My family and I live at my Dad’s Mom’s house. In this house, my Dad’s Dad died when my Dad was 15 and his Dad was 45. He died in his sleep of a heart attack, in a room about a dozen feet away from where I sleep. My Grandma preserved his room after his death; no one goes in there, and nothing leaves. It’s a pack rat’s memorial to her husband. I throw no judgments, because I have no clue what I would’ve done in her situation.
One night I saw a shadowy figure in my room. The TV and lights were turned off, but I know I didn’t do it. I was asleep, as was my Dad, and I didn’t hear my brother move from the other room. That shadowy figure. It couldn’t have been my imagination, even if it was unencumbered and about to produce my nightly reality.
I went against my instincts and walked down the stairs. I hoped this was my Grandpa. Who else would it be? I pulled out a chair at the kitchen table and sat down. My Grandpa looked like a combination of my Dad and his brothers, slightly on the heavy side, though it was hard to make out details in the dark.
“You look different than I expected,” I told him.
“You’ve only seen one picture of me.” The words floated out into the darkened kitchen.
“I don’t really know much about you. I’m afraid to ask my Dad or your wife because I hate reminding them that they lost you.”
“I can understand that, but how else would you ever know?”
I don’t have a response.
“It’s funny.” He gladly takes the reins.
“That you only want to know who I am by who I was in life. And I’m best remembered by my death.” I hear the chair creak.
“Where are you now?”
“Trying to find out about me now from me is like a 28 year old man going on a first date, and the first thing his date asks him is, ‘Tell me what you were like when you were two'”
“I like to know what people were like as children, it adds a sense of depth to them and helps enlighten some parts of their personality. I also like telling people what I was like as a child.”
“Not as the first question.”
“You never answered my first question.”
“I don’t have to.”
“Okay, I guess.”
“I heard my son had a heart attack recently.”
“He did. We were all very scared. Actually, scared doesn’t capture it at all, but I think you get it.”
He doesn’t have a response.
He lets out a hearty laugh and pats the table.
“Do you not have an answer for my first question?” I edge the chair, slumping forward.
“I do, but I’m not telling you.”
“Because you’ll find out someday. I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”