into the microphone. You were my biggest fan.
Remember that one Christmas we were so poor we gave you Big Red gum as a Christmas gift? You may not know this, but when Mom was wrapping it, I asked her for a piece. She told me to wait until you opened it. The second you unwrapped it, you gave me a stick laughing heartily all the while; you must have seen me eyeing it. I was four.
Grandpa, you’d been dead for ten years now, but I want you to know, I never stopped thinking about you. You’d probably tell me ‘Mutt, your hair is too long’ and I’d laugh. But every memory I have of you, you are smiling or laughing. Grandpa, I know you had a tough life, but you did everything so that I grew up happy and loved.
I live my life now with so many “what if’s:
“What if you hadn’t been so sick?”
”What if you had died when I was older or younger?”
“What if you were still alive?”
You were so thin and so frail. When you asked me to hug you, I was scared I would hurt you. But every day, I just wish that ten year old me had just sat on your bed next to you and drew on your hand or anything other than just stand there, frightened of my own grandfather.
You looked at me and showed me off as if I was the most amazing thing to walk on two legs. I trusted you and loved you more than a ten year old could probably ever articulate. I can only hope that you knew.
I wish you had lived to see me now; I think you would have been proud of me.
Profile: Anne Highley-Smith