Listerine, Ben-Gay, Rolaids, sweat, and musty clothes, jumbled up into a delicious fragrance of love. I breathe deeply as I sit curled up in my grandfather’s lap. I believe I am his favorite, and I feel his love permeating my pores. His love for me flows out of him and into me with every breath I take of that wonderful aroma.
His lap is lumpy, and his chest is uncomfortable to rest my head on. The papers stuffed into his two breast pockets are like concrete pillows. He keeps all the receipts and papers and bits and pieces from his shop crammed into those two pockets – so full I am amazed they don’t burst. Awaiting the one more thing that becomes the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back – more like the receipt that popped the pocket.
He is telling me a story. Pop Pop never finished high school, yet to me he is the smartest man I know. He weaves fantastical tales. They are never the same – always different. I am always the main character, usually a princess (my father’s pet name for me). My companion is the animal of my choice, this time a turtle, the next possibly an owl. We have grand adventures. When the journey is complete, before I scamper from his lap, Pop Pop pulls a piece of candy, or if I am lucky a quarter, out of my ear. I am delighted and I believe him to be magical.
Years later, as he is sick and dying, I keep these images in my heart. He knows me – but few others. He smiles at me and I am six-years-old again and want nothing more than to climb into his lap and have him tell me a story again. Instead, I sit by him and hold his hand and breathe in that delicious fragrance and know that I am loved.