I know, I know, I had to get all musical on you. I’m trying something a little different today and linking up with The Red Dress Club prompt about memory and reflection. This is what came to mind:
I walked into the warm room, full of people I didn’t know. They were all talking quietly, but the collective buzz hurt my ears as I tried to pick out a voice that I recognized.
I kept my eyes down, playing with my nails, trying not to bite them. My grandpa always told me that it was a disgusting habit and the thought of biting them here seemed wrong.
My aunt put her hand on my back and gently guided me to the front the of the room. I forced myself to smile. I knew my parents weren’t sure if I should be here at all.
I’d heard my father saying that it wasn’t an appropriate place for a seven year old. My mother argued that it would be seen as rude if I weren’t there, though she worried I would cry. It was decided I would go, for just a little while, and then return to my aunt’s house.
I smoothed down the skirt of my yellow sundress, my favorite dress. How bright I must have looked in a room of black and dark-blue clad adults.
My aunt gave me a little nod and I took those last few steps forward. My grandfather looked like he was sleeping. He was dressed much the same as he usually was for our weekly Saturday shopping trips to the grocery store, where he always bought me a special toy, though he insisted each week he wasn’t going to because I was getting spoiled.
Just like he was sleeping, just like my parents had told me. But, Grandpa wasn’t sleeping. He was my only grandparent who really loved me. My mom’s mom had died well before I was born and her father was possibly the strictest adult I’d ever met. My other grandmother was very ill and all she could do was give me an occasional hug.
This, in front of me, was the man who took me to the park, teased me, and stuck up for me.
But, he was gone. Lung cancer. Don’t ever smoke, he told me. Girls don’t smoke.
I stood there, not really sure what I was supposed to do. I knew I was supposed to say goodbye, but he wasn’t really there any more anyway.
He was gone. I didn’t want him to be gone.
Tears started to form and threatened to fall. I did not want to cry, sure that someone would be mad at me for crying, like it was the wrong thing to do.
And so I smiled. The biggest smile that I could. A smile that stretched my face and made my cheeks hurt, but stopped the tears from falling.
My aunt must have been right behind me the whole time, but I didn’t notice until she touched my shoulder and told me it was time to go.
I walked out, still smiling as hard as I could, wishing I didn’t have to say goodbye.