Sunday, December 21, 2003

I remember his phlegm more than anything else.
My grandfather had a tube in this throat because, I suppose, the combination of his amazing obesity and stunning counter-cultural excesses had ravaged most of his non-artificial bits.
When I was six he was in the hospital and by the time I was eight he was dead, but since I'm the oldest I'm considered the authority on my generation's view of him. My brothers ask me "what was grandpa Angelo like?" and I can't tell them that he sneezed once and snot came out of the hole in his neck, my only real memory of him, and so I tell them that he had a raspy laugh that you felt in your toes which may even be true given that whole throat-tube situation. I don't want to tell them that he had a hole in him, a place that had been cut away to make room for something artificial. That can be what my father tells them; he can report how Angelo had to place a finger over his vent in order to speak. I won't participate in the horror of -that- vision.
My father, actually, won't talk about him at all although what snippets I've been able to gather lead me to believe that my father's childhood may possibly have been even more violent and destructive than my own. This was, after all, before they really had laws about that sort of thing and he can't manage to forgive the man for whatever abuses, real or imagined, happened. I can't really blame him, although I want to.
There are things, though, that don't add up for me. My grandfather lived with us for a time and we had to padlock the refridgerator because he would eat all the food while my mother was at work. This is her story, at least, but my mental calendar shows no room for such a situation. My parents divorced so quickly; did my grandfather live with us even though my father didn't? And yet that must be the way it happened, because we had for years the small village of wooden houses that he made to go around the Christmas tree. It seems that no one liked him and so over the years I've become the champion of a man I can't even really remember out of some need to fight for the underdog.
I scan my memory regularly looking for some image, some memory of Angelo other than that of his tube and his phlegm, but I've never come up with anything. I have a few grainy pictures and I paint my demons on the easel that he used to paint the beach, but for all of that my grandfather might be a figment of my imagination. It's only because in the pictures you can clearly see the tape on his neck holding the plastic in his windpipe in place that I can even be sure that those memories are correct.
In fact, it's because if this lack of memories, I think, that I reflect on him so fondly.

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