77: “I loved my grandparents”

Frank’s grandfather passed away on the first day of March. It was terrible. Frank had never lost someone before. His father had left him and his mother to go back to Italy when Frank was two years old. He couldn’t even remember him. His father’s parents had always lived in Italy and Frank had never met them. He’d had no contact with them since his father had left. He didn’t even know if they were alive. Honestly, his father could also be dead and he would have no idea. It didn’t matter to him. He had lived with his mother and her father all his life. Her mother had passed away when his mother was just a girl so Frank had never met her. All he had was his mother and his grandfather. And now his grandfather had passed away.

He hadn’t been doing very well for quite some time. That was why Frank had taken a leave to help him out. But he had gotten better, if only temporarily. Otherwise, Frank would never have returned to his apartment in the city again. His grandfather was a tough man. He’d fought in World War II. He smoked like a chimney and he swore in Italian at pigeons. He’d worked in factories for most of his life. He liked nice brandy and good cured meats. He had never liked Frank’s father. He said he was the worst thing that had ever happened to Frank’s mother Carla. Frank, on the other hand, was the best. Grandpa Joe had taught him how to ride a bike and how to cook and how to shave. He was half of everything in Frank’s very tiny family and his loss was immeasurable, but vast.

The funeral was held on a Friday morning. Frank sat at the front of the church next to his mother, who hadn’t stopped weeping in days. Some of her close friends and their neighbours sat nearby. They didn’t have much family, now just each other, but Carla and Grandpa Joe had lived in the same house in the same neighbourhood for thirty years. They were well-acquainted with their neighbours. A few of Frank’s friends were there as well. Some of the kids he’d grown up with were sitting together at the back as well as Ramsay and Oscar, who were sitting a few rows ahead in the middle of the church. It was very nice of them to come. Frank didn’t have a tonne of very close friends. He’d always been kind of a loner growing up. Moving back to his mother’s house to help look after his grandfather for several months hadn’t exactly helped with that. Neither had being essentially nocturnal for quite a long period of time. He had kind of enjoyed working a night shift, though. The city became quiet in a way it just could never be during daylight hours. It was never completely quiet; there was far too much happening, far too many people. But it did have a peaceful absence about it at night. Frank found it oddly soothing.

When Frank stood to deliver his eulogy and looked, for the first time, out at the group of people who had gathered to mourn the loss of his grandfather, he was surprised to find Suze sitting by herself three rows from the back of the church. He had taken the day off and their boss Angela had said she would find someone to replace him. That person had turned out to be Piper. Frank kind of suspected Piper had volunteered herself. Piper had said she was doing it in support of him, so that he could be at his grandfather’s funeral, but Frank was sure he could’ve been at his grandfather’s funeral no matter who covered for him at work. He was almost positive she could’ve been there with him as well. He was also sure she had only offered to cover his shift so that she would have the opportunity to host her own segment as she had always wanted. That was the kind of person Piper was. Frank knew this. It still didn’t feel great.

After the funeral, people gathered back at his mother’s house for some food and drinks, a very small celebration of Grandpa Joe’s life. Most of Frank’s friends went back to their respective lives at that point. Ramsay and Oscar, both of who had told their manager they were working from home, came back to his mother’s house, as did Suze. As it turned out, she had taken the day off work as well, but she had used a vacation day, precious and minimal though they were, to be there for him. Frank found himself very touched.

“I loved my grandparents so much,” Suze told him well into the afternoon. They had gone upstairs to his grandfather’s den with Oscar and Ramsay, taking plates of finger sandwiches and some beers. They were sprawled about the room. Suze was sitting in the winged armchair, Oscar was lying on the floor, a paper plate balanced on his chest, Ramsay was sitting on one end of the small loveseat, and Frank was sitting on the floor, back leaning against one of the bookshelves. His grandfather’s old record player was on the shelf next to his head.

“They used to come stay with us over the holidays for three weeks every year,” Suze continued. “I used to love that so much. My grandma used to bring me Barbies and she totally loved me more than my brother.”

Oscar snorted at that. No one said anything else for a long time. Eventually, Frank reached over and pressed the automatic start button on his grandfather’s record player. It was a newer model. Frank had bought it for him the year before to replace the old one he’d somehow managed to lose somewhere in the attic.  Dean Martin’s smooth voice filled the room. It only took until the second song for Frank to start crying. Oscar shifted over on the floor to that he was lying down directly beside Frank, stretched out beside his legs. Suze reached over and started petting his head. It was bizarrely soothing.

“I’m really sorry, man,” Ramsay offered solemnly from the couch. Nobody said anything else. There wasn’t really anything to say. Frank appreciated the sincerity of the silence.

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