"Were you close with him?"
They always ask you that when relatives die. I'm not sure what to say. Most of my life, my grandfather left me alone. It's not like we made a lot of conversation or anything. But to be left alone is sometimes a great grace. A salvation in a place as heavy with judgement as it is with humidity.
And I was a little girl who dressed as a boy, who didn't do a lot of things people wanted me to do. So that always meant a lot to me.
Sometimes we'd just sit in the living room and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is actually what I wanted to do anyway. And still do.
He certainly wasn't much for the "healthy eating" nonsense that did so much damage to the South's foodways. He cooked things in bacon grease. He was a master of frying things. And of alcohols properly brown. Of wild venison and wild fish.
He had some contradictions. He hunted squirrels, but in his backyard there was a squirrel he'd sort of tamed by feeding it. It would hang out outside waiting for him, or would tap on the glass to get his attention.
But like most Southerners of his generation, he didn't talk about food much – if you wanted to learn about that kind of thing, you just had to be around him. And I was around him a fair bit, growing up not that far from the Panhandle. I wasn't much for fish as a kid, though I hope I've made up for it as an adult.
The one thing I remember him telling me about food was the last time I saw him. He lost his ability to taste after a surgery. His health declined after that. He said life without it was hardly worth living.
In my memory he proudly did the things he wanted to do without giving other people a lot of trouble about it.
So I guess we weren't close, but we weren't so far away either.