All I could do was force myself to breathe slowly and move forward.
The funeral home was old. The wood paneling and hollow wooden doors reminded me of our old house and the basement of the new house. For a second, the thought distracted me: is that how we chose the new house?
I could see him lying there. This man whose blood was a part of mine. Serene. Peaceful.
Around me were quiet discussions, laughs of rememberence…a hand grasped my elbow.
I was still. I was yards away from him.
“Go. Touch him. You’ll be okay that way.”
I did not want to touch him or do what she said. I did not want this legend of hers.
This is not what I wanted. I thought instantly of rebelling completely from that point on; I thought of never listening to her or doing what she wanted me to do ever again. Then the guilt of that thought came. Then her pushing me again.
Irritated, I walked forward. He still looked warm. As if he would open his eyes and give a smile again.
Again, she was behind me. Forced my hand to touch him. Wanted me to kiss him.
As much as I don’t want to, I still dislike what she made me do. But now, if I loved them and knew them, I touch them. It’s now my duty.
I did not know him though. I didn’t know the disciplinarian-turned-jokester. I didn’t know the coal miner-turned-grandfather. The man who waved when we arrived and waved when we left. I knew nothing about him, though I had known him all my life.
This is why I cried at the funeral. I had no story for this man save for the stories that my relatives tell. There he was in the casket and I could not recall a conversation where I learned anything about *him*.
The day after my 21st birthday, we buried him on a hill in a cemetary in the next town.
In the following months, I would decide that I would not have that happen with my grandmother. I would not have that empty feeling of missing a connection ever again.