To my grandpa—I love you always.
An unacknowledged fear divides us, holds us back with steel, rolled and cold, drawing the warmth of our hands every time we dare touch the edge. We keep a safe distance. We observe each other, one hand outstretched, the rain of the skies falling all around us. The rain has lived here all these years, watching me as I watch him—lying there, steel and cloth holding up his tired body, tattooed with age spots and bed sores.
The rain has watched us since I was a baby. When we picked the azaleas, walked the garden, and ate the pears, it has watched us. And now, as the rain falls against the glass, knocking to be let in, I do as I have always done—block it out, hold it back, isolate it behind glass. I play pretend: I am a god, and the world is mine.
I hold his hand in mine and stare out the window, afraid to look him in the eye, afraid he’ll look back at me. I say something about the orchard down in the garden, and talk about the weather and the river. I talk like I don’t know him, like we just met, like he’s a stranger. I don’t know him. I wonder if I ever have.
We tread each other’s worlds—I call him ah-gong, grandfather, his word; he speaks to me in my language, struggling to pronounce the sounds. Cultures and countries separate us; generations and motivations; he is the master and I am the learner; we are elder and child, dying and living.
We are different but we are family. We are afraid but we dare to breach this safe distance. All these years has been an eternity, these long eleven years.
I hold his hands; his fingers curl around mine. I look at him and he follows me with his eyes. A tear collects in the corner of his eye; it falls down his cheek. I brush it away; hold mine back.
The little game of pretend will never stop; I let it go on. I am a god. Stop the rain, don’t let it in …
The rain falls.