by C. Don
The senses between grandpa and granddaughter.
|I attended the Philadelphia Writers Conference in June 2007. In one of the workshops we were asked to write something that used more than one sense (vision). This is what I came up with in about two hours.
Grandpa's pipe made the air in his room different than any other in the house. Mama wouldn't let him smoke it any place else, not because of the smoke, but for all the flakes of tobacco and ash that landed on everything.
"Too much dusting to put the house right from that darn thing," she'd say. And 'darn' was a swear for Mama.
Oil painting and sailing ships were his passions. I'd sit in his room while he painted seascapes and schooners. He'd let me squeeze the little lead tubes of colors onto his pallet. Then I'd watch as he took a dab of red, a dab of white, and with the hushed scraping of a stiff brush, make yellow transform into a perfect sun on the canvas.
I'd ask questions: "Why do all the ships you paint have sails? Does the sun really have red in it? Why is this brush short and stiff, and that one long and limp?" With patience and a smile he'd answer them all.
Too many questions sometimes. He'd quiet me by giving me an Orange Slice candy. You know, the kind with sugar on the outside. I'd suck the sweetness off first, then sink my teeth into the soft wedge and make an orange smile at him. Mama didn't like him giving me candy. We'd keep it secret.
Sometimes I was quieter. Then, he'd do the talking. He'd tell me how he and his daddy would go to the docks and draw sketches of the ships. All of them had sails. Well, some also had coal stacks too, but he liked the sailing kind. They'd spend all Sunday afternoon on Fisherman's Wharf drawing. Lunch would be a couple of whole crabs from the cauldrons on the wharf.
"What's a cauldron, Grandpa?"
That was before 'The Big One.' The city fell and burned, and he saw his daddy cry.
Grandpa went away when I was six. We went to a place where there were a lot of flowers to say goodbye.
* * *
Time slips by.
Now, I look down at my granddaughter. I hold her and rock her in the chair beside her bed. Her warmth I feel through my shirt. I stroke her eyebrows, squeeze her arms, and I weep.
Breech births are cruel. Anoxia stole her senses. She won't hear gulls fight over crab scraps on a wharf. She won't taste the sugar of an orange slice, or smell the lingering pipe smoke of my den. She will never see a ship in a painting of a seascape. I only hope she feels my touch, my love... and my tears.
C. Don Huntemann