My grandfather was sitting on the floor of someone’s living room, dressed in his usual white t-shirt and khakis. The top of his head was exposed and I thought it was odd that he wasn’t wearing his Green Bay Packers hat. I also thought it was odd that he was sitting on the floor. He’d always been a big guy, well over 6 foot, a towering gentle giant whose bear hugs were enough to make your ribs feel close to cracking. But that gentle giant’s knees were no good after years of bricklaying. He’s going to have a hard time getting up from the floor, I thought.
There was a glass-top coffee table that had been placed over a dark brown area rug. Surrounding it were a small couch and a smaller plush chair, each seat occupied by somebody from my extended family. Who they were, I couldn’t say. I only paid attention to him.
I noticed magazines on the coffee table – spread out like a fan, the way you see in a doctor’s office. We weren’t in a doctor’s office, though. We were in someone’s house and it was time for me to leave. My coat was already on me and I had a bag packed, light enough to carry in my right hand. When I walked past my grandfather, who was seemingly comfortable on the floor, I used my left hand to touch him lightly on his back. He turned around and it was the first time I’d seen his face throughout this entire dream.
“I have to go now,” I told him.
If you knew my grandfather, then you knew his voice. He was born on a farm in Wisconsin and the region’s German and Polish history was thick in his accent. It was unmistakable. And endearing.
“Tell me, Dena. Do you miss it?” I teared up when he asked me this. Deep down, I know what he meant.
“Yes, Grandpa,” I said. “I do miss it.”
“No. DO YOU MISS IT?” There were tears in his eyes this time. I bent down to him and kissed his head, grateful that his damn Green Bay Packers hat was missing. My left hand was still on his back and my right hand still held my bag. No bear hug, no crushed ribs. Not this time.
“Yes, Grandpa. Yes.”
I noticed his big hands were busy closing up a brown package, the top flaps covered in addresses. My daughter’s initials I.C.N. scrawled across the middle like the box was meant to go to her. I asked him if he wanted me to take it to her.
“No. I’ll borrow $20,000 from somebody and ship it out tomorrow,” he said.
And then he laughed. He laughed in that way grandfathers laugh when they’ve been caught telling jokes to their grandkids. I walked out of that house with my chest feeling heavy, sad at the realization that he would never live long enough to send that box. My mother was sitting on the porch swing right by the front door watching a bunch of my cousin’s kids playing soccer in a nearby field with a flat ball.
I looked at her and said, “I have to go now.”
I wasn’t sad this morning when I woke up from this dream. I was actually kind of grateful to have had a few extra minutes with him. Extra minutes I never got in real life. My grandfather passed away last summer. His funeral was held on the same day I left with Matt and Elle for Oklahoma. Leaving Florida that weekend was hard but not nearly as hard as knowing I couldn’t be there to say goodbye to him. I feel like after last night, I finally did.