He was an older bald guy smoking a cigar who was in the midst of telling a small group of people a story and I wondered how he couldn’t feel me staring at him.
I was far enough away for him not to feel like I was standing in his space but close enough that he should have felt my look.
It was long and penetrating but not intended with malice or anything close to ill will.
He looked like my maternal grandfather and given we are within a couple of weeks of the 11th anniversary of his death it made sense to me that he would decide to make another appearance.
We both lived in LA so I was lucky to have him for 42 years of my life and can say we knew each other well.
He was bothered by the idea that his great-grandchildren might forget him so I promised to help keep his memory alive.
If it would have been possible for him to make an encore appearance he absolutely would have done so.
Wasn’t him and it didn’t take long for me to figure it out but that didn’t stop me from getting lost in a few thoughts and memories while I stared.
Eventually one of the people standing with him noticed me and asked what I needed. I told him I liked the smell of the cigar.
I don’t remember what brand he or my other grandfather smoked, wasn’t the Gloria Cubana this guy had.
But it didn’t stop me from inhaling deeply and letting the smell take me away.
Some smells do a fantastic job of taking you on a journey of sight and sound. If you ever spend time with me in person depending where we are there is a chance you might see me cock my head and turn.
Could be because of something I heard or because I smelled something and I want to figure out what and where.
Some of those moments are like mental explosions inside my head and I get an internal pageant of sight and sound. Some of those are memories and some are ideas for stories.
I collect them all as part of the experiences we have in life.
Those stories are magical and not everyone gets to experience or share them. But when they happen you need to take a moment and stroll through that secret kingdom because they are life changing.
Flipping back to my grandparents it is still surreal to me that my children have such limited experience with people who played such a significant role in my life.
It makes perfect sense from an age and health standpoint. They were my kids’ great-grandparents and they all died in their nineties so I can’t say they didn’t have long lives.
If they were around I’d fill them in on many stories but today would highlight my son’s comment that one of his coworkers has benefited from some Josh Wilner dad jokes.
“Dad, I used a few of your jokes today and I had to ask myself what happened. Who am I?”
I smiled and told him 21.5 years of indoctrination had paid off.
“It is a beautiful thing when you hear your father’s words come from your lips huh.”
He looked at me and called it frightening.
“Yeah, I know. :)”
Who Is That Guy?
The answer is he is me and if you have known me in person for a few years you ought to recognize the expression.
I think it is about 13 years old and my hair doesn’t look like that anymore. Half the time I keep it shaved as if I just went through boot camp and periodically I shave it clean.
As I have shared before it grows everywhere but the front part of my head so I could let it go if I wanted. Could let it grow like a crazy weed and and try to use the rest to cover the sections that have declared mutiny.
Haven’t done it or tried to because I think it is ridiculous. Not going to take pills, use silly string or shave a black lab to fill in the gaps.
Bad hair days aren’t my nemesis ever and though I sometimes think it might be nice to have a full head it doesn’t define me.
Like or love me for my mind and who I am or step off. Some things are pretty simple and that is one of them.
Grandpa started losing his hair at a much younger age than I did. Hell, I was in my forties before anything really started to happen.
Vanity impacts us all but my hair was never the feature I led with.
Anyhoo, the kids remember my grandparents, maybe not with the detail I wish they had but enough for me to be comfortable saying the promise was upheld.
Maybe it is a good thing that wasn’t grandpa standing outside because I couldn’t begin to fill him in on all that has happened during the last 11 years.
Hell, enough went on for me to say it was more like dog years and that he missed 77 and not a decade.
And that doesn’t cover the stuff that I know is coming. Life is a hell of a ride.