Grampy is sitting beside me. I don’t think anyone, not even my parents, ever loved me as much as he did. He was retired from the Erie Lackawanna Railway. When he started they were all still steam engines, but by the time he left they had switched to diesel. The railway doesn’t exist anymore.
I was aware, even at that young age, of how much trouble he had breathing. A lifetime of smoking Lucky Strike unfiltered had left him with emphysema. I don’t think they had portable oxygen back then.
He would die of a heart attack a year later. My aunt Helen found him in the kitchen. My Mom didn’t know how to break the news to me, so she said “He’s with the angels now.” I understood. “I guess he won’t have trouble breathing anymore,” I replied.
The dog in front of me was named Tootsie. He won him in a pool game, coming home that night with the tiny puppy peaking out from his jacket pocket. The perspective makes him look a little bigger than he really was. He was a tiny, tiny little dog.
I can’t remember his voice, but I remember Grampy’s hugs. I can see him, spreading his arms wide, inviting me in. I remember the roughness of his unshaved face against mine.
I remember his smile.