cemeteries hold more than lost souls

Location

whenever i drive by cemeteries
i hold my breath and try to count from six hundred and seventy eight
down to one
because six hundred and seventy eight is the number of steps
i took from the car door to my grandfather’s grave
is the number of seconds it felt like i couldn’t breathe
as they carried his casket to the hollowed hole where he’d wait five years for my grandmother to return to him
at least that’s what i think
but i always stop at six hundred and thirty six
before my lungs collapse like my grandfather’s did
when the cancer shattered the architectural shield
he built around his organs
from the love his children gave to him circa 1949

six hundred and seventy eight steps
to where his rotting remains rest beside my grandmother’s
their love followed them to the grave
or the tomb to be more exact
their bodies rest side by side
the way their favorite armchairs did
hers smelling of italian spices,
draped in soft tangles of yarn
with knitting needles poking out from the sides
his carrying the sounds of a baseball fanatic,
stained with spaghetti sauce and cigar ash
when my uncles carried these chairs
to the pavement that would serve for the garage sale we held to sell our past
i found myself clinging to their chairs
counting the tears in the stitching as if each were a tally mark for the number of times
we exchanged “i love you’s” or “see you later’s”

there are no more “see you later’s”

i salvaged a single chair
her chair

when i find myself missing my grandmother
i sit in that chair
and inhale seventy years’ worth of flour and crossword puzzles and half-finished scarves
it’s like she is still here with me

when i find myself missing my grandfather
i sit at the bar he built with worn but experienced hands
and stare at my reflection in the base of dusty glasses
that have not seen an ounce of amber liquid since 2006
i watch the ghostly flicker of his knickerbocker sign
whose lights have been out since my brother’s baseball
smashed it ten years ago

i close my eyes and listen to the sound of my grandfather’s laughter
listen to the way it would start out as a slow hum
until it snowballed into a thunderstorm of happiness
it was a deft science, the way he laughed, but now i am left bereft
of his classic smiles, the ones where there was always
food stuck in his teeth
but none of us had the guts to tell him

as i drive by the third cemetery that day
i start the descent from six hundred and seventy eight
keeping my feet completely still
with each number i watch my grandparents’ remains crumble
thunder pounding in my ears
wondering if this will be the day
i reach six hundred and thirty five
i feel my heartbeat start to slow
close my eyes as i imagine them beside me
telling me that it’s time to
breathe

Comments

Fitzy Marlote

I've lost both of my grandfathers; one almost a month ago. Unfortunately; I only feel that way about one of them. I salvaged/ wear his suede house shoes and sleep to his old Bose radio. May want to start taking different routs for the sake of your lungs.

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