Sequin Angel

December 20, 2007
I was eight years old, a third grader, when my grandfather died. I had lain in bed, restless; it was past my bedtime, but I could not seem to sleep. I stared at the ceiling as my mother called from the kitchen where she was doing the dishes.

“Go to sleep!” But I couldn’t.
The light poured in from the kitchen when the phone rang. Startled, I sat up in bed, waiting to see who was on the other end by my mother’s reaction. She dropped the phone, bursting into devastated sobs. I crept into the kitchen where I joined my parents in a hug. It felt awkward to me. My father silent, my mother bawling. My eyes stared at the wood trim. I could not bring myself to cry. No one had to tell me what had happened. I just knew. My grandfather was dead.
A few years before my grandfather had sat on the white sheets of a hospital bed after his first heart attack. The doctors wanted him to have open heart surgery. His voice broke as he told us that he didn’t want to have it done. Now that I look back on it, sometimes, I wonder why he didn’t have the surgery. Maybe if he had he would still be here.
We drove all night to get to Pennsylvania and when we arrived, her devastation was evident. She met us at the door, a tissue in her hands. Her glasses were no where to be seen, the red of her eyes spoke her story of grief. No one sat in front of the TV or stood in the kitchen chewing on a tooth pick. Food platters from friends stuffed the fridge. My cousin and I devoured the pink salami, leaving the rest.
There were four of us children. I was the eldest followed by my cousin Briana, Then Trevor. The youngest at 3 being Kyle. Kyle was so young, but yet he remembers. (A few years ago, when Kyle was older he pointed out the window of the car at a funeral home, saying, “That was where Papaw was.” And he was right.)
The second day after he had died, I walked up the stairs into my grandparents bedroom. My mother was sitting on the bed, her chin quivering. My grandmother stood at the closet doors lined with mirrors, a tissue in her hand, her face already wet. A suit had been strewn out on the bed and my grandmother pulled another from the closet. She didn’t know which one to bury her husband in.
The neighbors, whom we had never met, took in us grandchildren. I hadn’t known why they had done it then, but I do now. They took us in and baked cookies with us and took us to the store to get us away from my grandmother and family, away from the funeral arrangements and away from the grief.
The neighbors explained to us how he died. They would know because they were there. My grandmother had been away, in Ohio for work. He was home by himself when he had his heart attack. He went to the neighbors, the woman was a nurse. He lay on the floor in their living room as the paramedics were on their way. As they told us this, we sat in their living room. I stared at the floor knowing that my grandfather had laid there in his final hour on earth.
“We found this.” She said, handing me a tiny sequin in the shape of an angel, white with a sheen of pink “after he had gone.” Now, I don’t know if they really had found that on the floor where my grandfather had lay or if they gave it to me to ease our fears. Was this their way of telling us where our grandfather was? It was lost within a couple of days anyway. I tell myself that it was lost in the beautiful wind, and not that I had lost it, like I had lost my grandfather.
On the night of his viewing, I still had not cried. My grandfather lay shrouded in white silk. His features seemed odd to me, not as I had remembered. His lips were closed, his eyes shut. I wanted to so badly to see the toothpick hanging from his mouth, bobbing up and down. And as my cousin bent down to “kiss grandpa goodbye,” I started to cry.

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