Think Kit is over, but I’m still doing it. Who Did You Miss? Write about someone you wanted to see this year but didn’t or couldn’t.
The last time I heard this person’s voice I was sitting in the living room at my grandparents’ apartment in Carlsbad, California and he wasn’t there at all. In fact he’d been dead for quite some time. Fifteen years? Twenty years? My grandma put on a cassette and out poured a voice I didn’t wholly recognize but which made tears run silently down my face. Great Grandpa Elmer. My dad’s grandpa. He died in 1980 when I was 12.
I used to have a little note I carried around in my wallet. “Thank you for my great granddaugher,” written by Elmer to my dad after I was born. I just looked for it but it must have gotten lost or put somewhere for safekeeping or just rubbed away into dust. My stepmother gave it to me after my father died.
Elmer played the harmonica (“Swanee River”) and owned a furniture store (Bingham and Sons). He sold Maytag washers. He had a huge home garden elaborately irrigated; the first place I ever ate Swiss chard. He had a green velvet couch, but so did every grandparent in the 70s. I remember green when I think of him, though. And water. And a story he told of the flood that hit Rexburg, Idaho, in 1976. How they found the bodies of cows right inside houses because they’d floated off their foundations, accepted the body of a cow, and then settled back down. He also told me you could cure a sheep from colic by stabbing it in the side. Green shows up again, as bilious grass pours out of the sheep in the story. The sheep is okay after you stab it, you are saving it’s life, so the story is okay!
Daddy longlegs spiders on the stucco at his house. He explained that they are not like other spiders; they’re better. The donkeys that lived next to his garden. I liked to take them carrots. Stories my grandma told that I don’t even remember anymore, just that they were about Elmer, his wife Ruby, and love. He called his wife Little Mama, which was never offputting when told by my Grandma Margaret. He carried Little Mama around when she was sick.
Or the time he was on a trip during the depression and put on his hat to go out and visit a farm to find a guy who’d owed for a washing machine for, like, years. Elmer came back with cash in hand.
He saw Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in real life. He was born in 1891.
I have a letter my dad wrote to him in 1977. “I think that it is great that I can have a grandfather and a good friend in one person – not too many people can say that, but I’ve always felt close to you. One thing I that I know that I’ve inherited from you is the handwriting – don’t think I can forgive you for that.”
I got that shitty handwriting, too.