I regret wearing black. I lashed out when Mom asked me if I wanted a green dress. My Grandpa is dead why the fuck would I want something other than black. My soul felt black, I was never going to be happy again.
It was a good death. He basically died at home with my Dad there. He got to say goodbye. He had his wife, his daughter and his oldest son. The last thing I told him was “I’ll be seeing you.” I hugged him and he went to bed. We left the next morning to see my other Grandparents. That small moment we had was the last thing I ever said to him. I cried. I went to the library in their house and looked at his books and I cried. I silently wept. There were people in the house and I couldn’t be weak. My brothers needed me. My Dad needed me. My Mom needed me. Everyone needed me.
We left Colorado a few days after I last saw my Grandpa. I remember the day, I woke up and knew. I just knew. President Obama was sworn in that day. My Mom joked that the reason he died was because he couldn’t deal with having a Democrat in the White House. I walked into my parents bedroom and I looked at my Mom and she explained that he died early in the morning, the boys had no idea, they had already gone to school when she got the call. I had to handle some stuff because she had to go to work, we were leaving that night.
We were still doing laundry from the last trip to Colorado. I finished the laundry, I got my Dad’s uniform ready, fielded calls and handled travel arrangements along with packing for us. I had pots and pots of coffee. I cried, I showered and held on. Keep Calm and Carry on and all that. We arrived in Colorado and all of us Alaskans started to roast. It was 40 below zero when we left, it was a beautiful 60 degrees above zero when we arrived. Too many clothes.
60 degrees, light wind, it was a perfect winter day Grandpa Ray would have loved. We all sat on the porch and just enjoyed each other, the funeral was in a day, we still had time. I lashed out in Ross when we went to get funeral attire. I settled on a beautiful black dress and black heels. I wish I had kept them, but I couldn’t deal with keeping them. Keeping the reminder of what I lost. I wore my shoes a few times after the funeral, but all I could think was death shoes.
When we got to the funeral home, the flowers adorned the altar, the black heels of the women scuffed the carpet. My eyes were swollen and watering. The music lifted into the rafters. There was nothing more to be done. Flowers, check. Mourners, check. Grandpa’s life in pictures, check, actually, double check. We had so many pictures.
My tearing eyes and running nose were because I was allergic to all of the flowers on the altar. Everyone else was crying and above the sobs, all that was heard was one girl’s allergic reaction to the entire funeral. Sneezing, coughing…so much pollen.
I knew I was going to lose it soon, though. Especially after the outburst in Ross. Tears would be forming because of the flowers and the fact that my Grandpa is dead. My cousin Sarah was crying her eyes out on my lap. Then I heard someone say, “Ray said, no moping, so we aren’t going to mope”.
I knew that my Grandpa would want me to wear a bright red dress not this black and laugh. He always taught me that laughing is the best thing you can do in life, besides loving with all your heart and being true to you. He said, “Never do anything half assed” and by the powers above I was going to really laugh. I was going not going to just politely giggle; I was going to laugh loudly. I was going to remember him like everyone else.
Sobs subsided and turned into laughter. We all remembered the fun times of losing to him at poker, even after he had a few Manhattans. Remembering how much he loved Manhattans, period. We laughed at my Grandma’s beehive hair, but my memory is when we’d sit by the stereo in his office and put in some Jazz.
Jazz has always been part of my upbringing, but he loved jazz. He was a student of music, despite his Oil and Tax accountant exterior, inside he was a jazz musician. We listened to Billie Holiday and his favorite Miles Davis. Music was our connection, our combined passion. We shared music, I gave him music like Cheap Trick and he gave me Billie Holiday. When I hear that music now, I think of him and as I told him goodbye for the last time, in the words of Billie Holiday, “I’ll be seeing you”.