Get Off My Lawn

I can't tell if he's laughing or crying.

A Secret and a Grave

I dreamed that my grandfather died and in this dream it felt as though my soul were emptying out an ocean’s worth of grief. I woke up confused. I was seven years old and had met my grandfather only twice. Why would I have become so overwhelmed with sorrow for a man who, for me, was the spectre of a grandpa and not a real presence in my life?

Grandpa Germaine owned a hotel in Quebec, just on the border with Ontario. He had a grade eight education, was brilliant with numbers, and was prone to yelling at the radio when something did not agree with him.

He once fell while attempting to get on his horse-drawn sled.

“Did you fall, John?” a friend had asked with a smirk.

“No, I did not fall. That’s how I always get on my sled,” he said with determination and climbed onto his transport with as much dignity as he could muster.

Less than a week after my dream, I was told by my mother that Grandpa John had died. I was uneasy at this news. I believed that my dream had caused this man to die. I kept this information to myself because I had no idea how my mother–it was her father who had died–would react to such a thing.

Funeral 4

We drove across the Ottawa River to a village called Campbell’s Bay, where the Ringrose Brothers Funeral Home laid out the dead, for the three-day wake. The room smelled of candles, flowers, incense, and carpet cleaner. This house of the dead was filled with hushed conversations and quiet weeping. There was coffee in the basement. Then my step-grandmother, Laura, arrived, and she was overcome with grief, throwing herself against the wall with a high-pitched keening. She was comforted by people I didn’t know. She then threw herself on the corpse of my grandfather, who lay stone-faced and dignified in the open casket. Laura’s red hair had loosened from her tightly wound bun and strands of bright red hair fell across her anguished face. She appeared possessed as she screamed and grasped desperately at Grandpa while younger men pulled her away. This display had set others off, like a room full of infants who are set to crying as soon as the first begins. The room filled with a crushing sadness.

Seeing this display was terrifying, and I knew then that I could never tell a soul that I had killed Grandpa. I would take this to my grave. If someday we meet I’ll tell Grandpa I’m sorry. Or as sorry as I can be for a man I never really knew.

Categories: Personal

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51 replies

  1. Oh wow, what a story, and so wonderfully told. Just goes to show how much kids can internalize things and blame themselves for events they have no control over. But they lack the abstract reasoning to put things in the proper perspective. What a burden for a child to carry.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sooooo. Uh. You’ll tell me about any dreams about me dying, right? Because if I have a week left live I am quitting work…

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Your Grandpa sounds like an interesting fellow. I know carrying that guilt must have been a tough thing on such a little boy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I so love your stories. They are so vivid and moving. A friend of mine had a dream that Princess Diane died, just a day before it happened. She was not really happy after having that dream, and absolutely terrified after it came true.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a sad burden to carry, John, especially for such a young child. So sorry. It maybe explains why I wasn’t allowed to attend my own grandmother’s funeral at age 6. They thought my sister and I couldn’t handle it all. I wonder ?? Lovely piece of writing. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much. The community I grew up in was primarily Irish Catholic and so funerals were a huge part of life. As children we went to way too many funerals at far too early an age. Throughout my childhood I’d been to dozens of funerals and I believe this caused unecessary trauma. Needless to say I have little use for wakes and funerals today. Stuff my body down the garbage shoot for all I care.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow. See, that’s the thing about childhood; kids don’t know enough to make sense of it, but the feelings stay on.
    That keening is the worst part of any funeral. I remember everyone holding it together fairly well at my grandmother’s funeral, but when her best friend of 40+ years went up there and the keening began, no one was immune. No one. Her pain was brutally contagious.
    You told this story so well. I felt like I was in the room. Well done.
    (I like your new wallpaper, too.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Carrie suggested that “I Didn’t Kill Grandpa” would be a good title for a story. I think it’s reserved for your memoir, which I think might have a whole lot more interesting stuff included in it.

    Love this one here. It so gets at how the minds of kids work. Well done. And glad you realized you actually weren’t responsible relatively soon after.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. It was fortuneate that I realized soon I didn’t actually kill my grandpa because the the feelings I had were really intense and I still have vivid memories of them. Carrying that for an extended period of time would have been really awful.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my, so surreal, but told wonderfully. Sorry for your loss…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My grandma always believes that dreaming of someone’s death increases their lifetime–perhaps you dreaming about it actually gave your grandpa a few extra hours or days.
    I for one seem to dream about deaths unusually frequently

    Liked by 3 people

  10. What a powerful dream. And while I think dreams can be upsetting to adults, they have a profound impact on children. Beautiful writing and I’m glad to have read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Is this a true story? If so, don’t think you had any role in your grandfather’s death. Dreams are so tricky, mostly, I think representative of our imagination and subconscious conflict. Very nice storytelling as always.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Elizabeth. Yes, this is a true story. I did realize later in life that dreams, for the most part, are representative of our imagination and subconscious. Thankfully. But as a child I was without the cognitive ability, or the knowledge, to reason this out. And I was in a family where explaining, or discussing, the death of a relative just wasn’t done. I think what lessened the trauma was that I didn’t really know my grandfather very well.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a weight to carry with you for so many years. Death is hard enough for adults to handle, and it can be such a terrifying mystery to kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I will always expect a soulful piece on the heels of your guest post on my blog. =) Beautiful post. Adults should be mindful of how they express themselves around death in the presence of youngsters. (I love how he yelled at the radio. Must be the Mafia in me.)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Vividly recounted. I’m glad you renounced the guilt long ago, but what a fascinating reminder of how the logic of a child can work.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You did no wrong though. Means your dreams speak to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Surely you were brought up Catholic with all that guilt? How awful that you thought it was your fault – poor little boy, I, too, have creepy psychic abilities. I have looked at a clock and said that a relative died (they did at that minute) and I can smell cancer. It still happens but now I know it is gift of precognition or some sense that most of us have forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

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