I just called him "Pa" and lived with him from ages 12-18. We shared a bathroom and a thin wall. At night I would smoke cigarettes out my open window and ash in an old chocolate box, and listen to him spinning records in the next room. Mostly old country. A lot of Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline. That kind of thing. I would paint or write or like, try and ferment my own wine in my closet (an altogether gross endeavor, but me and Kendra still drank it).
My grandpa and I shared a purple bathroom and I became expert at drawing his insulin and flicking the bubbles out of the syringe, finding the fleshy parts of his arm to stick the needle where it would hurt the least, bandaging his wounds when he would bump into something and the Coumadin would make him bleed and bleed, speaking loudly so he could hear me, holding his arm when we walked, moving through life at a slower pace and trying to make peace with it. Made him breakfast sometimes-- he liked two vanilla sandwich cookies, a cup of black coffee made with well water, a banana, and a can of spicy hot V8. He had his own name tattooed in a ribbon-heart on his arm (when asked why: "I was thirteen and didn't have a girlfriend so I got my own name") but wrinkles made it unreadable. He was colorblind and an excellent listener. He tried to teach me how to drive stick in the pasture when I was fourteen, and I crashed the '92 pickup truck into an animal trailer.
When he was getting very close to death, I would slip him treats despite his diabetes. The last night I saw him was my eighteenth birthday; he was in the hospital and my mom made a vegan lemon cake and dyed it pink and we ate so much in the mint green hospital room and it was so good, and then I left early to go to a party with a bunch of people who aren't even my friends anymore. And then a few days later, in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, with a light snow falling, he died. That was that.
There's so much more to tell you about Walt. His marriage to Marilyn, their foster kids (my mom being the last of thirteen, the one they decided to adopt), his Air Force days, how he wore big Coke bottle glasses that made his blue eyes the size of tangerines, helping him program his flip phone, how he used to run a laundromat, the kind of aftershave he used. But not today, I am too impatient.
Despite myself, I move fast, panic fast, drink fast, cry fast. My grandpa was always calm and contemplative. It used to piss me off so much. I wanted something-- anything-- to rile him up, but it was impossible. I was an angry teenager, and I have grown into an angry woman.
Since the election, I have been so angry. I go to work and I am angry. I read poems and I am angry. I think of my relatives who voted for Donald Trump and I'm angry. I think of the half of white women who did the same and I'm angry. I look at the National Book Award winners and I'm angry. I get on Facebook and I'm angry. I get off Facebook and I'm angry. I do my job and I'm angry. I feed my cat and I'm angry. I write poems and I'm angry. I think of safety pins and I'm angry. I do yoga and I'm angry. I take walks for hours and hours and I'm angry. I'm trying to hold my anger but it is unwieldy and burning and the fact that it's unwieldy and burning makes me angry.
I don't know what to do. I've been thinking a lot of my grandpa and if he were alive what he would be thinking about all of this. When I am at my most volatile and pissed off, my mind inevitably goes to him. What would he say? Would he have voted for Trump? In my heart, I don't think so. I hope not. I don't think he would respect a man like that-- a man who's behavior you already know, and already hate or have already somehow pardoned. Whatever. I like to think my grandpa would call it like he sees it, I like to think he would see it the way I do, and I like to think this whole nightmare would have even-- maybe?-- pissed him off.
I like to think all these things, but I know they're just dreams. Like the American one. Dreams like that do nothing but gobble up space in my dumb head. And even that-- ready for the punchline?-- makes me angry.