I don’t remember who had the original idea, but the decision was made to sit me down in the center of the kitchen.

The author, ready for a home haircut, circa 2009.

The table was even moved out to make room for the main event. My grandparents leaned in toward the stove’s exhaust fan, studying me with sideways looks and crooked eyebrows, lazily drawing on cigarettes and mumbling to each other in that semi-sophisticated grunt language that only long-married people and elite subspecies of chimpanzees can use effectively. I was being observed like a perp in a smoky interrogation room during the opening scene of a weeknight crime show…


As spring finds its way into this hemisphere, I’m remembering my granddaddy. I wrote this when he passed away two years ago and decided to give it a more permanent home. Today I’m also thinking about the many people who have lost grandparents or other loved ones over the past year of the pandemic — you remain in my heart.

Granddaddy and his great-granddaughter Helen. Photo: Ben Gilmer

Most of my memories are framed by the contours of his presence — my days with him, our big-eyed times together. My days without him.

I can still see the filet of flesh dangling from his forearm, cigarette bouncing from…


Russell County, Virginia (Credit: Ben Gilmer)

I do not hold a public office or a high profile corporate position. I am not a social media influencer or a religious leader. I grew up on a farm in a small town in southwestern Virginia. My dad was a coal miner, my mom a school teacher. Though I have closely followed politics for as long as I can remember, publicly debating sticky topics, including our elected officials, was never really part of my upbringing.

But then again the country never really felt so on fire. There was no Facebook, Roger Ailes was still sketching out Fox News on…

Ben Gilmer

Seattle WA | Lebanon VA | Twitter: @ben_gilmer

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