My paternal grandfather was a quiet man.
He used to sit in the kitchen in his sleeveless undershirt, grey flannel slacks and ‘old man’ slippers smoking filter-less Camel cigarettes listening to the radio.
Once a week he’d soak his tobacco stained fingers in the Howdy Doody cereal bowl filled with Clorox to get the stains off.
He kept a little black notebook in his breast pocket.
In it he wrote the names of friends and acquaintances and the dates they had died.
He read the obituaries before any other part of the newspaper.
The first name in his book was the son of their friends who owned the two family house they lived in.
Every year on the anniversary of the son’s death my grandparents would send them a huge bouquet of flowers.
I always thought it was gruesome to remind them of the day. I thought a better time to send flowers would have been on the young man’s birthday.
As I grew up and found out my grandfather suffered from dementia I came to understand his behavior better.
The last time I saw him he was in a nursing home.
They told him who I was but he didn’t show any recognition.
Until they said, “This is Jackie’s little girl.” (The whole town knew me as Jackie’s little girl. But that’s another story.)
At the mention of his only son’s name he seemed to perk up.
I don’t think he knew who I was but he did smile at me.
Then he asked in a quiet voice, “Would you like to see my book?” as he pulled the old worn and tattered notebook from his breast pocket.