i was fifteen years old then. taller, i held the umbrella.
i stood next to my sobbing grandmother for the fifth day in a row. i stood next to my sobbing grandmother, at the gravesight of her philandering lover and i watched her crying harder than she ever did over my grandfather’s grave.
i asked my grandmother why, why she cried so much harder for old hank scalliwag than she did for my grandpa. i asked her and she told me.
darling, your grandfather was a good a man but he needed me, she said, blowing her nose and then shaking out her handkerchief on the grass for emphasis.
he stayed with me all those years and he was good to me and we were the best of friends and lovers sometimes too and there were some things about me he maybe did really appreciate.
she paused, furrowed her brows as she took a deep breath and spoke in a deliberately stern voice right at me.
but your grandfather needed me!
grandmother shook her finger at me then, as if i had committed the crime of needing her. which i had. but she didn’t seem to notice because she went right on.
oh! she wailed again, looking back at old hank’s grave.
your grandfather might have even loved me more but more than that, more than loving me, he always needed me
her tone was definitely accusatory as she glanced back over at me. now i was the one staring out at the cemetery.
hank here, he never once needed me. he had a wife, hell, at one point he may have actually had two wives, who knows, but he always had a wife, always had a girlfriend, had three sisters he saw every week for christ’s sake! he had a whole gang of men who hung around nearly worshiping him.
hank never needed me for a single thing, what!? - what’s he gonna need me for? the peanut butter and jelly sandwich i made him when he’d sneak over early in the morning before he even had breakfast? i don’t think so. he didn’t need me to cook for him or do laundry for him (although i did a few times, with pleasure), he didn’t need a damn thing from me, i did not have to be anything for him, anything i did for him was fine, he wanted me. he wanted me in a way he never could have afforded to want me if he had needed me, you see?
i shrugged, but didn’t look at her. i understood then, by that time. i could see she was right even if i didn’t want to admit it.
your grandpa, he needed me to be the strong one, the firm one. the authority figure with your dad and your uncles. he needed me to keep the household and our family accounts. he needed me to always be the one thinking ahead and coming up with a plan when we needed bailing out. he was good to me, oh yeah. and loyal and he trusted and believed in me, i think more than anyone on the earth could trust another person. your grandpa worked hard for me. but it was because he needed me.
and that meant i wasn’t free. it meant i had to be the me he needed.
so, lovey, you’re not wrong. i feel hank’s loss harder.
i cry harder for hank. hank who never met a single one of my worldly needs, babe. neither me for him either. we did not need each other but oh, oh how that left us free to want each other. whatever we could get of each other. it was wild, it was totally unconditional what we felt for each other, i tell you. it was pure and it was want and it was all about love no matter what honey.
wow so… you guys were really important to each other then
mmhmmm. bet your ass. wasn’t a week in thirty-two years went by i didn’t put my arms around that man
but you think it was because you didn’t need each other
not because you did
you got it. that is it exactly.