My paternal grandfather, Elisha Creel Jacobs, was for many years an engineer on the Frisco railroad. His standard route ran from our city, Birmingham, to Memphis and Kansas City — and then back home. Our house was about a mile from the big freight yard on the west side of Birmingham, so that commute was easy, but things got a little more complicated when he took the route that ran between Amory, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida. Grandma needed the car while he was away, so she would drive him to Amory (or pick him up there at the end of a run) and I would go along for the ride. That was also an opportunity for us to visit his sister Lillie, who lived in Amory. She was a very sweet old lady who lived in an ancient rambling tree-shadowed house that smelled like her. I liked Aunt Lillie and her house. 

When I was around ten, Gran was forced to retire after a horrifying accident: he had a stroke while driving to work and smashed up his car and his body, both beyond repair. Soon thereafter he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and I tried my best to help Grandma care for him. He was always very loving towards me, and as he lay dying, was oddly insistent that I be given the beautiful pocket watch he had received from the railroad on his retirement. I desperately wanted that watch, but my mother said that she’d keep it safe and give it to me when I got older. 

Some years later, when my father got out of prison, he wanted to get drunk but had no money. So he fished out that watch, pawned it, and used the proceeds to go on a bender. Afterwards he couldn’t have redeemed it, even if he had had the money, because he didn’t remember where he had pawned it. And of all the bad things my father did to me, to all of us, many of them objectively worse than his stealing and pawning that watch, that’s the one I have had the hardest time forgiving him for.