Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Famine

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

It’s easy to take for granted the way
the phosphorescence of solitude
ignites a thousand poems.

Not all of them good, of course.

In truth and hindsight,
most were un-notably awful
and overly enamored of lank-haired boys
who didn’t rate a reciprocal glance
much less a rhyming couplet.

And yet.
The unremorseful exuberance
of so much twentyish angst is
impressive.

Would now I could
dredge one bullion ounce
of such lyrical fervor.

-Lo, attempting a comeback.

Life Is What Happens

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

cornfed

Damn. I mean, Damn!

I have never neglected this space for such a long time. In fact, I used to post a minimum of once a week fairly effortlessly. But then, there are a lot of things I used to do that have become past tense.

If there are any of you out there still reading, I apologize for the long silence. It was an unintended sort of thing. A month would go by, and I would think, “I need to update the blog.” But then I would get busy, for there are a million and three things on the to-do list, always. Or I would be too tired (see aforementioned list). Or I’d get distracted by a tiny corn-on-the-cob waving lass (see above photographic evidence).

Or I would just think, “I have nothing to say that anybody wants to hear.”

And that may still be true. Or maybe it never was. But in the end, I’m doing this for me. I’m reclaiming this space to reclaim a small part of myself that feels lonely and lost.

Around the time of my last blog post, some six (gasp!) months ago, I began writing a poem which in drafts has alternately been titled “Heart” and “Lost” but will likely not be called either of those things by the time it’s finished.

I began it in a haphazard style, having awakened one day with an idea for a new cinepoem blazing in my brain. But the poem must come before the cinepoem. So I wrote, awkwardly, as you do when trying to wake a sleeping limb.

My brain felt numb and the words felt heavy and I struggled through five lines. And then I put it away and thought, “I will come back to this.”

And now it’s July.

Anytime I would think of the blog or the poem, (in between scrambling eggs while the tot sat in her highchair banging a spoon and chanting “eggseggseggseggseggseggseggs!” and trying to race down to fling blankets and tiny PJs and multicolored socks into the dryer before the tiny PJ owner noticed my absence and going to work and coming home and remembering to say hi to Bruce and squeeze in a “Howwasyourdaydear?” In between all of that,) I would think, “Oh, it hasn’t been that long. Surely I’ll have some time tomorrow. I’ll carve out an hour.”

And now it’s July. No-one is more surprised by this than I.

This day isn’t any more or less busy than any other day, but this is the hour I’ve managed to seize. And perhaps it’s true that I have nothing to say. Nothing anyone other than me finds fascinating, anyway.

But it IS fascinating to me. This life with all of its chaos and tumble and rush. It’s endlessly fascinating.

The way she says new things, every day, that show a little mind whirring and buzzing and becoming. The way her hair grows in frantic ringlets all over the back of her head but on top, and in front, it’s perfectly straight. The way she climbs to the top of the tallest ladder on the playground, fearlessly. The way she brings me books and climbs into my lap and says, “Sit here a minute, mommy.” The way she runs, with graceless toddler bravado, arms flailing, pigtails boinging. The way Bruce and I will catch each other’s eye over her head at random moments and just grin at each other like, “Can you believe this?!”

The silence of the past months, it seems, is an indicator not just of busy-ness but of becoming-ness. Of tired-ness. Of happy-ness. Of all the -nesses that make up a life.

And someday I’ll write all about it. Someday the words will catch up.

In the meantime, I’m going to grab an hour when I can. And I’m going to finish that poem and name it something ravishing. And I’m going to shoot a cinepoem. Soon. Like in a matter of weeks soon. (Really. Shel and I have a shoot date on the calendar.)

And if you’re still here and waiting, you’ll be glad you did.

-Lo, full of wishful hopeful thinking.

Room and Bored

Friday, March 25th, 2011

busy

Today someone asked me when my next book is coming out.

I didn’t know whether to get stabby or fall over laughing.

I haven’t written even one single poem in almost three months, even though my to-do list has, in the number two spot, the title “evacuation” followed by the imperative “WRITE IT!!”

It’s not a lack of words that’s the problem, you see. It’s a lack of time. As I told the aforementioned someone, “I have a six month old baby! I’m lucky to put my shoes on the right feet in the morning.”

So then, the follow-up went, “Well, what keeps you so busy? You know, besides the baby?”

(Warning: Impending rant. Take a deep breath and duck.)

Besides the baby? What do I do all day? Other than working 40+ hours a week at one job and landing myself a brand shiny new job and commuting back and forth and coming home and doing laundry and dishes and diapers and feeding the baby and dressing the baby and feeding and dressing myself and sometimes even brushing my hair? What else?

Well, there’s the cinepoems that get entered in film festivals and there’s the etsy store orders to fulfill and there are irises in my backyard that desperately need repotting. And once in awhile I try to exercise. And get a manicure. And even a pedicure, if I’m feeling really cheeky.

Wow. Ok. Bitter, party of one!! I shouldn’t get stabby about the question, I know.

Because I do remember what it was like to be bored. To have oodles of hours to fill. To lie late in bed and luxuriate in the question of “What should I do today?”

But that was eons ago in a time before Boy and Baby and video poems.

Today I’m just wallowing in guilt over letting another month nearly slip past with nary a blog post.

And the trouble is, I can’t promise to get better! Life is just a blur these days. And so am I.

But for my own sake, i swear, I will trap some of these words on a page. And then, if I deem them worthy enough, I’ll share them with you.

It’s not a new book, no, not at all. But it’s something.

-Lo, who hounds her own favorite authors for their next works and knows that really, all this means is that she should be flattered.

The Elusive Muse

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

mood: antsy | drinking: h2o

rust_bird

Every writing workshop I’ve ever attended encourages you to carve out a hole in your schedule: an hour in the morning, a chunk of the afternoon, and sit there with your pen and paper, your keyboard and screen, and wait patiently for the muse to show up.

Sometimes, they say, just sitting there writing nonsense, pouring out your stream-of-consciousness rambling, will suddenly turn into something productive. Something that you’ll read later and say, “By Jove, there’s something good going on here!”

And it’s true. It works. If you can force yourself to find the time and then sit there, quietly.

But there’s another tactic that I’ve been considering, since my quiet times with blank pages have been few and far between of late. I’ve decided that perhaps you need to get off your ass, go out there, hunt down your inspiration, drag it home by the tail and make it your bitch.

Sally forth, armed with pocket-sized paper pad and tell yourself, “Today I WILL find something to write about. I will inspect every nook and cranny of my day until a whisp of an idea creeps from the corners and makes itself known.”

Perhaps I’ve decided to go on the prowl because it sounds easier, somehow, than adding another task to my to-do list that says, “Sit still.”

Perhaps I’m in denial of my need to stop moving, stop doing, just stop for a second.

Perhaps.

I’ve been so busy, for the past several years. Poetry book, cinepoems, film festivals, new job, new house, and, of course, the ever-expanding bun in my oven.

But even if I weren’t busy with all my various and sundry extracurriculars, I’d likely find a way to fill time.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how all these time-saving technological wonders have spawned such a wealth of ways to waste time.

Facebook, while a great way to connect with long-lost friends, enemies, and people you barely remember, is also an incredible time-suck. Even if you don’t subscribe to the Farmville/Mafia Wars/Vampire Attack drivel.

It’s like the more we invent to make our lives easier, the more we remove ourselves from the actual living part of life.

We had friends over recently and at one point in the evening I looked up from my laptop to see at least four of us with heads bent over computers, and the other two had their iPhones out. Yeah. We’re a fun bunch.

I’m not against the interwebs, obviously. And I’m not against smart phones, either, although my own phone remains a small, sad little phone-only device. (I don’t want to be constantly connected.)

I just think that unless we consciously unplug, disconnect and shut down for awhile, we might miss out on something truly spectacular that’s happening off-screen.

I’ve been unhappy with my poems lately. They have slowed to a trickle, and all I seem to be able to write about is the unknown little person inside me who is slowly but surely rearranging my life.

I suppose it’s not really a bad thing that my poems have such a singular subject–after all, this is a pretty monumental thing that’s happening inside me. But there are other things happening outside of me that I’d like to pin down on paper.

So perhaps I’ve just talked myself in a great big circle back to the beginning of this post. Perhaps I’ve just convinced myself to sit down and shut up and see what the muse brings to the table.

Or maybe I can do both… Maybe I can be aggressive and hunt my inspiration down one day, then sit passively by and listen to the ether the next day.

It’s worth a shot. Let’s try it and see what happens.

-Lo, who just likes to say that she’ll make something her bitch.

Further On Down the Road

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

gravelroad
Mood: Pensive
Drinking: Liquids only

Sometimes I don’t know what to write.

I’ve been at it far too long to put pen to paper only when the muse shows up, only when the kettle is hot and inspiration feverish. If I always waited for those blistering moments, I’d have far fewer words to show for myself.

Writing, no matter how you love it, is work. Like any sport or discipline, it takes commitment. Time set aside at the keyboard or desk. Hours laboring over paper, in front of screens, battling the smooth white blankness, the insistent flashing cursor.

Perhaps that’s why I have no novels to my credit. I have not bent myself to the task like an Olympic athlete, have not roused myself repeatedly before dawn to make my rounds in sweat and ink. I have not focused with entirely single-minded purpose on a bright shining goal. Hell, I don’t even write every day — at least not “real” writing.

I have crafted a life around words, but they are not always words written for myself (which is what I define as “real”). I make my living writing pretty sentences for other people. My clever lines make these people money, and they break me off a piece of it, and with that piece I make room for what is “real”, what is my own.

Just this week someone asked me how I came to make a living by writing poetry, and I laughed. Poetry doesn’t pay the bills. Poetry is a necessary luxury. I do it because I love it, I need it, I want it. It is a habit that incurs its own expenses and very rarely pays its own way. But I could never hold that against it. I never expected to make a living by writing poetry.

Perhaps that’s the difference between me and the elite-athlete-writers. The gold medal winners. They expected to make a living at this. They bring all their determination and drive to bear on the single purpose of “succeeding” at poetry. And so they write faster-higher-stronger than I do. And they win shiny accolades and coveted places on printed pages. And more people know their names.

But I am happy just to be writing poetry at all. I work hard to improve my work, yes, and I occasionally strive for a prize. But I am not remarkable, really. I’m not among the elite.

Most of the time, I’m okay with that. The compromise allows me to have a broader life.

I’m not sure, at this point on the page, where I’m going with this. I intended to write a post about a memorial service I attended last week for the brother of a dear friend of mine. I intended to write about how it was the first memorial service I’ve been to at which there was no mention of God or heaven or a “better place” from which the deceased wisely looks down upon us all. I intended to write about how the man who died believed that all life is meaningless, therefore, he should try his best to make other people happy.

Instead my head and my screen are full of images of Phelpsian athletes out-stroking me on the keyboard, writing far beyond my own capabilities and draping themselves in golden satisfaction.

Are they better than me because of all their accomplishment and need? Am I less because I’ve chosen a less resistant road of family and friends and travel and work, or am I better because I have found a way to fit my craft around all the many pieces of my life, instead of starving myself for art’s sake and squeezing actual living into what space remains in the corners not occupied by my fierce ambition?

I suppose it depends on who you’re talking to.

If you’re talking to me, I would tell you I do not regret the path I’ve taken, and I do not feel lessened because of it.

At a writing conference I attended last August, the majority of the poets in my workshop sessions were older — retired, gray haired, wide-girthed. The more successful, better published poet leading the workshop asked us to go around the room and describe our daily writing process. Person after person talked about the hours they set aside during their day to write poetry, hours between dawn and the leisurely mall-walking expedition, hours between grandchildren and cribbage — hours and hours and hours with nothing else to fill them except pen and paper.

When my turn came, I shrugged and said — “I don’t have a daily process. I’m too busy. I just write when I can.”

Perhaps someday, when I am grayer and wider, I’ll write every day from 8 ’til noon, and then go weed my garden.

But for now, my writing will remain just one of the moving parts of my life. That way I’ll still have stories to tell when the bulk of years is behind me.

-Lo, feeling older already.

This, That and the Other

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

seventy6
Mood: Spaced
Drinking: Tea

Wicker Kid is writing again. I couldn’t be more delighted. Go read his latest, and you’ll be delighted too.

The Swell Season is in town, and Boy and I and a bunch of our friends are going to go see Glen and Marketa in person tonight. I’m tingling with anticipation. I expect it to be beautiful. After Once, how could it not!?

This weekend, in addition to being a birthday weekend for yours truly, is also Poppy Jasper Film Festival weekend down in Morgan Hill, CA.

Slippery Shiny Feathery Things, the same cinepoem collection that won the Best of Festival Arts award at Berkeley, is screening at Poppy Jasper on November 10 at 9pm and November 11 at 3pm.

Check the schedule if you’re in the area and want to stop by the festival for some big screen action.

That’s all for now, but it’s quite enough to keep you busy, yes?

-Lo, who’s ready for some fresh ink.

An Appointment with the Muse

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

mcwc_afterMood: Pensive
Drinking: Vitamin Water

A few days of writing exercises will do wonders for your word bank.

I’ve just returned from a writing conference and my notebook (and my poor squishy brain) are brimming with half-finished but promising starts and a fine numbered list of new ideas. (One of which is a poem about LeeLoo and her crispy tongue.)

I was surprised to find that I was one of the youngest writing conference attendees (except for a ragtag band of local high school overachievers). I confess I thought I’d be mingling with a few less bluehairs and a few more writers of my own age bracket.

But GenX was nowhere to be found. And the retired folks were very nice. So it wasn’t a big deal. Just kind of weird.

My instructors were both new to me — Albert Garcia (whose latest book, Skunk Talk, is reviewed here) and Maya Khosla.

Although both of their books are published by Bear Star Press, I found both their teaching styles and their poetry to be quite different from each other.

Maya is a biologist who has lived all over the world, and her writing very much reflects her work (as in my favorite poem of hers, “Lake Trout in a Gill Net” — you can find it in her book Keel Bone).

Albert is a university administrator (and former professor), whose beautiful, spare writing details his love of ordinary things, places, moments, people. (I really love his poem “August Morning,” which is reprinted in this review).

I collected a lot of great ideas and encouragment from both poets, and if I follow through on all the writing threads I started at this conference (which I intend to), my pen and I will stay very busy for the rest of the year, at least.

And now for the re-entry into the neverending rush of everyday living… back to work, to business, to jury duty (insert annoyed face), to reality.

-Lo, who wonders when her own hair will turn blue.

The Writing Muscle

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

muscles
Mood: Procrastinating
Drinking: Tooth-rottingly sweet tea

Soon and very soon, I’m off to a conference for poets and writers.

I’m not sure what to expect. Writers often tend to be quite competitive, myself included. You always want to be the best in the room. Trouble is, “The Best” is so very subjective.

I tend to think that poets like Nicole Blackman are far better than your average stuffed poet laureate. But that’s me.

I went to a poetry reading the other night and watched a woman in green bob her head emphatically up and down like some sort of epileptic chicken at nearly everything the featured reader said. Clearly, she thought his overwrought, pedantic, self-important stanzas were the cat’s meow.

I, on the other hand, thought he was in rather desperate need of an editor. And an enema. (Rawr!)

So you see, different strokes…

Perhaps I’ll meet fellow writers who are lovely and kind, fellow poets who turn fine phrases without rancor. (I know they exist — I met one named Gary just the other night.)

But really, I’ll just be happy to exercise my own writing muscles, to learn new things about words and craft and self. There’s always room to learn and grow. No matter who you think you are.

And as added impetus for the wordy weekend ahead, a friend sent me this poem in an email titled, “Why I love and worship Auden.” It’s an amazing piece of work, not only for its beauty but also for its resounding truth…

Musee des Beaux Arts
by W.H. Auden
(1940)
About suffering they were never wrong,
the Old Masters; how well, they understood
its human position; how it takes place
while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
for the miraculous birth, there always must be
children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
on a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
that even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
but for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

-Lo, once more into the breach.

Sunday Morning Misfit

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

sundaymorningmisfitMood: Sticky
Drinking: Again with the tea

I’m taking to the sky in a few days. Which you already know if you read all that nonsense about my inability to pack a suitcase. Boy and I are heading south this time. To Alabama.

I’ve never spent much time in the south, although I was born in Virginia. But my parents moved me west and north before my third birthday, so I never had a chance to develop anything other than a mild Midwest twang. (Although after 6 years on the west coast, I now say “Dude!” far more often than is really necessary.)

I went to the Carolinas, once. I had a lapse in judgement while I was in college and dated a tall blonde boy with thin lips who went to a university in the southern-most Carolina. I flew down to visit him on my spring break. It was a bad idea all around, but that’s not Carolina’s fault.

Then there was the summer I lived in Indianapolis — I spent three months writing for The Indianapolis News/Star as part of the Pulliam Journalism Fellowship. And three months was more than enough time for me to decide there’s really nothing in Indiana that I want to go back for. Okay, except for my cousin Pam, who lives in Indiana. But that’s it!

So that’s the extent of my acquaintance with the southern states. (And I know Indiana doesn’t really count.)

But all that’s about to change. Boy and I are traveling to Decatur, Alabama, where I’ll spend the weekend doing something I haven’t done in six years. Going to church.

I know there’s no need to fly across nine states to get some pew time in, but this is a special sort of occasion. About six months ago, I received a request from the pastor of a Methodist church in Decatur. He had seen a video of a talk/essay/performance/whatever that I did back in 1998, and wanted me to come and speak at his church. I turned him down flat.

See, this video, “This Is Who I Am”, has been floating around the church world for quite a few years now and so I get speaking requests from church people from time to time. I always turn them down, for several reasons. The biggest of which is that “This Is Who I Am” is not who I am anymore. And most of the people who want me to come and speak at their church/conference/whatever don’t get that. They don’t read through my web site, they don’t pay attention to any of the poetry or cinepoems, and so they just have this idea of who I might be and what I might say from a 7-minute essay I wrote 9 years ago. And even back then, I wasn’t what you would call a Jesus-freak. But many of these speaking requests come from people who don’t do their homework. They see one little thing and just assume that of course I’ll be all rah-rah with pom-poms on the Christian float. They would be wrong.

But this guy from Alabama was different. He watched the cinepoems. He read all my web posts. He even bought a poetry book. And he still wanted me to come to Decatur.

Over the course of a few months and many emails, I became impressed with the sincerity of his request. But more than that, I felt like he had a pretty good idea of what I was all about, and he still kept inviting me to speak. He wasn’t deterred by the fact that I haven’t been to church in years or that I fully enjoy flinging the fuck-word around now and then or that I think Bush might be the devil or that I want gay people to be able to get married or even that I get really itchy around evangelicals.

In fact, he invited me to come and speak to his church about why I don’t go to church. I was completely flabbergasted. (And I don’t get to use that word very often!)

So I reconsidered. And then I said yes.

And then I spent the next four months wondering what in the world I was going to say. How was I going to justify all this attention? How was I going to make it worth these people’s while to fly me all the way from California? How was I going to offer them any wisdom, anything even the slightest bit meaningful or profound?

It all came together, finally, as it always does, and now I am sitting on 14 pages of words and 6 video excerpts. (The videos include a just-for-this-occasion cinepoem called “Sunday Morning Misfit” [that’s what the stained glass picture up above is from], and 5 interviews with a few of my favorite friends — people who are Sunday Morning Misfits just like me.) There’s no measly 7-minute essay happening this time around — I’ve got a good hour’s worth of things to say, and you know what? I am really excited about it. Not nervous or overwhelmed or unsure. Completely the opposite. I have stories to share that need to be heard, and I’m ready to go, mouth full of words.

I’ve received lots of really kind and welcoming emails from the people in Decatur over the past few months, and I am very much looking forward to meeting all of them. It’s safe to say that nothing quite like this has ever happened to me before, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

No matter what, it certainly will not be boring!

-Lo, who really doesn’t mind being a misfit most of the time.

In Honor of Henry

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Mood: Mixed Up
Drinking: Hot Chai

My Grandpa is dying.

His body has grown tired and gray, but I never remember him that way. I always picture him spry and whistling, pulling into our gravel driveway in his navy blue Oldsmobile, a red feather perched in his jaunty fedora.

Every day of my childhood, Grandpa was there. He always came bearing a ready joke and a baggie of Tootsie Rolls. (Even now I can’t untwist the wrappers without remember his endless sticky candy offerings.)

I know the years have passed us by, but it’s still so hard to imagine that the Grandpa Hank who built my sister and I a horse stable out of scraps of old lumber, clambering around with hammer in hand, nimble as you please, hiding a cigarette behind his back whenever us kids appeared (as if we couldn’t see the smoke winding up, wreathing him from behind)… it’s hard to equate the Grandpa of my childhood, joking and jovial, with the Grandpa of my adulthood, feeble behind his walker. And now lying so quietly in a hospital bed.

So today, in honor of Henry Witmer, I’m sharing a story my sister wrote about him last year. (She has a way with words, too.)

A True Glimpse of Grandpa
by Johanna Witmer Baldwin

Everyone wants a second chance, a chance to be redeemed, to start over. I just never thought Grandpa was one of those people. To me, Grandpa was my hero, invincible and un-aging, without fault. Or so I thought, back then when my world was so small and perfect.

More than President Reagan, Johnny Cash, or even Daisy Duke, I wanted to be like Grandpa when I was little.

After retiring from the steel mill, Grandpa began driving the 10 miles to our house every morning at about 6:30. By the time I crawled out of bed, Grandpa had already finished his cup of coffee, hammered out a few carpentry projects, and probably taken a break with his morning smoke.

Except I wasn’t supposed to know about that smoke. He diligently tried to hide it, even around Mom, who told him that she had known about the smoking for years. She even offered to buy him an ashtray.

Even so, he continued to slink behind the garage, barn or the garden to light up. I can’t remember how many times I walked up on him smoking and nearly gave him a heart attack. After regaining his composure, Grandpa would cough out the smoke from his last drag and pop a Vick’s drop into his mouth to drown his ashy breath. Then he would stand with the cigarette behind his back, in a futile attempt to look innocent while the cigarette smoke slowly curled around his ears grew into a hazy wreath behind his back.

“Oh, hey there! Did ya just now get out of bed?!?”

I played along, but spent more than one afternoon combing the gravel for his cigarette butt, so I could pretend to be a rebel smoker like Grandpa.

So why was Grandpa the secret smoker such a perfect icon in my childhood mind? Because only a few of my memories are of Grandpa pretending he never inhaled; the rest remind me of the selfless way he showed his love for us.

No one ever asked him to show up and work at our little farm, but there he was every morning, whistling a raspy tune while he invented an economical way to convert a shed into a 4-stall horse barn for my sister and me.

In addition to his carpentry skills, Grandpa was the only adult to recognize that I honestly COULD handle an entire Big Mac (minus the middle bun) and strawberry shake at McDonalds instead of a mere child’s Happy Meal.

More than that, he always knew the perfect time to offer me a Tootsie Roll to brighten my mood. Like on the days he drove me to school when my fake stomachaches had not convinced anyone that I was dying and needed constant bed rest.

Amazingly, the Tootsie Roll always healed me instantly. At every school program, Grandpa wandered in half an hour early, in order to get the best seat in the house.

In almost every corner of my childhood memories, I find Grandpa in his feathered fedora, flashing his false teeth to gross me out or standing proudly somewhere nearby.

Last summer, I flew back to my hometown to see Grandpa, whose heart was failing. Maybe all those years of hidden smoking had finally caught up with him. He had been in and out of the hospital every few months, and Dad said Grandpa “might appreciate” seeing me. In other words, Grandpa was dying.

The first night back in Illinois, my Dad sighed as he talked about my Grandpa’s health problems, “He spends all his time complaining about this ache and that pain, how he’s getting too old and might as well die. And he wonders why I don’t always want to come visit him. He forgets that he missed most of my childhood. I mean, for crying out loud! He was a horrible father! He’s never admitted all the affairs he had, or how he disowned me for years after he divorced Grandma. He said terrible things to me back then, things I don’t even want to repeat.”

He rubbed his brow in frustration, as if to erase the painful memories, “But he seems to have forgotten all of that now.”

I was still thinking of this new side of Grandpa the next day when I saw him. He appeared to have shrunk over the past six months and was so frail as he shuffled into the house with his walker, a mere shadow of his former self. But he didn’t seem like the playboy who once had abandoned his family, either.

What was Grandpa really like, and why hadn’t I seen the other side of him all the years when I scampered around in his shadow?

As I was deep in thought, Grandpa’s ashen face lit up and he interrupted my reverie, “I always think about how you used to run around, following me everywhere when you were just a tiny tyke…” A smile tiptoed across his weathered face, then cautiously crossed to mine.

At that moment, the foggy doubt about Grandpa lifted. Grandpa did remember all the hurtful years he lived as a father, and he had spent the next few decades trying to make it up to the following generation of family. I was Grandpa’s redemption. I was his second chance at fatherhood.

Sometimes I just want to go back to the way things were before, when I was little, swaying in the swing he built for me and listening to his stories of surviving through the Depression. Before I knew. Before I could read between the lines of our family history.

But maybe it’s better this way. Because now I know that all Grandpa wanted was redemption. One chance to make things right.

-Lo, who could use a Tootsie Roll or two right now.