when i was conceived
i had three
my father's father, my mother's father, and my mother's step-father
i loved them all
before i was born
may. my father stood by as the doctors took him off life support and my grandmother cried but she knew that's what he wanted
my mother's stomach
hadn't yet swelled
when i was born
mother's father, mother's step-father
mother's father was always pawpaw to me
he used my full name
after people shortened my name he kept it long
it rolled right off his tongue
mary catherine came tumbling out even when i was just mary to everyone else
it's mary now
when he remembers my name, it's just mary
most of the time, i'm my mother to him
we exit the V.A. in silence. my mother is crying. my mother never cries.
my mother's step-father was granddaddy
tall, with a cane and glasses. he always read mysteries
he wouldn't read dean koontz. it's too late to ask why
he had a nickname for everyone. that's what they said at the funeral
i don't recall him ever nicknaming me
the funeral was long
long and tedious and uncomfortable
the corpse wasn't him. didn't look like him.
i did not cry
why couldn't i cry?
i miss him so much but i can't cry
my mother's step-sisters did
the same ones who bullied my mother growing up
he did too
made her feel like a stranger in her own home
it still hurts her now
she forgave him, but she didn't forget
he doesn't remember me well. or he doesn't say it.
pawpaw doesn't react
we take him outside and we talk and he's there and we love him but he doesn't know
god gave me three grandfathers
one who died without me knowing what to call him. one who died without me knowing how to connect with him. one who lives, and doesn't know me at all.