I thought I was in a flower garden. A sweet smell of honey filled the room. There were bright red, yellow, and white carnations, lilies and baskets of wildflowers. They surrounded the room and almost reached the ceiling. The room itself was cold but the flowers added warmth.
My eyes hurt from crying, and I couldn’t make my nose stop running. My Grandmother stood just a few feet away from me, her left hand resting lovingly on the edge of Grandpa’s casket. Mom and Dad almost didn’t let me come. Finally, they decided eight was old enough, and I needed to say goodbye.
The room was noisy which didn’t make any sense to me. People were dressed up just like at church. We were never noisy in church. There was talking and laughter all around me. I knew a few people, but most I had never seen before. Uncle Bob came in with Aunt Billie and laughed telling my Mom how I was growing like a weed. I don’t think I ever saw Uncle Bob before without a big cigar stuck in his mouth.
Grandma motioned me to her. Her eyes were swollen, and she smelled of lilac perfume. She wore a long dress covered with pink and black roses. A black shawl draped around her shoulders.
“Doesn’t Grandpa look good?” Grandma asked.
I could hear myself breathing and wondered if everyone else in the room could too? I was afraid to look. Peering over the casket side my first thought was who was this man? He didn’t look anything like my Grandpa.
When Grandpa was alive he was always smiling. He wore false teeth that made his perfect smile look funny with his thin face. Now his mouth was closed tight, and he looked like he was frowning. He wasn’t wearing his glasses. Grandpa always wore his glasses. He said he couldn’t see two feet in front of him without them. How would he see in heaven without them I wondered? He wore a brown suit. I had never seen him wearing anything but overalls. I used to sit in his lap and play with the gold pocket-watch he kept in the pocket on his chest. Sometimes Grandpa would put candy in there for me to find. We would sit laughing and eat candy while Grandma scolded him about ruining my dinner.
He looked sound asleep. I stared waiting for his chest to move. I couldn’t believe he was gone. I loved Grandpa. He took me fishing, told me stories, and always kept my Mom from being too hard on me when I got into trouble. My Grandma took his hand and held it just like I had seen her do many times before. I felt something sting my cheeks and realized the tears had started again. Reaching into my pocket I pulled out a piece of peppermint candy and slid it into Grandpa’s coat pocket.
“Here Grandpa, this is for later,” I said smiling through tears.
For a moment I thought he smiled back at me. I walked back to my Mom feeling hurt and wonderful at the same time. I closed my eyes and the smell of the flowers swept me away to another time and place when Grandpa and I walked hand in hand through a field of daisies. I could feel him beside me and realized I hadn’t come to say goodbye after all.
CLICK HERE to read other stories and poems by Mike Gowen.