Somewhere in the After
Funny how the smallest moment can make the biggest difference. And the smallest, most innocent moment is suddenly Important. Importance is odd, though. Important is a red area found on the edge of the spectrum of good and bad. Everything fits somewhere into the spectrum of good and bad. But the really good ones and the really bad ones stick out the most. Those are the suddenly-not-so-small ones. The wolf in sheep’s clothing. And as a person who can say that they are generally happy, I can’t complain much.
It’s just that this memory is less-than-good. And also Very Important.
A crisp fall afternoon. Saturday. The fiery red foliage reflecting off the sunroof. Grey skies. Smell of fresh rain and dead leaves wafting around us. A perfect temperature, the kind that feels the same as your own body, as if you are in equilibrium with the surrounding environment.
My Mom, my sister, and I were piled into the car, headed to visit our great grandfather.
His wife passed away just last month. He seems to be in denial.
We had just passed by the old brick road, the one that always fascinated me as a very young child, the one that kept me chatting for minutes on end, the one I can’t think about without thinking about the area with the short, semi-hidden driveway that led to the modest home on the wide property with the old apple tree and the fields that seemed to travel on forever. Those fields were Important. They… held something. Something more Important.
The moment we open the big sliding door we are hit with a gust of wind full of the scent of butter cookies and warm comfort drinks. We were then greeted warmly and surprised by my great grandfather, even though we told him we were coming. He didn’t get up to welcome us. In fact, he just tilted his head, and smiled. But in his old age, I could tell even that took alot from him.
He then started the same routine he always did.
“Would anybody like anything to drink?” He would ask innocently enough.
We all say yes because, though nobody is thirsty, we don’t mind playing along. My mother volunteered to make us all tea and the moment she returned she was greeted by the secret intent of my great-grandfather.
“Now that let’s see what can go with this tea”
I smiled, thinking of the stories that would soon come, the moment my mother was back with the tin of butter cookies, by my great-grandfather’s request.
My great grandfather loved stories. He had the most soothing, quiet voice, and always told the tales with such an wise tongue, you couldn’t help but plunge deep into the detail-filled memories of his experienced life. And his eyes were the most beautiful, charming shade of blue you had ever seen. It was a faint blue, like the sky on a warm day in the middle of spring. Nobody could capture you quite like he. With words, with charm, or a sly combination of both, he was the most entertaining person I knew.
About an hour passed, littered with stories and conversation, and it was our time to leave.
Everything was normal. Nothing went wrong. We drank our tea and ate our cookies. We told our stories and our great grandfather did too.
But something was not normal. Something would go wrong. I could tell.
I had that feeling. That feeling you get when something Important is about to happen. The tingle, the excited glow only you know about. That feeling was slowly creeping upon me. The wolf in sheep’s clothing.
And then the trap sprung. As we all stood us to kiss, hug, and wave goodbye, a sentence escapes the wise man’s lips. An Important sentence. One directed towards my mother.
“Where is your grandmother?”
The room fell silent. My mom had a pain-filled, sad look in her eyes My great grandfather had the most innocent, sincere smile on his face. I was in shock. Confused. I suddenly felt guilty, somehow. I could hear my heartbeat.
Ba-dum Ba-dum, Ba-dum Ba-dum
I could hear every breath. My own were quick, choppy, and erratic. My sister, who was always cool under pressure, was stoic and steady while she inhaled. My mother seemed to be holding her exhale, as if she could freeze time. And the labored wheeze of the man with the question. The man with the stories. The man with the wisdom. The man with no wife.
Telling the truth seemed too blunt.
Lying felt wrong.
Simply not responding was simply not an option.
How did you escape the inescapable?
My mother simply went with option two.
“She’s just in the bathroom,” she fibs, “She’ll be right out”
The longest 3 seconds of my life. They might as well have been minutes.
“What a shame,” He mutters, “She’ll be so upset she missed you”
And somehow, that was it. We kissed, hugged, and waved him goodbye. We never spoke of it again. But I still think about those words.
“Where is your grandmother?”
What a fantastic question. I finally thought of my answer. I have decided she isn’t dead.
I say you don’t truly die until people no longer think of you. That is when you truly stop existing.
Where you go spiritually is a matter of opinion. Maybe you truly do just cease to exist. But I think at the very least, there is some form of Next. I like to think that when he died he met his wife somewhere beyond.
Somewhere in the After.