I sit down and situate myself at my late grandpa Dryden’s roll-top desk. Involuntarily I breathe in, but then I stop, close my eyes, and breathe again… this time I have complete control of my lungs. I breathe in again, slower. It’s him. It’s Grandpa. The smell.
I’m thrown back to his apartment on the second floor, number 202. There he is welcoming me in with wide arms and calling me Miss Jackson. My head hits him in his belly and his arms encompass me in his hug. He lightly taps me on the back and asks, “You know what that is?” I look up, sure my answer is correct. We both say, “A love pat.” My smile can’t get any wider.
He settles in his maroon leather LazyBoy chair with one leg tucked up underneath the other. He rocks casually. The TV is centered in the middle of two powder blue rocker chairs and is on, but muted. I sit on the flowered couch on my knees, looking into the oversized golden key upon his wall. I can see my distorted face in it, and I’m tempted to stick my tongue out. Eight-year-olds can be silly. He told me that was the key to the city. It really wasn’t, but it should have been. I got that key too. It’s laying on my side table in my living room. It’s been with me everywhere I’ve lived, including New York.
Eventually Grandpa makes me macaroni and cheese and lets me eat it in the living room, sitting on the floor. I have a blanket under me so I don’t spill on the carpet. But, I have a feeling even if I did spill he wouldn’t have care. Grandpa loves me. He later invites me to have a piece of candy from his orange glass jar. He usually had candy orange slices that were coated in sugar or circus peanuts in there. I always went for the circus peanuts because my brother liked those too. The jar sits above his kitchen sink, near the window.
His phone and answering machine are on a side table at the opposite wall of the kitchen. After he died I remember replaying his outgoing message over and over again. I can still hear his voice. His bedroom has a closet where he kept the toys. He also had a strange-looking, orange chair in there, but I don’t remember it being pushed into a desk. It was just there. My head barely reached the middle of the chair’s back. It swiveled around through. I think Aunt Kim got that for her basement. I think I sat in it last year. It still smells like him too.
Now as I sit at my inherited writing desk, I can’t help but cry. I dreamed about him last night so maybe that is the reason. Grandpa was sitting across from me at a table. We were at my wedding reception and I was wearing a purple and gold puffy wedding dress (don’t ask me why). I looked at him and he smiled. Then he opened his gray-mustached mouth and spoke. I don’t remember his words or the message he was telling me, but his smile I remember said all I need to know.
His smile told me he loved me, that he was proud of me, and that I’ll see him again someday. Every time he seeps into my dreams, I wake up with a wet face and tear marks on my magenta pillowcase. But after I remember that it’s okay to miss him and to cry, I feel a sense of warmth – like a calming. A calming that says just what his smile said in my dream. And the warmth that I feel, I swear it feels just like his welcoming hug at his number 202 door.