Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. — Joan Didion

I walked in the door and my grandfather is leaning on the island between the kitchen and the living room. He says, “This is a lonely place, you know?” I take a breath and walk into the bedroom quickly, look in the mirror and think how strange it must be to glance at yourself when you are 96-years-old and see what you see. A ravaged version of yourself. That must be deeply upsetting.

The thought passes, and we’re back on the couch laughing and telling trivia jokes as he sips a half full glass of whiskey and tells me about how James Braddock beat Max Baer in the ring during the Great Depression. I yell, “The Bulldog of Bergen!” and he’s impressed that I know anything about that time. We scramble through a bunch more random trivia facts. To keep him excited I try and think of questions that he would know the answer to. How old was JFK when he died? Who wrote the song “What A Wonderful World?” Who was Frank Sinatra’s first wife?

Finally, I’m feeling like a funny girl, my confidence says this will make him smile. I ask who was the 2nd trumpet player in the Charlie Spivak Orchestra? Of course, the answer is the guy staring back at me. And he says, well I was the 1st trumpet. When Charlie didn’t play, I played. And as it is true, that they did give him quite a smile it also brought a lot of memories. I see this happen quite often in him when we sneakily put one of his own records on and don’t tell him that we are doing it. I don’t know if we think we can trick him or something, because we never do. His ears just know familiarity… He taps his converse shoes against the floor, and his fingers move swiftly across his trousers, each note totally remembered. Three fingers, up and down. He’s sad that no one from the band is around anymore.

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I try to imagine how it’ll feel to have lost all of my brothers. I try to imagine playing in all the different places in the nation he’s played at, and to have been on TV, being apart of a band and traveling together for so many years. And to have grown wrinkles, and to not be able to drive because my eyes haven’t held up enough. And well, I can’t imagine it. At one time, you were a young man with black hair and strong arms, cursing in Italian and hugging your brothers close. Being admired by an audience of people. Meeting Lou Armstrong. And, well, life does not stay the same.

It’s also hard to love someone so much as me and my brothers love him. You visit and you hug and you always say love you when walking out the door. You never forget that.

The nights ending, my family and friends are around a table playing cards and smoking fake cigarettes and drinking lots of wine. My father gets a call that his uncle passes. Life surprises you in a second, nothing ever stays the same. Even though he was in his 90’s, that doesn’t change the sadness. I think of six months ago, how I was at his house, and how I watched on as he rummaged through school papers and showed me his computer. He steadily typed and it doesn’t take more than a minute to figure out he’s smarter than me. After all he was a surgeon, with an affinity for photography… And well, that combo is what makes a genius. They said he had a concoction of pills next to his bed. They said that at 4am on his last night he went to the liquor cabinet and took a swig of scotch. And well, he was a doctor, so you understand.

Minds work in mysterious ways. Sometimes the outside looks much weaker than the inside. — EMILY MARUCCI

 follow Emily on instagram @emmymarucci // @seenheardknown

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