You know how people say "It'll be fine, everything is going to be okay"? They say that because they can't think of anything else.
The last time I saw my grandfather was in October, 2002. For his birthday. By that time, diabetes had taken a good portion of his left foot and he had a hard time getting around.
When I was little on Thanksgiving we’d sit on the sofa and watch the parade. On Christmas I’d crawl under the tree and hand him presents to give out. On Easter he’d scoop out the insides of Cadbury eggs so I could have the chocolate outside. And on every holiday I’d make place settings out of magic markers and construction paper, and I’d make sure he was on the end and that I was on his right. That way he could sneak me the best piece of turkey or ham.
In October, my family was still mad at me for ruining their lives. My older sister hadn’t talked to my mother except to slap an abuse charge on her. My younger sister watched TV with me in my father’s bedroom and tell me how much she loved watching this show with her father and killing me with her eyes. My father stopped looking me in the face and hugging me goodnight, for fear he’d be the next taken to the police station. My mother didn’t talk to me for a good month except to tell me no one was home and I could go take a paper bag and get some things to take back. My Meme acted as though nothing happened. My Grandma was uninformed of how fucked up the family had become.
I sat on the sofa after eating dinner and was playing with my cake. Grandpa was sitting in his chair, feet up, with Julio in his lap and watching TV. Mom was washing dishes with Meme and Laurel was sitting in the front room. Grandpa looked over during a commercial and asked me how school was going. I smiled at him and said it was going ok. Mom stopped washing the dishes and screamed at me to tell him the truth: that I was failing half my classes. And I started crying.
But Grandpa just put his hand on mine and told me it was ok. Everyone has a rough patch and that everything would work out. Then mom told me to get my shit together so she could take me home.
I didn’t see Grandpa again. I didn’t call him. I wasn’t invited to that year’s Thanksgiving. That year I spent it sitting on a bed eating a turkey TV dinner by myself. And on December 27, 2002 my dad told me that Grandpa had died a week earlier. Mom hadn’t told me because she didn’t want my Christmas to be ruined. A Christmas I had half spent in my room, some eating breakfast with Dad, and the rest alone while he went to a bar. I’m sure Grandpa would have liked the Summer Sausage I gave him every year, if I’d been taken along on the Christmas shopping trip. Mom thought it was funny. Summer giving Summer Sausage. Next year, I’ll give someone heat stroke.
I have my Grandpa’s sweater. I don’t know how I got it. I opened up my dresser one day and there it was. It’s the only sweater I remember him wearing. Usually he wore jeans and a leather cowboy hat with a stallion pin attached to it. He wore it every time we went out to eat. He kept it on all during dinner and he called almost every waiter Zeke, especially the waiter at one of the Chinese restaurants we frequented.
I found his hat when I moved into my Meme’s house. Sometimes I put on when I’m lonely. And I tug on his old sweater and sit in his chair with Julio in my lap. And I wonder if Grandpa just didn’t know what to say, or if it really WILL be okay and it just hasn’t happened yet.