My grandparents sleep in sensory memory, their blood distilled in me:
A cloud of milk in a mug of coffee. The smell of rose-colored lipstick on her kiss and drugstore perfume on her clothes. Dried lavender in a hot car. The rare slip of a curse-word followed by a laugh and a shrug. Childhood Christmases and Easters orchestrated with hand-stitched, chocolate-molded detail. Thrifty mint-chocolate-chip ice cream in my bowl and Bing Crosby on the record player. A single ice cube in a glass of white wine and a coveted birthday cake. The only woman ever allowed to call me Kaity.
A tissue in a breast pocket. The smell of old maps and books in a dark room, like a forest floor after rain. Green grapes on the vine, the surprise of bitter-fleshed blood oranges warmed by the sun. Dancing that can't be helped if music is heard. A historian of the wars he fought, a lexicon of languages gathered, a loyalist to the dogs he loved. A square jawline, set but soft above a Cuba Libre.
Hot lemon water on cool mornings with the windows open. A crossword spidery with ink. The smell of hot brown sugar and butter smothering a winter kitchen on their way to carmelhood. Rasp on an early-morning phone call and Jack Daniels on the plane. Bumblebees and powder-clean white hair. Poetry: sometimes quiet, often wry, always clever and completely hers.
Photographs and faraway looks. A brief story of being held. Memories I will never share and bullfights in Mexico I never witnessed. The passive humor in the joke of a gentleman dropping his watch with a crash loud enough to startle birds from the wire. The ghost in my father's smile and the secret in my grandmother's wedding ring, fixed forever on her finger by swollen knuckles and a promise kept.