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Grandpa

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I was riding in the car on the way to my mom’s house and the sky seemed darker than usual, like an unforgiving, unfamiliar void. I walked through my mom’s front door, and saw my mom; her face was worn and looked old. My mom never looked old, I was confused. She went about like nothing was wrong, but even as an ignorant nine-year old, I knew something was wrong. The usual chatter at the dinner table had been replaced by an eerie silence. Finally, as I was getting into bed, my mom said to me, “Grandpa died.” Two words. That was it. I didn’t sleep that night. My mom also said that we were going to his wake the next day, in Iowa, 1290 miles away.
When we got there all of the adults were moving around with their heads down. I had never experienced my family like this. They were normally loud, obnoxious, and full of laughter, so I didn’t know why they were like that or what to do with myself. I played in the grass in the front with my Grandparent’s dog, Baxter. His yellow fur was warm and calming like a cup of tea. He was my comfort. I also, talked to my cousins. The strange thing was, that the children were not infected by this cloud that the adults seemed to be in. We were happy to explore the farm and run through the tall, sharp grass blades and play with the animals. We didn’t comprehend death.
The day of the wake we woke up early to the sound of the birds and the aromatic smell of coffee. I was barely awake, and stumbled over to the window. The snow was a blanket that covered everything; only pieces of trees and buildings managed to peak out and show themselves. I walked down the stairs, hearing the familiar creak beneath my feet. We ate a breakfast consisting of carrot cake, lemon drops, and Wonder Bread toast. We went to the funeral home, to see what it was like. Peach colored walls, white carpet, men in tuxedoes in different rooms, whispering, and the walls smelling of Pine-Sol and Brillo Pads. Boredom wandered through my mind. When we left I was relieved. The rest if the day passed in a blur, eating, talking, more eating. That night was the open casket.
The funeral home was packed, filled with people crying on their knees, shaking hands, and patting my shoulder like I was a cat. A section of the wall, my cousin discovered, opened to a room where there was food for the family. You were supposed to access the room from the outside, but everyone was busy, so no one noticed. My cousins and I stayed in the room away from the crying and patting, and occupied ourselves by eating the bland mid-western food, and walking around. Then it was time for the casket to close and everyone left the casket room.
My older cousin had a dangerous smirk on her face and told us to follow her. We snuck out the wall door and hid behind a wilting plant. The whispering men in tuxedoes came in to close it. My heart was pounding, what if they saw us? They did, but, they simply smiled at us and finished their job. There was a picture of my Grandfather above his casket, and I watched it. His eyes sparkled, like they always did when he was telling a joke or laughing. As the lid came down I heard his distinct, hearty laugh, it filled me with happiness. I remember after he stopped laughing, he said good-bye, his voice the sound of water.
I was in shock. I was hallucinating. I wanted to believe that this was my mind going. That I was crazy. But his voice was so clear and real. The first tear tumbled down my cheek and a sob escaped my lungs. I went back through the wall with my cousins. I looked at all the people crying and wanted to tell them that everything was good, and that they should smile when they thought of my Grandpa, not cry. He always liked laughter, instead of sadness. I smiled as I walked through the crowd of people, no longer an ignorant nine year old. The smile on my face lasted for days, as I started the second semester of third grade a week late.





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