The phone was ringing at 8:30 that winter night and I knew in my gut something was wrong. I answered the phone to my cousin telling me he was gone. He was my grandpa. And now he was gone.
The feelings of shock and denial surfaced so quickly I could barely cry. They suffocated my ability to talk or to feel.
I thought to myself, “Shit.” How was I going to deal with this on top of everything else I was dealing with?
His death wasn’t really a surprise though. He had been diagnosed with cancer and we all knew that he was in the last stage; his time to depart was coming upon us quickly. But that didn’t make it any easier to deal with.
At the time of his death, my immediate family had already fallen apart. My relationships with my mother and sister were nonexistent.
My dad was a different story.
He was locked up at the time my grandpa died. In fact, he was just transferred to the point of the mountain. That is the place felons go, that is where the prison is. And that was the place I had to go on a weekly basis to visit my father.
Going to visit him was painful every time I went. It never really got easier to do. He was depressed, I was depressed, and talking about the difficult things was the last place of conversation either of us wanted to go.
But here it was, visiting day, and I had to tell him. My family out of the state asked me to not say anything to my dad; they didn’t want to put more on his plate than he already had. How was that fair? I was the middleman supporting him through this nightmare and trying to get myself through this shit at the same time, trying to not fall apart myself, and I’m supposed to keep my dad’s stepfather’s death a secret for another unknown amount of years. Impossible!
I had no idea how I was going to tell him though.
I walked into the prison, took off my coat and hanged it on the wall. I went to the guard to sign in and give him my driver’s license. I removed the required items to go through the metal detector and walked through. After that I gathered all the strength I had left and walked to the door my dad was through.
I sat down and he was there, sitting on the other side of the glass in his prison uniform, happy as ever to see me. He looked so relieved that I was there, like my presence was a break from reality. Maybe it was.
We talked about nothing really for only a minute, you know the general, “how is the weather” type of things. And then I spit it out like the news was vomit projecting from my heart. I couldn’t help it. I had to get this sad truth out of my system.
“Grandpa died Dad. He’s gone.”
“He’s gone?” My dad said. His eyes filled with tears, his face reddened, and he just responded “I’m sorry you had to tell me like this and I’m not there.”
“Yeah. I had to tell you. I’m sorry. Everyone told me to not say anything. But I couldn’t. You had to know.” At this point, I’m starting to breathe heavily from the tears flowing profusely down my face and nerves of my entire being shaking every part of my body.
“I’m glad you told me. I was just about to write him. And that would’ve been money I couldn’t afford to lose sending a letter that he would never get. I can’t waste the money.”
Then we just sat there, staring at each other, crying.
What else could we do? We couldn’t even hug because of the glass window.
Before I left that visit, I told my dad I was going to go to the funeral. RG was somehow going to make a way for me to make it out of state.
We take for granted the visits we have with each other, the fact that we can hold each other when we need comfort, laugh with each other in joyous moments, or just sitting with one another for the mere satisfaction of having company.
When those options aren’t available and we are left to a pathetic resemblance of spending time with each other, telling the truth just might be the most difficult thing we have to do. But honesty is the only way through.
Telling my dad that my grandpa had passed away was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I hurt so badly on the inside that I really thought I was going to break down. I can’t imagine how he was feeling when I told him. I can only hope that he has made peace with the way this happened. Have I yet? I’m really not sure.
For one thing, I won’t take the chance of missing out on a hug or a chat just because I’m too busy. I remind the people I love that I love them and that they are important to me. I don’t want to leave this world or they leave before me without the truth between us to comfort and guide us.