Grandpa Henry lights a cigar from his silver Queen Anne tabletop lighter. It’s a fine looking object – about the size of a lemon – heavy and ornate. Like Grandpa Henry it’s from a different time, before mass production. His cheeks puff as he rotates the cigar in the flame, the fine leaf glowing orange, silver hair haloed in silver smoke.
‘Who wants to see Rudolph?’ Grandpa asks his three grandchildren who are tearing round the house in their pyjamas.
‘Me, me, me!’ the children scream, heading for the front door.
‘Coats on first!’ says Eric, Henry’s son. He doesn’t know how the old man does it. Obviously the red dot in the sky is just an airplane, but how does he always get the timing right? As soon as the kids step outside they’ll see Rudolph’s red nose in the night sky. He must study the flight patterns or something.
Eric remembers the first time his dad showed him Rudolph’s nose. Or he thinks he does. Our earliest memories are usually not memories at all, they’re stories that someone has told us about a time we were too young to remember. Our brains make up the details.
In a few years, hardened arteries will cause Henry to develop vascular dementia. He’ll forget his family, time will warp for him, language will defeat him. And then he’ll be gone.
The children won’t remember him fully. But just as their eyes don’t notice when the red light in the sky blinks off momentarily, so their minds will fill in the gaps of Grandpa Henry. They might remember a fancy silver lighter, shiny like Christmas. The smell of cigar smoke and sandalwood cologne. A warm hand on the shoulder, and a long crooked finger, pointing up at a starry sky.
Rick White lives and writes in Manchester, UK. His work can be found in Storgy, X-Ray Lit Mag and Milk Candy Review. @ricketywhite
Image via Pixabay