the smell of paint reminds me of my grandfather

my mother’s father, he was a painter

paint cans were everywhere, in all of if his three garages

and cats

so many cats, kittens and dogs

he always had at least one German Shepard, purebread

for a while, he even had two, more than once

but the second ones always drowned in the river down behind his land

he gave every dog he had the same name

Skippy, but pronounced with a french accent, it sounded more like Skapay

for him, they were irreplaceable

he loved feeding the lil kitties, they didn’t have any names, there were to many

fresh milk, fish leftovers, cat food

he would make thin thin crepes that we’d eat rolled with fresh maple syrup

as we sat on the picnic table on the rooftop of his home

I don’t remember how we got up there

in the afternoon we’d pick strawberries and rhubarb

and he had a speedboat, that I learned to steer

he taught me how to fish a carp, and kill an eel

how to drive a motorcycle, a snowmobile, and ATV’s

I learned to always look behind me when I back up, so I don’t end up in a country ditch

he wasn’t very happy that time, but I learned

he never let me drive the Caddy

but I learned to drive on two-way, narrow country highways in the dark of night

and how to catch fireflies and swim across a lake even if it took me an hour and I was scared

he made my life better, because he loved life

and taught me to love it

and he taught me to love God, and pocket juices

grape flavored plastic pouches that we’d stick short white straws into

and how to dance, for no reason but for the joy of it

as the teapot warmed on the iron stove/fireplace in his basement

the old kind, where you couldn’t see the logs but felt their heat

he played the guitar, or the banjo or the piano,

while I danced my 5 year old heart away to old gospel and country tunes

when we’d arrive from the 8 hour drive, we’d lug our suitcases in, bringing the snow in with us

he never minded, and the tiles in his house were always warm on my feet

losing people close to us, reminds us of the good memories with the ones already gone

i never did get to say good bye to him

but in my adult years I’ve learned

to slow down long enough to hold the hands of those we love as they move on

it leaves us fragile, to losing the ones still here

but experience has taught me to gently feed stray cats

dance with abandon whenever you can, and enjoy thinly rolled crepes

sing comforting songs to those who suffer

and to smile at the scent of paint