I was watching Top Chef junior. Yeah, that's how my story starts.
I'm sitting on the couch with my family, lounging around, when my mom gets a call. She goes into the other room to answer it. I keep watching tv.
She comes back in a few minutes later, pale and scared. She sits down and I hear my father talking to her.
"... was that about?" He whispers.
"... Dad isn't doing so well... breathing problems... hospital."
I nod, knowing it was probably asthma. I continue watching tv until it is time to go to bed. My grandpa was strong. He could pull through a mere asthma attack.
I wake up the next morning and go downstairs to eat breakfast. The day has an odd feel to it, a melancholy sort of summer day. The sky is bright, the clouds are puffy and white, the hot and dry breeze carrying leaves through the air. Everything seems normal.
About half an hour later is when my dad comes into the room. He looks sad. His eyes are red and swollen.
My stomach turns.
My dad never cries. I've never seen him cry. Ever.
"Girls..." he says, gathering my sister and I on the couch. We sit, nervous.
"Pa... he wasn't doing so well. The doctors thought he has asthma, but it was actually something wrong with his lungs and--" his voice cracks, and my stomach does flips.
"He didn't make it, hun."
The world goes quiet, and I reach over to shut off the tv.
There is a loud buzzing in my ears, a low hum that is soothing and makes my body feel numb. It's like the time I had laughing gas at the dentist.
Everything feels numb. My toes, my mouth, my eyes.
My sister starts to cry, and my dad reaches in to hug her.
I feel tears start to well up in my eyes, and I curl myself into a ball against the side of the couch, starting to let the tears fall freely. My mouth trembles from holding back a sob, and I let a small whine escape my lips.
He can't really be gone,
I sit up and bury my face in my dad's chest, sobbing violently. My mom comes in after that.
"I wanted to tell them," she croaks.
I imagine now how much of a regret that is.
Not telling her kids that her father died, but letting her husband tell them.
I go up to my room after that, still numb, and I shake my head vehemently.
He can't. He can't be dead.
It was the doctors' fault. They thought it was asthma.
"It. Wasn't. ASTHMA!" I scream, the numbness gone and replaced by a headache as well as an aching in my ribs. My knees buckle and I fall onto my floor, tired, and I sleep.
I spend time with my cousins in Texas. People are also dropping off goods to my grandma's house, like soda and home cooked barbecue. We even got some cake and doughnuts.
My Pa was well known in the small town, people felt sorry for our family.
They pitied us.
Pity on me.
The wake was a gloomy occasion. We viewed his coffin the day before the funeral, all sorts of people attending the service at the funeral home. I get there and I see his cold, lifeless body.
His skin is near blue, and he has a small smile on his face.
My grandma told he he prayed the rosary before he died.
And that's what does it for me.
I let out a sudden, loud sob, accompanied by many sniffles. I use up many boxes of tissues through the service, during which we pray the rosary.
My muffled crying makes it hard to pray the Hail Mary.
The funny thing is that so many people knew him.
So many people stood up and told stories about him. So many good wishes. I don't know why I found this surprising, he was a good guy. His stories were to die for, he could even make the Alamo sound interesting while I was throwing up because of carsickness. The airport was two hours away, and almost every time we drove there I got carsick.
We went to a funeral mass the next morning. Less people attended, but I remember seeing woeful glances of those in the crowd.
I feel bad for a moment because this is the church that my Mom and Dad got married in.
My Dad is walking down the aisle this time, his hand on a bar on the coffin, wheeling his father in law towards the altar.
So much different.
I remember volunteering to read an excerpt from the Bible. To the entire church.
"He would've been proud."
1 year later
I visited the grave two months ago, it was raining.
It seems to rain every single time I visit here.
I try not to cry every time.
But I end up sobbing into my father's chest.
My family starts walking back to the car, and I don't follow yet.
"I miss you, Pa. I really do--" I say before sniffling. I wipe my eyes on my sweater sleeve concealing my arms.
"But really-- are you proud of me, Pa? I want to carry on your legacy, but I don't think i can..."
The words linger in the silence that is penetrated by the thrumming of rain on granite tombstones.
But then I hear a voice, a whisper in my head.