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The cold sunk into my bone despite the soft, leather jacket I had on. My fingers brushed it continuously for comfort. I watched the sky, so much like five days before when this moment became inevitable. The voices around me faded as I was taken back to that day, no matter how hard I tried to distract myself.
It was Thursday, one of many I had gymnastics. I was in the passenger seat, Mother driving, and Sam behind me. We chatted about things that happened and who received flowers from whom, since it was February 14, Valentine’s Day. It didn’t even cross my mind to wonder why Mother was home so early. That is, not until Sam left and Mother stated four simple words, “Poppop died this morning.” That’s when I studied her face and saw the sadness so obvious there, “Oh.” I was ashamed not to have noticed that something was wrong.
Her words didn’t faze me at first, but I didn’t talk on the way home. I went to the computer as soon as I walked in the door, too, signing on AIM and putting on music and headphones. Tobyk9pup was immediately messaged.
She answered right away, “What’s wrong?” Dots usually aren’t put after her name when I want her attention. I put exactly what Mother told me. Sam had been pretty much kept in the loop about his many health problems, including different kinds of cancer. She asked if I was okay.
“I’m fine,” I replied, “really. I’ll be okay.” She caught the verb use and put a sad face. The thing is, I was probably better off than her. I only get super upset when I’m focusing on what happened. So, I played games to distract myself, and I was fine. She was probably reduced to tears over my loss.
Dad was home, too, but he was supposed to be. He came in and looked at me, “You okay?” “Yeah,” I replied simply, focusing on killing whatever monster had just got on my nerves. He went to say goodbye to Mother, who was going who-knows-where. Then he came back and gave me a hug, putting a box of tissues on the desk in front of me as I started to cry.
My dog Bruno jumped onto my lap. I stroked him as Dad murmured soothingly, “It’s okay. It’s alright. Just let it out. He’s in a better place now, and he’s happy. Shh…calm down.”
I only calmed and got the glow back in my eyes when Dad kissed my cheek and Bruno jumped up and licked my face as if his life depended on it. I laughed and tried to push him down, but he was nine pounds of love and persistence that’s hard to contain.
Dad went to check on our dinner, making sure it didn’t burn. He paused and told me I could skip gymnastics. “If you need to,” he had said. I was going to. It’s not that I didn’t want to go; I just wasn’t really in the mood for conversation and normalcy.
I wiped my eyes and pet Bruno before typing back to Sam, who was almost hyperventilating with worry. I continued stroking his soft, black fur as I answered the many people who were wondering why I wasn’t answering. I hadn’t even put ‘brb’ or ‘going afk.’ They didn’t know what happened.
A flower was placed in my hand, and I looked down. I was back in the cemetery, the coffin before me. I fingered the crimson rose gingerly. Then I stepped up with my brothers and cousins, placing the rose on the coffin and saying a quiet goodbye. “See you later, Poppop. Love you,” I whispered. I stepped back next to my grandmom, who had tears streaming down her face.
Sam was still the only one who knew.