It's not often that flipping through the channels stops me in my tracks. But MSNBC has managed it.
I was surfing when I came upon MSNBC's Up awith Chris Hayes.
My father's father was named Chris Hayes.
That's one of the things I know about him. Here are some others:
His birthday was on Christmas, two days before mine.
He was a sailor, I think, but I don't know if he was Coast Guard or Navy.
He died of lung cancer when I was 15.
He lived across the street from my maternal grandparents.
And he did not care about or love me or my sister.
You might be wondering how I can make the last statement. It's pretty easy, actually. He lived across the street from my Nana and Grampa, but I met him only twice. I don't really recall the first time; it was Christmas and my dad took my sister and I across the street. I remember being shy and scared and hiding, so I wouldn't have to go. I also remember a vague impression of the inside of the house as dark, but I don't remember Chris Hayes.
The second time I met him was the summer before he died. I was 15, and angry. That this man - this man who could have known me my whole life, who could have been a grandparent and instead chose to be a stranger -- now that he was terminal, he wanted to say hi. It occurs to me now that he still wasn't terribly interested in me or my sister, but perhaps wanted to make some peace with my dad. I don't know if he did.
I sometimes wonder what Chris Hayes would think of me, if he had chosen to know me. If he wouldhave thought I am funny. If he would like my writing, if he would have been proud of me. I don't wonder these things about my maternal grandfather; he was proud of me and loved me every day of my life. But I wonder what Chris Hayes would have thought, or if indeed he ever thought of my sister and I at all, if he ever saw two little girls playing in my Nana's yard and had a moment of regret.
I can look MSNBC's Chris Hayes up online and know his history. I can watch his show and hear his voice and find out what he thinks.
My own Chris Hayes, however, remains an elusive mystery, one I can never solve.