He is as old as time itself. His face runs with wrinkles like tree bark. His hands, while liver spotted, are still strong and cabled with ropey muscle. He crosses the silk beneath my chin.
"You see, Red. It goes over then around each side then around the front". His voice is cracked and watery with age and exudes delicate kindness. He is looking me right in the eyes. His are like soft hammered steel. I shiver.
His conductor's watch, which will become mine in a few short years on a rain-soaked cemetery lawn, now teases me with its chain, as it runs from belt loop to the deep corduroy well of his front pocket.
The tie tightens with a gentle tug at my neck.
"A real gentleman always wears a tie, Red. Don't ever forget that." He is almost whispering. The only other noise in the room is the antique ticking of the clocks. I can hear the pocket watch's heartbeat.
"You take care of your brother. You mind your Mom and Dad. Family is all that you'll ever really have".
He crosses the worn oriental to the dark oak bookcase stuffed with a million books on trains. There's one here that he goes to every visit. It never needs dusting. He slides it delicately out from its locomotive brethren, and crosses slowly to the rocker.
I am on his lap almost before he sits.
We look at the pictures and names of our family going back 500 years.
The thick oak door to the parlor opens, and my mother...still thin, young and vibrant comes into the room in her bright red dress and heels. Garish next to the muted auburns and paisleys of the parlor.
"Well there you two are...come on we'll be late" she says and then is a rouge ghost fluttering back out the door. Another red memory.
He lifts me off his lap with his strong hands and turns me to face him again.He makes an adjustment to my tie, and then reviews his work.
"I love you, Red. You ever love somebody...you have to tell them and tell them a lot, so that they remember it when it's cold."
"I love you."I say it because I feel obligated. The words feel strange and alien in my mouth.
He kisses my forehead and tousles my hair.
"Come on, Red. The ladies are getting anxious. A gentleman never makes a lady wait."