This is the man who taught me to say,
"You shredded wheat!" whenever I was in agreement with someone.
Who made goulash like nobody's business and
played a pristine piano without ever knowing a note on paper.
This is Cecil T. Jordan, my dad's dad.
He would have been ninety-five today.
This is the WWII vet who used to let me
swathe him in lipstick when I was a little girl.
Who, when working at a self-serve
gas station during his retirement years,
was told by a customer, "I don't pump my own gas,"
and who, upon hearing that, leaned against the man's car-
(no doubt drawing on a cigarette even in the presence of fuel)
"Well then what the hell DO you do?"
This is the man who made Christmas cookies with me every year.
Who sang "Miss America" whenever I walked into the room.
This is the man who told me if I missed the bus again,
I just wouldn't be going to school.
There would be no driving Miss JJ.
^ With my father, cutting hair in 1959. ^
I remember as a child, the way I felt safe
with this man in the house...
until the time we crossed paths in the hallway,
each headed for the bathroom in the wee hours of the night.
In the dim illumination of the nightlight,
sleep-bitten and fuzzy,
I looked up and, for the first time, gazed into his denture-less face.
It scared the shredded wheat right out of me,
I'll be honest with you.
Teeth make a big difference in appearance.
I remember pulling away from the cemetery in 2001
and Sophie B. Hawkins' "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep"
was playing on the radio.
I always plug his memory into those lyrics now.
His red-feathered fedora still smells faintly of him.
I have his every necktie,
and my mother writes her stories while wearing his blue cardigan.
My father often looks at me when I ask for advice,
a lighthearted albeit earnest question his frequent response:
What would Cecil do?
Some people stay long after they're gone.
Some people stay forever.
Sometimes I take stock of where I come from and feel
that no matter what, I'll be perfectly alright simply
because of the blood I have running through my veins.
We are farmers and blue collar workers.
We are veterans and factory rats and ladder climbers and bootstrap pullers.
We are comedians and amateur historians
and a hundred other versatile, adaptable things.
We are that oh-so-special brand of utterly common,
simple, and strong people.
I am Cecil's granddaughter.
I am a Jordan.
I am proud to be one of us.