The Fifth

Friends of mine recently lost their grandfather, their last surviving grandparent. Rusty wheels, tucked away into a dark, quiet corner of my mind started turning as soon as I found out. Subconscious wheels, with their memories spinning  back into view a full day later. (I never said I was an internal person)

My first thought when seeing the news, All of mine have been dead for a while. All four of them. I shrugged the notion off. I never had the best relationship with any of them. My memories are haphazard patches, like the melting ice adorning Dallas. Stepping on them won’t crush them, but the passing of time seems to erode them away.

I do remember, I didn’t get the traditional grandparent experience. I didn’t get fresh-baked cookies. Or hand-sewn tokens of affection. My grandparents didn’t teach me family wisdom.

And I present…

Papaw – My dad’s dad. I remember the stacks of yellow and white napkins underneath the arm rest in his car. The smell of coffee. The still quiet of someone who uses words carefully. The escapes from my grandmother. The guilt I felt for how much nicer he was to me than, well, anyone.

Grandmother – My dad’s mom. I’d rather not remember. Neapolitan ice cream, and scooping just the chocolate and vanilla out. Broken chair. Plastic place-mats. The hot humidity of the attic.

MeMe – My mom’s mom. I remember chocolates. Yellowed playing cards stacked into impossibly high houses. Sandy floors. Tree swings. Muddy silverware. The way her voice could craft a story. A feeling of awe at how good she was at anything she tried. Hospitals lights.

Granddaddy – My mom’s dad. A cackle of a laugh. Black suspenders. Words that never really made sense. Nervous energy of someone always waiting.

As I was ready to close the book on grandparents, I remembered the letter “T”. It stands for so many things. My middle name – Thomas. It holds so much meaning, I barely reference it. It holds so many stories from what feels like a lifetime ago. I never realized how little I’ve told anyone about my family.

I was named after my Dad’s little brother in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. His mother was named Virginia, but she went by Kraft.  Like opening a box full of long forgotten photographs, the memories come racing back.

Fresh-baked cookies on the counter. Hugs and kisses every time. Juicy Fruit from her purse. The taste of strawberry candies from her living room. Watching The Sound of Music in her living room. Learning to grill on her patio. The extra yearly Christmas visit, and presents specifically chosen for us under the tree. The entire family relaxed around her. She beamed when we walked in to the room. She asked us questions, and she listened. The rosiness of her cheeks.

So I remember my fifth grandparent, the one not related to me, yet the truest one in every sense. May she rest in peace. May she know what an impact she had on me, and how thankful I am for knowing just for a little while what it was like to have a truly doting grandparent. May I embrace the Thomas in me, and never forget where it came from.

-Ry (Thomas)

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