the last american cowboy

Some of you have posted beautifully lately on hearing the wisdom of those you've lost after they've gone. It's moved me, so much so I can barely get through your posts without breaking down crying. It's moved me because my grandfather see, I always thought he'd come back for me too.

I loved him fiercely. In a broken extended and dysfunctional family he reigned supreme, with a quick and fiery mouth and for most of his life a ready fist for anyone who got in his way (women and children excluded of course). His family was the most important thing to him on earth and never found the words to express it, he'd show it by giving everyone a hard time in an incredibly funny sort of way. He grew up rough, 11 brothers, poor, the bluest of collars. He had my mom early, he was sixteen years old and as such she grew up inside pool halls, watching his hands gripping a pool cue and a wrench with equal acumen.

I was the oldest of a mess of grandkids and we were closer because of it. I loved him fiercely, even as he made mistakes I only saw the grandeur of his honesty, the raw authenticity of a man who grew up in the streets. As I grew older we'd made our own way, I'd spend hours with him in his old barn, sharing a beer and pawing through endless miles of acquired junk. We'd talk about how much he loved his family. There was no bullshit between us and he was indefatigable, this man who could kick everyone's ass and as he grew older mellowed a bit but never really all the way.

When he was diagnosed with cancer we were all in shock. It came violently and without mercy, stripping him of his vigor in a way none of us could have imagined. One of the last times I was alone with him in the barn we talked candidly, him giving me a hard time for not settling down and telling me that was one of the reasons he was still hanging on, to make sure I didn't settle for a piece of shit. By some divine intervention and not too long after I'd met J.

His wife called me one day and said she didn't think there was much more time. She said it would be a good idea to make the long trip back and to do it soon. By then I'd only known J for a few weeks but I invited him to come and I was honest, I don't know where this is going but it seems pretty good. I want you to come and meet the old man. So we travelled a long road trip and climbed to the top of his dusty mountain and when I introduced him to my grandfather I said the same. It's not been too long yet but it might be something and I need you to size him up. And I knew he would too, there was one guy deep in my youth who he met and actually threw out of the house, the poor guy wasn't doing anything wrong and yet my grandfather had a sense, he actually opened the door and said you can get the hell out and you need to stop seeing my granddaughter too. At the time I was pissed and a few months later I'd realized exactly what he was trying to tell me that day and he was absolutely right.

The day I brought J to meet him my grandfather did something he hadn't done in months, he pulled on his cowboy boots and hat and enormous belt buckle and took J for a long walk, they scoured the property and my grandfather showed him all the things that were most important to him from his homemade cemetery to the cross on the top of the highest hill. My grandfather as was his way made no pretense I'm seeing if you are good enough for her, because I'm going to be dead soon and no one else here will kick your ass if you aren't so I'll have to do it before I go. But when they came back several hours later my grandfather looked at me, he's alright, girl. I think you might be right about this one. He's better than all those other dumbshits you brought out here. And I remember I started crying, not because of what this might mean in terms of me and J but because I knew he'd be dying soon, one less thing to keep his stubborn body alive.

He died a few weeks later and I've never heard from him since. I always thought he'd come to me, our love was so fierce and long I had assumed it would transcend death. But I still can't hear him and I wonder if I ever will. I've got no doubt he's busy, there are probably fights to be had and darts to throw where he is but I wish he'd let me know he's still paying attention. Because every day, old man, every single day of my life I still miss you and wish we could have just one more day in the barn.

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