You know how scent can take you out of the moment you are in? You transcend time and space in an instant, landing in a memory from long ago. There are the normal smells which trigger this reaction, perfume and fragrant dishes cooking down the street quickly send you to another dimension...today it was something not so normal, today it was a cigarette.
I have had memories attach themselves to the scent of cigarettes before, but never like this... this was different. Normally I am reminded of the night I dragged Drews best friend out of a concert to smoke an American Spirit (the blue kind of course)... or the time Drew and I smoked blacks on the beach while drinking wine from paper cups as we watched stars punch holes in the black canopy hanging over head. But then today, as I sat at a stop light listening to a sad song on the radio, a trucker pulled up next to me smoking a cigarette and all of a sudden my grandpa was with me, cackling his smokers laugh, smiling his tobacco stained smile.
My Grandpa Phil passed away some time ago... I couldn't have been more than 17 because he didn't get to see me graduate high school. We were never particularly close but I had an odd affection for him. I liked his flaws, I liked that he wore wife beater tank tops in the summer and heavy flannels in the winter. I liked his leathery skin, worn and tanned from years of working the fields as a farmer. I liked how he always smelled of peanuts and (even after he quit smoking) cigarettes. He drank black coffee with dinner and loved foot ball. He could guess every christmas present before he unwrapped it and made fun of absolutely everyone. He had more pride than King George but that's not what I remember. I remember his laugh... I remember his strange farm tinged accent... I remember his red truck, his bird feeders and squirrel stands. Above all, the memory that stands out the most is the time he hugged me goodbye, squeezed me tight, kissed me on the cheek and said, "Kelsey, I love you. You know that don't ya?"
... it makes me cry even now. I cry not because I am sad he is gone... I cry because of what he has missed.
Phil was far from perfect. He was bitter and mean and jaded on the outside... but as I grow older I am more and more convinced that is only because he was afraid of what the world would do to him if he let out the full on softy within. Feeling him again today I was reminded of how important it is to be vulnerable and authentic; to remove our armor and face the world head on.
I love you Grandpa Phil... you know that don't ya?