This is a repost/revision of an older post for the dVerse family history prompt.
It is difficult to tell the difference
between a grandfather and a ‘real
son-of-a-bitch’ in an blurry old
black and white, perhaps impossible
to reconcile man to myth, with years
of stories cluttering memories.
He is vibrant in the photograph,
confident, a man’s man in his
pressed suit and cocked fedora.
It would be easy to romanticize the image;
runnin’ moonshine down back roads
in the trunk of the Hudson — ninety to
nothin’ escapin’ crooked cops.
But that is not how it happened.
Cruel does not show on a polaroid,
controlling and angry are hidden in
still life. There are no pictures of when
his family hid in the apple orchard
waiting for the shooting to stop and the
whiskey to wear off.
I only remember seeing him twice.
Once at a truck stop — Mom would
not tell him where we lived — he gave
me circus peanuts, showed me where
he slept in his rig. The other was a surprise,
he showed up when we were visiting his mother,
Mom was pissed, but he did allow us go to his house,
go through some things, collect a couple of keepsakes.
A relative called, said his dates were on the headstone.
Was there remorse after his wife died
and his children refused to speak to him? Is there regret
for not knowing your grandchildren?
I wonder if he ever cared.
Maybe a bottle by his deathbed
was company enough.