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Red Shoes and Dapper Suits MAG
Itwas late when the phone call came, close to 2:30 in the morning. We'dbeen expecting it, but not that late. We just figured my grandfather'soperation had gone fine. I was only four and didn't know what was goingon; all I knew was that my grandfather had "emfuzeema" and wasill.
My dad was the one who picked up the telephone, his voicegroggy from sleep.
"Hello, sir. My name is Patricia and I ama nurse at the hospital."
"Is everything allright?" The panic rose in my father's voice.
"I'mafraid not, sir. Your father has passed away."
There was apause and all I could hear was my dad's heavy breathing as he tried tounderstand what was happening. The words lingered in the air, as if hehadn't heard them yet. "Is my mother doing allright?"
"She's a little shaken up, but that's all,sir."
"I understand. Can I speak with her?" My dadhad never spoken so formally or calmly before.
"She'sreturned home for the night. It'd be better to call her in the morning,she's had a rough day."
"I'm very sorry. Good night," Patriciasaid and hung up. My dad left the phone off the hook and took my mominto the other room to explain what had happened. If he was upset, Icouldn't tell. I went back to my room and fell asleep.
A few dayslater, we were in West Point for my grandfather's funeral. I had no ideawhat a funeral was. I remember I refused to wear the black dress mymother had brought; instead, I put on a pink party gown with my redparty shoes. I loved those shoes. Grandpa always said I looked likeDorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" in them. They had sequins, andI loved the way the light made them sparkle.
The funeral was, asone would expect, a somber event. Everyone watched as the officerssaluted my grandfather and fired their guns. The piercing rounds hurt myears and I screamed at the top of my lungs. Words were said about mygrandfather, but I didn't listen. I was waiting for the end of theceremony, so I could eat the delicious little cakes my grandmother hadmade.
I remember sitting on my grandfather's gold reclining chairand playing with the footstool. I had managed to smear chocolate icingall over my face and his chair. It still smelled like him - pipe tobaccoand mint gum.
As the guests filtered out of my grandfather'shome, my dad went out back to be alone. I followed him. He sat on theporch steps and began to sob. I could barely hear him, but he shookviolently. He put his face in his hands and cried. I had never seen himcry, not even when he'd fallen down a flight of stairs and broken hisarm. My dad had always been the one to comfort me when I cried. I criedover the silliest things, like when my dog stole the bread off my plateat dinner. Even then, my dad would wrap his long arm around me and letme cry as much as I wanted. Now, it was my dad's turn. I sat down nextto him. I didn't even understand what was making him weep, but I took myskinny little arm and wrapped it around his shoulders. For that moment,I was like my father, a grown man with a dapper suit, and he was likeme, a four-year-old girl with pigtails and red party shoes.