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I think I never knew what love was, until now. I mean I had seen the evidence, watched my parent’s relationship all my life, my father’s adoration, my mother’s ridged stature surrendering to the softness of his attention. I thought I had been in love, but there was always something missing. No one had ever looked at me like the way he looked at her. Sometimes, when they thought they were alone, I would catch them late at night, standing in each other’s arms under the soft overhead light of the kitchen counter, or her sitting over a mountain of paperwork in her office, him coming up behind to rest a hand on her shoulder, kissing her softly on the head, and whispering in her ear. He could still make her blush after all of their years together, suddenly proclaiming his love or making declarations about her beauty. He never saw that she was like Kali, who ate her own children, only love, as she turned a different face to him. My brother saw that love reflected in her eyes more often than I; he, who was the image of our father in his youth, and bore more of our father’s temperament. Ours was a more difficult relationship. I am told that I remind her of her own mother, in both personality and appearance. I wouldn’t know. She never spoke of her, and there were few photographs. Sometimes, I doubted my mother was ever a child.
My Grandfather lived at the lake house, where we visited him every summer. He was my Father’s father, and I lived for his attention and love. When I was five, he patiently taught me how to tie my own shoes, after finding me tearfully attempting to do it myself. Steve was seven then, and had called me a baby, because I didn’t know how. He had taunted me about the Velcro straps on my sneakers and told me that next year, all of the other kids in kindergarten would be smarter than me, and only dummies wore Velcro. He didn’t know Grandfather was watching. When Steve left, he soothed me like you would a stray dog or a shy horse, speaking to me softly in his native French. Later, he taught me to read time on his gold pocket watch, and slowly, as I grew, how to speak French and ASL. ASL was like our secret spy language. He would wink at me and sign behind my mother’s back, or across the living room during ”family time” after dinner when I would rather be out in the yard catching fireflies or reading a book.