So to kick off my first post of the year, I wanted to share this with you guys. There is a group called The Narrators that I have been following for about a year or so. By their own definition, The Narrators are an organization dedicated to promoting the art of true storytelling and providing community access to storytelling events. My friend put me on to them, and was pushing me to do a story. I decided to get out of my comfort zone maybe 8 months or so ago, and do one. The theme for the month was bottled up, and for whatever reason, it reminded me of my bottled up emotions from not being able to cry at my Grandfathers funeral. Below is the piece I wrote from that experience.
I stand there, surrounded by loved ones draped in obsidian garments. The crisp New York air cut through everyone but me. Shivers, tears, and unequivocal sadness abounded. But I felt nothing. As prayers were said and religious texts quoted, I saw the agony engulfing my mother and grandmother into deeper depths of sorrow. I stood there nothing more than a manikin enveloped in flesh. I couldn’t fucking cry. I wanted to cry, and I was pushing myself to.
I tried channeling my most loathed childhood recollections: breaking my arm slipping in the mud in front of my entire gym class, my failed fully vetted business plan to my parents as to why I deserved a boa constrictor as a pet, friends rounding bases with their girlfriends / as I / rounded the corner to the cash register buy more Pokémon cards / all were failed efforts.
Not a single tear made its way to my rosen chubby cheeks. I stared into the ground hoping no one could see the fraud I was. Loving grandson, apple of his eye…these thoughts were hard to fathom if his passing moved me no closer to the misery I could tangibly feel from my family.
This was baffling to me. I felt I was a sensitive and open person, NO I knew I was. With the wealth of knowledge, perception, and emotional wisdom acquired by a 15-year-old boy in a small Northern California town, surely I had the answers.
But there I stood emotionless. I knew it was not a lack of love or compassion. I truly loved my Grandfather. My middle name was in honor of his first. There were too many stories of his adventures, and our experiences for his passing to affect me this way. My eyes closed with fervor, desperately grasping at straws of memories to evoke heartbreak.
I jumped back to the reminiscence of Grandpa Chip and I’s most beloved pastime. It was a day like any other in the legendary town of Sun City West Arizona.
Truly the West Coast Boca Raton for elderly Jews / what it lacked in humidity / it made up for in dry heat.
With a dwindling AC unit and an adolescent boredom unmatched in its time, there was only one course of action.
“Lets go to the pool Matt”, he uttered under his pot-roast and potato latke laden breath. We were having left overs from last night and my Grandmother lovingly walks up, states “Matthew when are you going to lose some weight” and then proceeds to drop a veritable clash of titans between meat and starch somehow contained to a porcelain plate.
By the way just so everyone is aware, as my Grandma started to slowly lose her mind she would ask me only 3 things: A Holy Trinity of Jewish Guilt if you will
- How are you doing in School?
- When are you going to find a girlfriend?
- When are you going to lose some weight?
Nothing can break the anxiety of body issues quite like the guilt of a Jewish Grandmother. “Lets go Grandpa Chip” I exclaim, and we were off at the pace of retirement home speed limits, as the orthopedic shoe hit the gas pedal.
We had traversed the desert and made our way to the oasis in the senior center. Entering the locker room there was a dust and dampness only found in hospitals or retirement homes. I used to hate it, but now found comfort in the musk.
Chip loved to swim. I never asked why. Maybe it was to ease his joints, but I thought it was just something we always did together. We changed into our swim trunks, made our way to the edge of the grainy concrete, and dipped our toes in…
My eyes broadened and I came crashing back to brown and green ryegrass below my black dress shoes. The bereavement still abounded, so I shut them once again to dive into even deeper chasms of my minds eye.
My consciousness is blurry, but the feeling is somehow tangible. Sitting on my Grandpa’s lap he is thumbing through a book as I place fingerprints on his military medallions. He was a cartographer in World War 2. The honor and admiration I felt for him at the time was comparable only to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don’t know what his exploits were in the military, but he was a hero. I knew that…
My eyes open slowly as I am once again jettisoned back to reality. This has to be the one that will get the tear ducts pumping. If not now when??
When came and went as the service concludes, and we made our pilgrimage back to the car. The camel colored dirt powders our shoes, passing by graves gilded with kaleidoscopic flower bouquets to draw attention away from the bitter despair adorned by everyone but me.
In the car my uncle is fidgeting with the radio, complaining about the signal, and opining on past days of glory for the New York Mets. My mother and aunt seem to come to terms with the situation as each minute passes. My grandmother is shattered, the love of her life is gone, and now with daughters on each coast the deluge of utter loneliness begins to drown her.
I sit staring out the window analyzing the details of the suburbs. Cracked concrete waiting to be walked on in scorching sun adorned with Italian ice in hand. Brownstone apartments brush shoulders with Victorian homes like passerby’s inching their way through a subway stop. Cobblestone footpaths leading to porches that scream Americana, but denote the delusion they represent. There are so many things to ponder on. None more than why I couldn’t cry at my Grandfathers funeral.