Geoff met me with a shot glass and a wry smile. The clink of whiskey
ice cubes on a whiskey glass with whiskey breath. My sister shuffles in
her seat. He taps his foot, but not to the rhythm of Dad’s record, but
to the rhythm of his own beat. He’s the type of relative who you have
to meet up with, but don’t really want to. I never liked him; he was
quick witted, quick to judge and quick to leave. But, then, all of a
sudden, he was slow. Slowing down, anyway. ‘
Ninety-one not out
used to say.
And it’s funny. Not ha-ha funny, or my sister’s YouTube videos
funny, that the ball that hit him for six wasn’t even on the full. He
was intimidating, tall and stooping. I used to imagine him with a
cigar drooping out his mouth, tobacco breath and tobacco smoke.
The smoke wasn’t even uncomfortable: he was uncomfortable. The
fact that we didn’t even know him was the worst. He would come
over and settle under the cloud of tension, silver hair matching the
silver smoke with his silver heart. He wouldn’t tell stories, he would
drink and stay silent. I never thought of him as old until he was.
Geoffrey, right? It’s like he introduced himself whenever he saw
us. Geoffrey the familiar stranger. Geoffrey was a warm name, the
purple Wiggle, the kid from 21 Jump Street. But Geoffrey wasn’t
warm. He was colder than his whiskey ice cubes. I never called him
Grandpa, not once, not ever. He was always Geoff to me. He played
tennis. Lived alone. Drank Jack Daniels scotch. Rotary member.
Little words equal can a big person. Widower was a punch in the
face, literally. She was beautiful, like the old photos. She knitted, she
cooked, she sewed. She was normal, and I never met her. Maybe if
she was extraordinary she would’ve lived. No one ever told me how
I think he was lonely.
I never really knew.
Geoffrey used to be young once, and I think that’s why we
overlooked him. The small notes he used to scribble on the edge of
napkins or the Converse he wore with an oversized sweater. They
are young people things. It’s funny, not ha-ha funny or my sister’s
YouTube videos funny, that when we are old, all we want is to be
We all dressed up, black suits that we’ll never wear again to say
goodbye to the familiar stranger that we never knew. Dad cries, my