Tonight, I will attend my very first magazine launch party at ASU-West for their literary magazine Canyon Voices: Journal for Emerging Writers and Artists. A non-fiction essay I wrote entitled “Here but Fading” made the cut for their spring 2012 edition. Although this may have been the hardest essay I’ve ever written, they’ve asked me to read it at the launch party tonight. Idiot that I am, I agreed. Wish me luck. For your consideration, an excerpt from my most recently published work.
Here but Fading
My grandfather turns ninety this year. As usual, the family will take him out to Red Lobster for his birthday. He won’t remember it. My grandfather has dementia.
His name is Barney Schwind. He joined the Navy when he was just out of high school, left the family farm in Ohio, and headed to Chicago. He would later admit the only reason he joined the Navy was to get a college education for free. See, Papa is a smart guy. He met my grandmother while visiting a buddy in New York City.
Papa’s buddy’s name was Vernon Cochran. Everyone called Vernon “Rusty” because he had red hair. According to the story, Rusty said, “Hey, Barn, you doing anything tomorrow?” My papa said no, so Rusty invited him to a picnic. Rusty promised food, beer, and girls. Papa’s response? “Put me down for three.” He met my grandmother at that picnic. Although he now says he liked her “knockers,” I think he liked a lot about my grandmother. Hell, they’ve been married for over sixty years.
When he tells you the story, he gets a far-off look in his eye—like he’s watching a black and white film version of that particular day. Papa remembers everything from the old days. He remembers classes he took in college. He remembers the one time he stopped over in Charleston, South Carolina. He used to tell me that story all the time when I lived there. I probably heard it a dozen times. The story got old, but hearing his voice never did.
I don’t know if it’s possible to pinpoint the onset of dementia. Dementia is one of those sneaky diseases that creeps up in the dark and makes a home in your head. We knew it was bad when Papa went mad. He claimed Grandma was sleeping around. The accusation would have been funny, considering my grandmother more closely resembles an apple every year. I should have laughed when my mom called to tell me about the incident. She giggled while she explained.
But I didn’t laugh. I couldn’t. Papa was gone, replaced by something foreign and sick. I would later realize my mom had no choice but to laugh. What else could she do? …
(There’s plenty more where this came from. Head over to the Canyon Voices website to read my essay in its completion.)