I’d usually see him from a distance, waiting by the screen door for him to finish, watching as he read, listening when sometimes he’d chuckle, or mumble something out loud, then holding up a photo of his dad who died while my father was overseas. Shaking his head, my dad would carefully place the letters and photos back into the box and stare off at nothing.
I would sit beside him then, only a limited comprehension of his journey but always knowing what would come next, “Pops,” he’d say, calling me by one of my nicknames, “If only you had known your grandfather.” And he’d smile at me nodding back at him and reach down to pet our dog.
On that lawn all those years ago I couldn’t possibly understand his loss. Nor could I have ever imagined that I would one day say those same words to my own children, “If only you had known your grandfather.”