Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Can See You Down the Road

My grandfather lived in a mobile home
the kind that sit on the ground and have no wheels.
I used to stand in the driveway
and look through the wooden slats,
the open space,
it was like the place floated.

He moved a lot, but I didn't know him then.
I knew home and permanence
with the option of mobility.
I imagined the house
curving down the 101,
precarious on a large truck bed,
"Wide Load" flapping in the wind.

He did the cooking, bathed me, 
scratched my back in the mornings when I
came into his room and nestled up.
After a few minutes he'd sigh and say,
My arm's tired,
and stop.
When changing, I'd ask him to take his glasses off.
Can you see me?
I wanted him to prove it.
I can't see a thing.

The smell of sheets was a comfort I can still recall.
The sound of the Sixty Minutes clock ticking on the screen, 
however, was not.
His chair leg popped up with a loud creak.
His glasses were thick and smudgy.
In the mornings we walked to the bakery
and ate crunchy, flat pastries.
At the gas station it was Pepsi and lottery tickets.
At the park it was the best climbing tree I've known,
and the friend down the street
who taught me to vandalize.
Her older brothers rode bikes 
and made me think about boyfriends.

A honeysuckle plant climbed up the fence by the trash cans,
which grandpa would walk to every night after dinner.
The white bag of trash 
dangling from his fingers.
There was a weeping willow tree by the pool
where he swam laps on summer days
And the office where Chuck worked,
his English cowboy neighbor with 
two parakeets and a wife.

For such a wanderer, the man liked rituals.

I don't remember him drinking.
I don't know that he read.
He didn't talk much, 
but he smiled a lot
and tapped his fingers on his knee
and people liked him.

When grandpa recounts the years of moving
England to Canada to Spokane to California
he lists destinations.
Whole countries and oceans crossed,
point A to point B.
My dad remembers particulars
almost overheating the car on a mountain in Northern California,
and also, 
not having any friends.

A month before he died
we spoke on the phone.
He got lost
called me Sonia,
but he didn't correct himself.
The vision in his head was clear.
"I can see you down the road,"
he said,
"leaning against a wall."

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