Grandpa

That autumn I was 20, my grandfather died. A few months earlier, he had been diagnosed with cancer. He avoided doctors for most of his life, and in the end, it cost all of us. A routine colonoscopy could have nipped the cancer in the bud. But by the time his pain forced him toContinue reading “Grandpa”

Circa 1939

Grandpa Ellis didn’t talk about the time he spent riding the rails. He didn’t talk much at all. He’d come of age in the company of hungry, hollow-eyed men, and he’d learned their silence well. Latched on like barnacles to the roofs of freight cars, they clicked off the miles of open country. He diedContinue reading “Circa 1939”

That Sound

My grandfather loved Glenn Miller. As a Mobil service station man, he respected how Miller had worked as a poor musician and composer all through his twenties and early thirties, never getting much of anywhere. “But he was always looking,” Grandpa said, “looking for that sound.” Grandpa understood that a man could be looking forContinue reading “That Sound”

Runaways

I come from a family of runners. My grandfather to California, my father north to Washington, a great-grandmother west from Virginia, my mother south to Hood River. We steal away to other towns, take on other names. But always, we run. My Grandpa Ellis and I both learned to slip out the back door. QuietContinue reading “Runaways”