PASSING A SIGN FOR PAPA, IL

I’ve been told over and over, my grandpa
taught me how to use a computer:

“Move the mouse up,” he asked of me,
and so I lifted it into the air.

When I had better speech, I asked
and he told me what my erection was,
what it meant, and why to hide it.

Once I was able to form and hold onto my memories
– sitting against the red piping of my Mickey Mouse daybed
– he told me how much life I had left to live,
and wiped my tears away with words I didn’t know
I would ever see inside of him,

like when he shrugged his sloping shoulders after burying his mom
and whispered soft enough only for my ears to catch it,
“I guess this means I’m am orphan now.”

It was a long time before I was taller than my grandpa,
but I still look up to him

– even if he and my grandma aren’t speaking anymore
– even if I haven’t seen him outside of sweatpants in nearly a decade
– even if he goes to the library to meet his former physical therapist
and her five-year-old son
– even if he gets choked up when he thinks about him
– even if I don’t know why,
and likely never will.

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