I’m not guilty because I don’t miss my grandpa, because I do. I’m guilty because he asked me over and over again if I wanted to visit him up north through my teenage years, and I never went. I’m guilty because his funeral was yesterday and I didn’t cry once.
I had a few secondhand tears form while watching family who were nice enough to visit him on his boat speak, but that was about it. I saw a family photo that was supposed to be of the whole family, and my freckles weren’t there, my shadow wasn’t there, none of me was there. My sister and my brother and my parents were, but family time wasn’t like a class; I couldn’t simply ask them what I missed and “catch myself up.”
I know little me would be sad. I had so many childhood memories with him. They’ve faded over the years, but still, I suppose it’s better than nothing, right? Little decade-old snippets aren’t the end of the world. That’s what I try to tell myself, until I picture my grandpa’s living room that I did visit in his last days and I see the cold cup of “hot cocoa” that he used to make me every morning.
He left a hot cup there for me all this time, but I never went to grab it. I drank store-bought hot cocoa from all kinds of different stores, but I didn’t drink his. I think all hot cocoa died with him because he was the only one who knew how to make it the right way. And I can’t drink cocoa that isn’t his to somehow connect with him in spirit, because the whole point of Grandpa’s hot cocoa is that you’re sitting there drinking it with him. I can’t even remember the last time I drank it with him.
My grandma told me he loved me, but how does she know that? In romantic relationships, you can’t love a person unless you spend time with them and get to know them. I could be unfair and ask the question: Did Grandpa know me? But it’s unfair. The right question to ask is: Did I know my grandpa? And I didn’t. Maybe he wanted to get to know me, and maybe I didn’t give him the chance. He lost his wife when my dad was fifteen, and he also lost me when I was fifteen. How sad is that?
I can’t even call him Grape like all the other grandchildren. Nicknames mean you’re close with someone, and all I knew was he loved to play golf and he loved to pull on people’s fingers. I never talked with him about the wife he lost and how he managed to find love again. Hearing my aunt talk about it at the funeral made me tear up; I could’ve asked him about it. Maybe then I’d be qualified to call him Grape and to speak.
At the same time, I’m glad I didn’t speak. I spoke at my other grandpa’s funeral. He died almost a year ago, and I cried the second my mom told me the news. Maybe that’s why I feel so guilty this time around. The funeral for my grandpa that just died was in the same exact place that my other grandpa’s was, and any sadness I felt, I think was just PTSD from the last one. When I looked up at the podium, I saw myself speaking. I was thinking about my grandpa on my mom’s side when I should’ve been thinking about the one on my dad’s side. My mom’s mom was at the funeral for my dad’s dad too, and I know she was thinking the same as me. She was picturing it all over again. She’s in the process of selling her house, of finally getting rid of an empty home. That’s all I thought about the entire ceremony. My grandpa on my dad’s side, his photos were in the same spot that my other grandpa’s were, and all I saw was his photos, not Grape’s. I saw it all over again.
In class, I’ve learned there are four different ways to react to stress. Flight, fight, freeze, and fawn. Fight is fighting and getting a temper, flight is running away and escaping, freezing is dissociating and feeling numb, and fawn is appeasing to what’s causing the stress and giving up. When I gave my speech almost a year ago, I froze. I could hardly speak. At this funeral though, the one for Grape, I didn’t do any of the four things because I wasn’t under stress.
I try to close my eyes and picture moments I had with Grape, but I can’t. So instead, I picture the boat. At least I know that. His boat was his second wife. It’s something I know about him. I can see him on his chair all day fishing. I can’t remember who did it to who, but I remember someone getting a fish hook stuck on someone else’s pants and everyone laughing. I remember Grandpa letting me steer the boat. I remember arguing with my cousins over who-knows-what. I remember waking up super early and venturing out into the quiet house and seeing my grandpa wide awake, hot cocoa in hand as he offers me some. I do remember that. I remember his square glasses and curly gray hair. I wish I remembered more, but at least if I can remember something, I remember fishing; and I know that’s what he loved the most.
My grandpa was a fish himself in his last days. He wasn’t a free fish though; he was a fish who had been hooked and then released back into the water all bloody and injured. He had been suffering for quite a while, but now that his suffering has ended, his fish spirit is swimming all over the ocean. Of that, I’m certain.
Maybe I’m not sad he’s gone because I’m so happy that he’s finally where he’s meant to be.
They say someone dies twice: once when they stop breathing, and again when their name is mentioned for the last time.
I say the word “grape” all the time, so he’s got nothing to worry about; his second life isn’t going anywhere. I mean, think of all the fish who know him. He has a whole ocean saying his name.
At the end of the funeral, the priest mentioned what Grandpa would want for his grandkids, and he said for them to work hard. And I am. I know he’s proud of me. I’ve been sitting out on the dock waiting for a literary agent to bite, waiting for my writing dream to come true, and Grapes, I’m still waiting. I haven’t left the dock. I won’t leave until I get a bite. In a way, I guess I learned that from you.