Eternal Memory

June 23, 2011
“You’re in charge until I get back.”

He would always say this when he went out. I, being the youthful six-year-old I was, always took this very literally, and would spend the duration of his absence making sure everything was kept orderly. Why I was always chosen for this job I will never know. I was the only girl, and youngest of the young, siblings and cousins both included. Perhaps it was for these reasons, that my grandfather always put me in charge, so that I would have something to make me feel important.

Three years later. We moved in to my grandparent’s house, my brother, my mother, and I. We had no where else to go after my parents divorced and my mother was kicked out. Luckily my grandfather took us in. But he wasn’t partial to our routine. We were treated like army recruits, and he inspected our room every day, just like he was when he was drafted. My brother and I had to share a room, so it was that much harder to get it in perfect condition. But we managed.

Three more years later. The present. I am wearing a blue and black shirt and a black skirt. I am being called down to the office from school. My face is solemn. Backpack in hand; I make my way down the empty hallway. My mother is at the front of the building waiting for me.
“You ready?” she asks.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
She puts her arm around me and walks me out of the building. There is an assembly going on outside, I assume for Veterans Day. I was supposed to sing at that with the chorus, I think sadly. I hate to miss a performance. But there was nothing I could do this time.
She parked in the lot by the tennis courts. Which meant we were going to have to drive around all those kids to get out of the school. I look longingly at them all as we drive by. I do not want to be me at this moment. I long to be anyone else, standing outside, listening to a boring speech from our principal about the importance of this holiday, that wasn’t even today.
Next stop, the high school. We have to get my brother. He’s waiting outside, all by himself, when we get there. When he opens the door to get in, I feel the crispness of the cold air. I shiver, and pull my coat tighter around me.
I’m at my grandparent’s, excuse me, my grandmother’s house. It’s only hers now. She has a mourning look on her face. I don’t blame her. She is still a newly widowed bride, her husband a victim of lung cancer. My cousins have been trying to make her laugh a little bit, but she isn’t in the mood, so the most she gives is a sheepish smile.
It’s time to go. Back to the funeral home we were yesterday for the wake. My cousin read a prayer last night, and as I tried to keep my face straight, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that, had my grandfather still been alive, he would have told his Baptist grandson to shut up, that he wasn’t converting.
We walk in. The casket is where it was when we left it the night before. It had been closed casket wake. I was thankful for that. I don’t think I could have seen him like that. The silver lid is covered by an American flag. This would have made him happy.
Another prayer from my cousin. I want to tell him to shut his trap, that we were all Catholics except for his siblings and their mother. But I don’t. If this is his way of mourning, than so be it. I refuse to interfere.
Back in the car. My first funeral procession. We almost get hit by as bus trying to break us up, but we get through without any trouble. I thank my grandfather for that. For a split second I can even feel his presence in the car, but it’s gone by the next time I take a breath.
We are here. The graveyard that I have seen all the time, passing by on the road, but have never actually been in. I can’t say that anymore. It takes a long time to get to his plot. I didn’t realize how big it was before.
The grass is green and wet. It seeps in a bit through my flats, but I don’t care. I watch to make sure that I don’t step on any gravestones. The last thing I want is to disturb a dead person, in their final resting place, right near where my grandfather will soon be.
I haven’t cried once since I first learned he was gone. Only then could I not control myself. But now, the tears have started flowing again. Not a lot, but enough to cloud my vision. I am in the back of the crowd, so no one notices, but I still feel the need to wipe them away quickly.
I am handed a rose. It is orange, and speckled with red. I clench the stem tightly. The thorns were picked off, but I can’t help but look for one that they may have missed, so that I could have something to snap myself back into reality, since this just cannot be real. But I do not need a thorn. Because, as much as I wish it wasn’t, this is my reality.
We are walking up, one by one. I am one of the last to go. I place my rose carefully on the casket, and walk away. ‘Goodbye, grandpa’ I whisper so low that is impossible that anyone could have heard, right before I walk away. My brother is not far behind.
I hug my mother. This was her father, after all. They haven’t lowered the casket yet, and we aren’t planning to stay. My uncle is, however. He isn’t coming to the repast, either. I do not question it, rather, I do not speak at all. My mother drives away, me looking out the window, as the spot where my grandfather now lays gets smaller and smaller in the distance.
I had been to a repast before. There had been one for a lifelong family friend, who had passed away of a rare heart condition. He died on his wedding anniversary. I remember getting to sit next to my mom, a small treat, since I wasn’t even supposed to see her this weekend, being that my father had my brother and me. We laughed quite a lot, I recollect. John was a funny guy. I supposed that was why we liked him so much.
The one for my grandfather was different, but in many ways the same. I even eat the same meal. Stories are shared upon the adults, with my brother and me not inputting much into the conversation. I am surprised at just how little I really knew about him.
The repast ended a little earlier than expected. I beg to go back to school, and my mother finally complies. I wasn’t missing much, just a boring assembly from a councilwoman, but I still want to return.
I surprise my friends once the assembly is over. The white of my one friend’s shirt catches my eye for some reason. Maybe because I had never seen him in white before. He should wear it more often. I think to myself.
I receive a project upon my return, one that is due at the end of the year. I hate these kinds of projects. I like to get everything done right away, and this involves me dividing the work up into different dates. And I am not in the best mood today, which is understandable, I believe.
The bell rings, and we leave, for a four day weekend. Everyone else is happy, but I am not. I like school. It lets me escape everything and allows me to be normal for a while. Summers aren’t a very good time.
I am reunited with my family, after only an hour and twenty minutes, but it’s enough to miss a lot. They didn’t go home, I learned, but went back to my grandmother’s. My brother is holding a plate of sandwiches someone gave my mother as a consolidating gesture. I know what’s for lunch over the weekend.
Its over. The funeral is over. I thought that this would not be the real end, and that we would fall into a depression afterwards. But it’s just like it never happened. The conversation is nowhere near my grandfather, and his name does not come up again. It’s as if we didn’t just put him in the ground this morning.
While it has been forgotten verbally, I still remember. It has been eight months, but I still remember it all like it happened today. I remember how cold it was outside, I remember how the chicken parmesan tasted, and I remember how I almost lost it when I got that project. I remember now, and I will forever. My grandfather may not be here physically anymore, but my last memory of him, along with all the others, will be eternal.

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AJFruitninja said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 8:12 pm
My grandmother passed away about three years ago from lung cancer. I've written a piece about her that's on my page if you wanna check it out. I'm sorry about your grandfather, and you've written this very good
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