Thursday, September 10, 2009

80: Ch-ch-changes

Happy Birthday, Jordan! 21!

Soundtrack song - Green Day, 21 Guns (not related, but kinda funny, huh?)

Sid was in Montréal. I was alone. I was surrounded by my family, but I was utterly alone. We had all lost the same man, but we handled it differently. Knowing we were all suffering was no consolation to me. It was harder to cope without Sidney. Whatever power he had over me to calm me faded away the farther he was from me, so I was a bit of a mess without him.

I hung around in the back of the room, away from everyone. My mother cast me a few angry glances because I wasn't being social. I understood her point, but who wants to talk to strangers under such distress? I was shy and awkward around new people anyway, so the fact that I was at my beloved grandfather's funeral didn't help.

The paper I was holding in my hand crinkled and fluttered in my shaking hand. I don't know why I agreed when my grandmother asked me to read something. But the way she looked at me, I couldn't refuse. I'd scoured my books for something appropriate, but what did I want to read? What message did I want to convey to everyone?

I glanced at the clock on the wall. 1:55. The service would begin in a few minutes. My phone rang in my purse, "Whatta Man" echoing the silence of the room. Everyone's head turned to look for the source of the song, and I feverishly dug through my purse to stop the noise.

"Sid?" I asked quietly through the phone as I picked it up.

"Nelly, how are you holding up?"

I sighed. He was so caring. How did I ever get so lucky with him. "I'm fine."

He didn't believe me. "Don't be nervous about the poem. He'll really like it," he said, talking about Grandpa as if he was going to hear me. Sid assured me that he would. "And I'm there with you. Maybe not physically, but I'm thinking about you. You can do it."

"Thanks, Sidney. They're starting to sit down, I've got to go. Play well tonight," I told him. As much as I was dreading what my afternoon would hold, I couldn't forget Sid desperately needed another win tonight.

Sidney chuckled through the phone, and I knew it was because he thought I should be concentrating on my own situation instead of his. Just like I thought he should be napping and focusing on the game, not on me. "Sure thing."

"Maybe if you win, I'll be waiting for you when you get back from Canada," I teased, trying to distract myself from what was about to happen.

Playing along, he said, "Oh? Only if we win? You don't want to be with me if we lose?"

"Whatever motivation you need, stud." We hung up quickly, and I took my seat next to my grandmother. It's not that no one else was upset, but some of us were taking this harder than others. I wasn't my grandfather's favorite by any means; to say that would wrongly imply that he was discriminating with his love and attention. We just got along better than some of the others.

The service was a blur. The words faded in and out as my concentration ebbed and flowed. Several people spoke, and my grandfather's nephew, who I'd never met before, sang "Amazing Grace" so beautifully. It was until I was nudged that I realized it was my turn. Too late to change my mind. I walked to the podium and set the piece of paper down; my hands were shaking too badly for me to hold it. I smoothed out the wrinkles and recited the poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.
I chose it as a message from Grandpa to everyone. It comforted me, if no one else. When I finished the last line, I felt the courage in me to turn around and look at him in the mahogany casket. He looked so different, made up and posed. I knew this wasn't Grandpa George, that this was only his shell, left behind in search of a better home. This was my last chance to say goodbye, my final goodbye, and I had to do it.

Then I went to his side and looked down. He appeared so old, like the years had caught up with him. "I'm sorry I couldn't do this sooner," I whispered, so no one else would hear. "I was afraid. If you were here, you'd tell me how stupid I was being. 'What are you so scared of?'

"Thanks for being there for me while you could. You left this world too soon, Grandpa. You left me too soon. But you're still with me, even if I can't see you or hear you." The tears began to pool and stream down my cheeks. "But I'm still gonna miss you, Grandpa. More than you know."

I left the podium. This portion of the service was over. The casket was closed and the military pallbearers carried the casket to the hearse, and we piled into the limo that was directly going to follow, and went off to the cemetery in the funeral procession.

A few more words were said at the cemetery before the three rifle volleys. Three casings were placed in the flag as it was folded precisely and delicately. The military chaplain stood in front of my grandmother, holding the flag out to her. "As a representative of the United States Army, it is my high privilege to present to you this flag. Let it be a symbol of the grateful appreciation our nation feels for the distinguished service rendered to our country and our flag by your loved one."

She accepted with tears in her eyes, and then it was over.

* * * * *

I went back to Sid's to watch the game. There was a reception after the service, but I didn't see the point in attending. The remaining emotions were still so raw and fresh. I just would rather spend the time to reflect alone. Grandpa was laid to rest, but the hurt didn't go away.

My night consisted of watching the game and pondering life during the commercial breaks. Things were changing, and this was the start of bigger things to come. I was going to be leaving my old world behind: quitting my crappy job for a new and better one, and I even think I agreed to move in with Sidney. During the first intermission, I had typed a quick e-mail to Mario to let him know I was very interested in the position. At some point, I watched as the camera caught a shot of him in the box in Montréal, working on his Blackberry. A few minutes later, I got a reply. Great to hear it. We'll talk about the details before the game on Saturday.

I was excited, for sure, but I was also a little terrified. And why not? These were big changes, and all within a month; count the changes in my lifestyle over the past six months and this was a lot to digest in such a short amount of time. Speaking of digestion, my appetite never returned. The scale told me I had lost about three pounds. It wasn't a lot, but I wasn't the type of person who lost weight easily. I shuffled into the kitchen and found a box of Velveeta shells and cheese. Probably the most unhealthy thing in the house. If I could eat this, I'd surely gain those pounds back. I fought through a bowl, lucky to get through that, and put the rest in the fridge.

The Penguins skated off the ice, victorious with another win. They were riding on the high of seeing momentum swing their way. Maybe this was a signal of good things coming our way again. Lord knows we needed that.

Sidney made it home in the middle of the night, at around three. He woke me up as he stripped out of his suit and jumped into bed with me. "Sorry," he said, giving me a peck on my cheek. "Go back to sleep."

"Congrats on the W," I mumbled, eyes still closed.

"Thanks," he replied, settling in for the night.

I knew he was tired, but I couldn't let him fall asleep just yet. "Are you sure it would be okay if I moved in here with you?"

"Why is that a question?" he asked. "You practically live here on the weekends. And you've been staying here all week. Not under the best of circumstances, but we made it work."

"Yeah. You're right," I said, nestling against him. I could easily get used to doing this on a regular basis.

I thought that was the end of our conversation, but it wasn't. "Are you scared?" He paused, and I didn't respond. "It's okay if you are. Just let me know. Be honest."

"Yes," I told him. He had told me to be honest, but I knew he wasn't pleased with my answer. "It's a big step. It's new. But I'm looking forward to it, too."

"So you're scared and excited?"

"Sounds weird, huh?"

"You're weird. I wouldn't expect any different from you."


  1. Ok, first off. I loved the poem. I wish I would've known of that one when my grandpa died.

    The last line of this chapter made me smile! I think it's literally my favorite things that you've ever had them say in this entire story!

    Can't wait for tomorrow's update! I hope the season keeps going well and that the two of them figure out this whole living situation*

  2. Great update! Very emotional! Glad that she was able to go up and say goodbye to her grandpa like that, its a very hard thing to do. Can't wait to see what happens once they are living together and she starts her new job.

  3. The poem was absolutely what sealed the deal on my emotional overload. You have me crying, Jay, but in a good way.

    I love that Nelly was strong enough to say goodbye and I love that Sid was there for her every step of the way.

  4. That is the most beautiful poem ever. My sister read it at my dad's funeral.

    I loved that Sid was there for her, even in Montreal. And I'm glad she's taking the job. YAY Nelly!

  5. What a beautiful poem...and another great chapter...loved it!

  6. great chapter[:
    you mentioned velveeta shells and cheese and i'm pretty sure that's part of my supper[: