I have just come across the thoughts that crossed Carol’s mind when she learned her grandpa (who was my father and her father’s father) died.
I got to Media Communication last Friday morning a few minutes late. “The teacher’s got a message for you,” said Mary.
I already knew what it was and I swore softly to myself. “Call home immediately,” the note read. My grandfather had died.
I knew I should be glad he had died. He had been in a lot of pain and he had led a good life. For two weeks now I had expected that “Call home immediately,” but now that it was here, I was shaken. I was glad for him, but what about me? I had lost a grandfather, the man who had taught me how to play checkers.
I left class and called my mother. “The wake is today…the funeral tomorrow…He died peacefully. Skip your second class…catch the 12:05…dress nice.” I went back for the end of class and thought about the baby my friend had had the week before.
At the wake a plaque held the words “FRANK G. HODSON.” An open casket held the body that had been Grandpa’s. He lay on his back with his hands gently on his stomach just as he always did when he napped. His skinny-lapel black suit was meticulously pressed as usual, and his grey mustache was neatly trimmed. I would have thought he was asleep except where his lips would have been slightly parted to let out a nasal snore, they were closed tight. And the old grey afghan that would have been pulled up to his waist was now an American flag. Two weeks ago he had beaten me in checkers in six moves. Today he was napping in a different world.
That night I dreamed of him. We were playing on the street and he challenged me to a race. Hand in hand we tore along the side of the road like athletes. Next he was dancing. I think it was an Irish jig. Francis Gardner Hodson, a proper Englishman, spiritualist, WWI veteran, and Danbury checker champ, did a jig for me.
The funeral service was for my grandmother. The Christian quotes and biblical phrases warmed her. They held one hand, my father held the other.
The trail of automobile high beams was three blocks long. My brothers and I were in the third car of the funeral procession. Nervously, we joked and kidded as we followed the limousine to the cemetery.
Clustered around the coffin in a new section of the cemetery we all looked very, very small. I stood behind my brothers, next to my sister and her boyfriend. I hung my head and hid behind the hair that fell over my eyes. My father and his brother, Bob, stood on either side of my grandmother. Next were my aunts, and the grandchildren and the greatgrandchildren.
I had never seen my father lose his composure before. Always calm and stately like his father, it tore at me to see him fight his tears. The English in him was fighting to dominate. His forehead was creased with tension, his back erect and stiff in the breeze, his eyes welling and blinking but not releasing. I cried his tears. The tears I had never seen him shed. I cried for my father.
The flag was folded and given to my grandmother. Tired and worn, she handed the flag to Johnny. Respectfully, he held the flag, not knowing why he had been given such an honor. And there was my father. He was trying so hard to be strong as he blinked back his tears. And there was my grandfather in both of them. He had not left me.
by Carol Hodson