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The sky is blue, the grass is green, the sun is yellow, and every color seems to sing as it appears before us in their grand beauty. I always loved the world…
But I never liked funerals.
Where the casket is brown.
The cross is gold.
The flowers are red.
And the stain glass showers us in pastel colors.
And there’s black.
It would be everywhere.
I used to love the color black.
I thought it suited me.
Now, I don’t think I love that color anymore.
I never liked the idea of funerals anyway, and so far, my first impression proved that I never would.
I didn’t like hearing people cry shamelessly during random parts of the preacher’s speech.
I didn’t like how nobody would cry at any other time; it was like the preacher paid them to all only cry like babies during his part. Or maybe it was vice-versa: everyone paid people to only cry during his speech.
I didn’t like the food, it seemed too dry or too rare or too salty… It was never any sort of comfort food, like ice cream, either.
I didn’t like the line as we each said “I’m so sorry,” “Let me know if I can do anything to help,” or that “He was a good man”.
Nobody really cared. Nobody would keep their promises. By next week, everyone that wasn’t in the deceased’s inner circle of love, family, or friendship would have forgotten about them.
…About my grandfather.
My grandfather was the most interesting, cool grown-up ever before he got sick. He told me his name was Edwardo, though when he was 14, he became a member of a gang and everyone called him Shadow because of how he never made a single noise during a fight and he could sneak up on everyone and anyone who wouldn’t notice “until it would be toooo late~” he’d chuckle almost sadistically, as if he was telling a scary story and would love seeing us all scared out of our minds.
He never finished high school and worked in a factory as he packaged eggs. It was during here that he developed a smoking problem, though back then, nobody knew cigarettes were bad for you.
When he met his first wife, Susana, it was after he had illegally snuck over to America as he explored Los Angeles. He laughed when he told me that they were probably married for about… 5 minutes.
After Susana, he decided that he didn’t like the city and he moved to New Mexico instead. Less then 4 years, he met his second soon-to-be-wife, Destiny, who lived on the Native American reservation. He proposed about after 12 months of dating, though he got a child with her after about 10 months of them dating. Then, she left him and their son at the alter. He never heard from her since.
Being a single-father now, he worked at the local liquor shop, mostly working over-time so he could earn more money to take care of his first son, my uncle Hunter. He got his second son, Geri, when he met some nameless girl and she only came back long enough 9 months later to say that “this is yours” and then left.
It was by about here that he met Trina, Grandma, his third wife, when he was working at some local carnival for some extra cash as he handed out balloons and gave the kids balloon-animals. He tells me with a star-struck look on his face that she was his first and true love.
She had been asking for where the bathroom was and he had said, “I get off work in about an hour.” He tells me her laugh at his sudden comment was like a symphony, so beautiful. This time they went out for about a week before getting married. Though this time, they stayed together for about 18 years, which was where they got his first daughter on July 1, and my mother, Maria. Then, about 16 years later (so they had been married for about 34 years in total; 1 nervous first year and 33 happy ones), Trina got hit with second-hand smoke mixed with throat cancer and a nasty case of a stroke all at once. She died after 11 months in the hospital all in which Grandpa never left her side.
With the exception of working about 7 part-time jobs so he could get all three kids through school and college, still be there as their father, and get enough hours of sleep, his life was pretty eventless.
Then, Hunter got hit by a drunk driver while out buying some late-night groceries and died instantly.
Grandpa tells me it was a comfort to know that his son never suffered through any pain, though it was obvious that he was tearing up and still hadn’t gotten over it.
5 years after that eventful day, Maria got married to my father, John, and Geri found out his true love was Fred, who was actually a man. Grandpa said Geri’s true sexuality was obvious, and though he was touched that his son got up the guts to tell him, Grandpa had known since Geri was 2 years old and said all he wanted for Christmas was a new Barbie doll (without the Ken).
My older sister, Georgia, was born on May 20 and was Grandpa’s first grandchild, followed shortly by his first grandson, Hunter the Second, on August 2 and then me after 2 years on September 14. He got his last grandchild on December 29, in which he got another little boy named Chad.
He said those were the best years of his life.
But then, Grandpa got hit with Alzheimer’s disease.
There are three stages to Alzheimer: sad, depressing, and just plain CRUEL.
I know this because mom decided to have Grandpa live with us and us kids were often subjected to baby-sitting, which at first wasn’t needed. He was pretty much okay, just a couple of slip-ups here and there. Chad loved it, every single day he got to play checkers (his favorite game) with Grandpa. Uncle Geri and Uncle Fred would visit us at least once a week, usually on a weekend, and always during break, as a sort of We-Love-You-Too-Dad! day.
Then, it suddenly went downhill, fast.
He put his dirty clothes in the toilet and tried to flush it. He would go to the shower and then come out (without a towel or a bathrobe) as if he forgot what he was doing. He buried mom’s checkbooks, Georgia’s new cell phone, Hunter’s homework, and my stamp collection (along with so many other things that it’s too hard to list) in the backyard. He began calling us, at first, by his co-workers at the egg-factory’s names, and occasionally his past wives. The only one who never changed for a long time was Hunter, because Grandpa thought that he was his late son, Hunter the FIRST, not Hunter the Second, his grandson.
But he’d burn his fingers on the cookie-cutter pan, sucking on it while laughing at himself. He’d play checkers with Chad again and sneer at him (never mind the fact that he thought Chad was Uncle Geri) about how he’d beat this little four year-old kid next time. He’d tell us stories, both true about his own life, and fairytales along with parts that he’d make up (like he made Little Red Riding Hood with the wolf into the Little Red Pig and the big bad wolf, laughing as Chad told him “THAT’S NOT HOW THE STORY GOES!”). He’d give us balloons and make us balloon-animals (with the occasion of jokingly asking for a nickel in payment), all just like he used to before he got sick. These few moments were what made us forgive our beloved Grandpa and remember how he was before this horrid disease.
Then, he began sneering at us and threatening to beat us to a pulp if we looked at him wrong, demanding to be called Shadow, not Grandpa, dad, or Edwardo.
But every time Chad would ask, Grandpa would stutter, as if he didn’t know what to do, when he asked him to play checkers, I felt the essence of OUR Grandpa coming back— but just after he’d pummel the poor boy in the game, yelling that the brat had ASKED for it (still unsure how to treat the situation as Chad would cry), I’d feel disgusted with him all over again. I didn’t want to be, but it was as if we had let a complete stranger into our house, not our grandfather.
The disease went into the Cruel phase without hesitation. Suddenly Grandpa was 8 years old. Six. Four. Two. By now we got him a nurse for SURE. (Though it always felt weird how this guy with a body-builder body named Alex a NURSE, which he kept reminding us to call him)
Even though by now I kept denying my Grandfather’s existence to my friends, kept them all away from my house that we used to be at 24/7, I still loved him, I just… I just felt ashamed at the same time so much that I wanted to cry whenever I saw him… H-He could just barely play checkers with the ever-asking Chad, even though the four year-old had turned into an eight year-old by now. Dad kept encouraging mom to put him in a home, but mom kept refusing, yelling in her native language that this was her FATHER. Her beloved FATHER, and family didn’t give up on each other whenever it got bad.
But I had had it when Grandpa looked at me, his face full of innocent curiosity and a baby accent, when in his last days he asked, “Who are you?” I wanted to huddle in a corner and cry, which I did… But then, he asked me again in that ridiculous accent that sounded NOTHING like my Grandpa, which made me just want to cry harder, “Hewwo’, my name ish’ Edwarno’. Wha’s yours?”
When I answered, he gave me a smile and crawled over, in adult’s diapers, as he wiped away my tears with his thumbs, “Don’ cry. Here.” He handed me a rock, “Ish’ a WISHING rock. ‘ou throw it and make any wish ‘n’ it’ll come true!”
I smiled and gave him a hug as I put the rock into my jacket’s pocket.
He died later that week.
And as I stand here, his grave worn with a piece of paper taped onto the gravestone reading Edwardo Lopez/February 3rd 1923– September 13th, 2012, since the stupid funeral-people hadn’t engraved his name on it yet.
And look at that death-date.
He died the day before my birthday.
As I hugged Chad as he sat on my lap, hugging me with his face dug deeply into my chest, as we sat in our house’s couch, people from the funeral here as well, he whimpered sobbingly, “S-So, Gr-Grandpa c-can’t play ch-checkers with me anymore…?”
I hid my face into his chestnut-brown hair, the same color as Grandpa’s before it began receding and turned gray. He smelled of strawberry shampoo and bubbles, which was somewhat of an odd sort of comfort. And I sobbed, whispering, “N-No, I’m so sorry, Chad… N-No…”
I hated myself for hiding from Grandpa. I hated myself for being ashamed of him. For every little thing I had done wrong in his last few years with us.
As I stare at the black book with everyone’s signatures, the men and women holding children’s hands all dressed in black merging into the background, I see the frames of him. A black and white picture of him as a child surrounded with his mother’s arms, his father leaning against them as a firm area of support. The brown-colored themed of his headshot, looking in the distance with the I’m-Here-But-I’m-Gone look that I inherited from him when he was an adult. And the colored image where his sons and daughter, his grandsons and granddaughters all surrounded him like the first image, with their arms surrounding him a wall of love, standing with him in a firm structure of support.
Because we were his family.
He was only a few minutes old when his mother signed the birth certificate. He was only 14 when he became Shadow. He was physically 89 years old when he died. And was mentally less then 2. But he would be Grandpa Edwardo forever.
I burst into tears again, hiding the droplets that I thought revealed weakness into my brother’s hair.
At six was when the words of false promises came again, and by 6:30, everyone was gone. So I went outside, stuffing my hands into my jacket as I watched the sun set.
I had missed the colors of the outside, the beautiful world I saw, but as the sun’s rays brighten the area in a warm glow, I want to scream for the darkness and rain. I wanted the world to be depressed with me, but no, we got sunshine and butterflies, and flowers.
I blink when my fingers capture something cold and I bring it out into the warmth of the world. The “Wishing Rock”. I clutch it tight and throw it as far as I could, but the tree nearby broke my pass’ journey into half as I yelled, following my grandpa’s directions to the exact point,
“I WISH FOR MY GRANDPA BACK!”
I wanted to run away, but instead, I ran to the tree and quickly picked up the Wishing Rock again, holding it tightly. It was my last present from Grandpa. I wasn’t going to loose it so easily.
I know it’s a fool’s wish.
But as my tears stung my eyes, I decided something.
If being this selfish makes me a child, then I don’t ever want to grow up.
If being this miserable makes me emo, then all those happy-hippies can go hug a tree.
If wanting someone who made the world better was idiotic, then I’ll make sure to never get an A again.
If wishing for my Grandpa back was foolish…
You may now bow down.
…Because, then I’m the King of Fools.
I looked behind me, seeing Chad looking at me worriedly, “M-Mom says that dinner is ready… Ar-Are you okay?”
I nodded, smiling at him as I wipe my eyes dry with my sleeve, my arm around him, “Yeah, Chad, I’m fine.”
“…Do you want to play checkers with me? I-I mean, if you have too much homework or something and you can’t, that’s fin—”
I gave him a hug as I reopened the screen door, to where Grandpa’s sons and daughter and grandsons and granddaughters dwelled, and I could hear laughter and smiles as they retold stories and tales of or from Grandpa. He left us one last present, besides the Wishing Rock.
“I’d love to play checkers with you Chad.”
He smiles, and I swear I saw Grandpa Edwardo smiling with him.