The Sundowner’s Keys


June 1, 2014 by The Citron Review

by J.D. Knight


When my grandfather lost his keys, he insisted my cousin had hidden them in the attic. But there’s no attic, we kept saying. My mother found his keys in the pocket of his robe, but didn’t tell him. No one wanted to remind him of what he’d already forgotten, so she made him wear his dog tags. In case he wandered. We’d heard the tales of lost seniors who starve or freeze in the wilderness of the city. His tags were part of the routine of a younger man, the man he saw when he shaved or brushed his teeth. This man was recently married, just returned from combat in Korea. Where is my wife? he asked us. His tags were singed, but recognizable, unlike our faces. Some days he looked us through; we were absent from his mind. He had no children, no grandchildren. Or I was too grown to be his little girl. Other days, we fit snugly in our places. He knew our names. I was an adult again. Once, as his children visited, he looked to me, his chin quivering. Who are all these people? We thought back to my grandmother’s lingering words, how he would wake her in the night by knocking on her forehead, agitated. Had he been looking for a room to climb inside? But she moved into the guest room. Could she get some rest? Is this how she would live her life? He found her in the hallway, as if to check on him. He tried to warm her cold arms, colder legs. He saw their shapes in the mirror: a boy crying in his robe, stroking his wife’s hand.


JD Knight is bicoastal, with strong ties to Washington State and Maryland. Her most recent work appears in San Pedro River Review. She currently lives in Baltimore.


2 thoughts on “The Sundowner’s Keys

  1. lorilschafer says:

    I really love the last line – it makes the whole piece.

  2. Kristin Cuzick says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather; it is warm and loving and so expressive. I could have been there with you, the moments and feelings were so real. Thank you for sharing this.
    Kristin Cuzick

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