I never saw Grandpa Carte in a suit. Only in pictures, one
of him carrying me up the aisle, my mother and father’s wedding.
He was a man who cut the collars off his flannel shirts
so they didn’t bother him anymore. He tailored gloves
to fit the remainder of the hand he lost working at the shop.
Grandpa worked around the house, often alone,
sometimes biting back when offered help.
I borrowed his Motor Trend and Automotive magazines
each month after he was done with them. I started
getting my own copies in the mail not long after. I was smaller
still when he taught me to drive the tractor, bigger again
when he took me out in the van and showed me how to drive.
Soon I was graduating, and he bought me a car. I remember
the disappointment when I ran it out of oil, failing
to check it how he had taught me. He fixed it,
like everything else, and I learned.
When I was a child, he built with me in the barn,
scraps of wood put together to make something new.
Slats of wood nailed, sloppy, made at the hands of a child.
Airplanes with pinwheels attached to the front—
colors spinning, a kaleidoscope. Hand-crafted homes
for birds, other odd-shaped contraptions.
Grandpa once cut me a y-shaped branch, sculpted the ends smooth,
threaded bike-tire inner tube through a piece of fabric,
stretched rubbery ends around the wood. I launched rocks
into the tall grass out back for days after. I wanted,
I wanted, I wanted, and he gave. He asked no questions.
He filled the role an absent father left behind. I learned
how to ride a bike. He watched as I climbed trees, higher
and higher, on our walks through the backwoods.
Grandpa mowed patterns in the golden, crested wheat grass,
and I ran through them, my make-shift corn maze to explore.
A phone call from my mom, day of his death,
and I learned those days were his favorite days.
Once, I drove Grandpa to the cancer doctor, braving
the snow and ice, driving him towards the unknown
answer to a difficult question. We were told, “come back
in six months.” He said I was his good luck charm—I hoped
it was true. Weeks later, I learned
my luck must have run out a long time ago.