08 March 2006

In Erinnerung an “Dutch”

It is the third anniversary of my paternal grandfather's death. I miss my Grandpa. I wrote this after he died, unable to control my grief.

When he left us, I was at the gym, talking with an acquaintance about writing: prose, poetry, screenplays. I was struggling with bicep curls and lat pull downs. My grandpa was in my heart but I didn’t realize that was the only place he could ever live.

Grandma said it was 3:30. I never got to say goodbye.

Everybody deals with death. I’m twenty-three and had all my grandparents until exactly one week ago. That’s pretty lucky. Almost unrealistic. As if I didn’t know how to live because I never dealt with death. My first funeral and wake. I can’t comprehend death, I’m only twenty-three.

“Where should I send the flowers? Where are they having the wake?”

Me: “Why do they call it a wake?” Nobody is awake; at least not the person you are trying to remember. The rest of us look like we’re in a bad dream.

Lunar. His name on the moon. Lunar module. Mond. Luna. Moon.

You try to grow up but find out that when you’re twenty-three at a funeral, you’re the youngest one. Still. Always. Still the baby. “This is my granddaughter.” “This is my daughter.” “This is my little cousin.” “This is my niece.” So I can’t help but behave like that. Cry. Cry. Refuse to deal with the situation like an adult. I try to hold back my tears but I’m not so good. “Keep strong, no one likes to see tears.” But I thought crying is okay. A way to say you’re sad.

“I’ve been to eight funerals and I’m twenty-one.” “My family’s huge. I’ve been to funerals since before I knew what was going on.” “You’re so lucky. Lucky.”

No one feels lucky at a funeral.

I’m not sure how to act. How do you act when someone you love passes, someone you love to hug and give a kiss on the cheek to, someone that you always will assume being the same: wearing a short-sleeved button down plaid shirt, slowly shuffling to the pour another cup of coffee, showing my dad something in the Daily News and talking about the latest events in the world. Reading his newspapers and flipping the channels faster than he takes breaths?

Grandpa, you’re not supposed to go yet! Please, come back. You’re supposed to be at my wedding.

But he’s not. He’s in a box. Cement, I think. Pretty engravings. Silver. I wonder what he’s wearing. A blue jacket, my mother said. Those shoes with the holes in it that he’d never take off? Or did they put some painful tight dress shoes that he had but never wore because they hurt his feet?

I miss my grandpa. Grandpa!

My grandma said he’d never take the wedding ring off. She forgot to give it to the funeral home, so I wore it on my pinky until we got to the funeral home. It was big, way too big. I missed my grandpa. This was the ring he wore every day. The funeral director took it and promised to put it on. I wonder if they ever did.

I can’t think of my grandpa in that box. Lying there. They turned the casket away so my grandma couldn’t open it. But he wasn’t in there, he’s not. I keep thinking he’s going to be in the big easy chair with the paper and channel surfing. I keep thinking of Grandpa with his Russell Stover chocolates and yelling at me for dropping their dog nine years ago. I miss my grandpa. I want him back.

I never got to say goodbye. No, he’s not in that box. I miss my grandpa. He couldn’t hear me the past few years and it was hard to have a conversation but he still smiled when he saw me, even when he was in the hospital, completely out of it, recognizing no one, he would smile at me and ask me how the weather is in Colorado/New Paltz/Brooklyn. Why isn’t he sitting in the den with the bills, talking with my dad in the gruff German voice, calling me sunshine and mispronouncing my name as “Squirrel” and my sister’s name as “Militia?” Where is he?

“That’s not a way for a person to live.” Yes, but I still want to say goodbye.

“Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” Is that the way to say goodbye? I want a hug. Goodbye Grandpa. I miss you. I love you. Goodbye.

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