A friend offered up a meme of 5 things about her grandfather. My mom and I lived with my grandparents for more years than we lived alone so this one struck a chord with me.

1. My grandfather was an alcoholic who quit drinking many years before I was born, before my mom was born even. As a result he had several oral fixations like sucking on hard candies and chomping on the end of toothpicks.

2. He worked for county roads doing survey work. This mean he got to come home for lunch a lot. He always started off the day with his lunch packed in his black lunch box. I loved it when he would come home and still eat what my grandmother had packed. It was almost always the same. The red thermos filled with coffee that had turned golden when he added milk. A couple of sandwiched wrapped in waxed paper. A pair of cookies, usually sugar cookies. Sometimes chocolate chip. Always store bought. His favorite sandwich? Spam.

3. He was a hunter and a fisherman and we always had a freezer full of catfish and ducks and pheasant. I was no good at cleaning fish but sometimes he’d let me pluck the ducks.

4. I love to watch him shave. Sometimes he would let me help. I would stand on the toilet seat so I could reach and dab the brush into the shaving cream and help smear it all over his face. When he was done he would pat on the Old Spice aftershave and lift me down.

5. He died when I was 10 years old. I remember his giant body sagging against the nubby red couch and growing smaller and smaller as the cancer ate away at him. I didn’t go to his funeral. I don’t know why my mom and my grandmother didn’t make me. I wish they had. An argument about prayer and my grandfather is what inspired my first picture book, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?