I never met my grandpa. Grandma said he was tall and hearty, like how one would expect a grandpa to be. He had a big laugh and was quick with a joke or smile. She said he loved to make people laugh.

Grandma said Grandpa would eat so much candy that his sweat smelled of cinnamon, so even when he was all hot and sticky, he remained sweet, warm and spicy (Grandma often said the last part with a grin and her eyes became diamonds.)

Grandpa loved to play basketball. His favorite time and place was after dark at the court three blocks from the apartment building where he and Grandma lived. Grandma said he called it “Hoopin’ by streetlight.”

It was at night, when Grandpa made his way home, that he was a little too noisy as he shuffled up the metal stairs—his knees too worn from driving to the hoop and shooting jumpers to lift fully onto each step—the staircase was a little too dark and Grandpa was too Black. That was all the excuse the police officer needed.

The policeman turned his flashlight on in Grandpa’s face. When Grandpa raised his forearm to shield his eyes from the blinding light, that was all the threat the policeman needed. The officer didn’t say a word, but his gun spoke pop! Twice.

Upstairs, in their apartment, Grandma woke up, hearing the pop! pop! She turned to the side of the bed where Grandpa usually slept and should’ve been; then she put both her hands on her swollen belly. Momma was in there, kicking up a storm. And Grandma cried.

At the bottom of the stairwell, Grandpa didn’t move nor make a sound. He was three floors away from his apartment and wife, but might as well have been three million light years from home. And that’s why I’ve never met my grandpa.