By Nicholas Brady
My Grannypop used to tell this story,
His eyes, small but fiery
Would stare at you with joy, and he’d say,
“There used to be dis old commercial,
On the tube,
There used to be this cereal,
honey-nut, some type ‘a nut,
Don’t make no difference.
The girl’d pour cereal in da bowl,
And the husband would ask,
‘Whatcha got dere baby?’
And she’d respond,
My Grannypop’s lips were arched in a perpetual grin,
His eyes intently watching my eyes,
His hand was on my shoulder, nimble fingers
Pressuring my shoulder,
A gentle, but precise force,
Love with tender strength.
Before he got to the punchline,
He became the master of suspense,
He’d pause and continue to grin in anticipation,
“You know what dat girl said?”
I’d look around,
Mom and Tiff and Dad had already heard it,
Their eyes confirmed,
Its your turn.
A ritual often repeated, but never the same.
“You know what dat lady said?”
I would respond, “No grannypop, what’d she say?”
He would lift his hand and
Rock his head back and forth and
Clap his hands,
Absolutely entertained by his own wit.
The laughter would fill me and
I’d laugh too, against my own interest.
But his eyes always remained trained on me,
And he’d ask, because he knew,
“Whatcha think that mean?”
He asked because he knew I didn’t know.
I’d lie “of course I know.”
He’d respond, still laughing,
“You’ll get the idea’r,
when you get older.”
I didn’t get the joke until I was much older,
But he kept tellin me the story,
And askin if I understood,
And winking at me, knowing
I still did not get it.
I come from a family of loud-mouth introverts,
Loving insularities with
Hearts of gold protecting dark pits.
Smiles born of struggle and strife,
My grannypop was no different.
Discussions were had with a maximum volume,
Different generations with different rhythms,
Different melodies clamoring to be heard,
To be felt,
But more powerfully, an ensemble,
My grannypop often the loudest when making
The least sense, breaking into our speeches with,
“Hol it, Hol it, Hol it.
Thats not what I said!”
We would hush up and listen,
Let him weave his stories,
Less A to B,
More like D to A to G back to A
back to B to Z and somehow looping
Back to C,
Not where he started,
Nor where he intended to go,
But where we ended up.
A journey with no map,
No return and no end,
Just joy and laughter and pain,
Especially pain, but with it pleasure,
And bonds overlaying bondage.
He always told me you can’t be in
Two places at one time,
Everytime I would make a point,
He’d hold up his two fingers and
Diagram his single law of physics,
His one undeniable truth,
And I would say “I know Grannypop,”
And he would not stop looking at my eyes,
He never told me I was wrong,
But he knew and I knew
Now I wish I could break Grannypop’s law:
Can you be here and there?
Just this once,
One time for me, lets meet Here
With each loss
I keep thinking of where he was from,
Where I am from,
But where there’s nothing to be found.
A farm where our roots grow from,
And up sprouts a trunk of bonds
With loops and rings of affection underneath
Its outer brown skin,
Worn and tough from ageless age.
Each generation branches out,
Each leaf can’t touch its roots,
Yet, in this non-contact,
I feel the presence of nothing.
Whatcha got there baby?
I never grow up,
But with each loss,
I begin to understand
I have the right idea’r?
Grannypop, you can’t be Here,
And I hope you safe passage to
There, for you are
Forever my root and leaves,
Forever my Brown skin tree trunk,
Forever my journey and your law,
Forever my “nuttin honey” and an infinite repertoire of gestures,
Forever bonded across and in bondage,
Forever bonded to my nothing through and within a
Whatcha got there, baby?
What do we have here,
What do we have?
Nothing honey, indeed,