A Heavy Leaf to Turn
I never met Grandpa before he died. But after a life long compilation of stories and mismatch memories were told to me, I came to the conclusion he was a pretty shitty guy.
Edward Kerowack was the son of one but a father of twenty, each of which had a different mother. My mother, lucky number fifteen, had grown up in a small town in Georgia. Grandpa, or as I like to say, Edward, carted her to softball games and read her bedtime stories. At age forty, Grandma came down with something the doctor’s hadn’t heard of yet. As soon as she came home, antibiotics in hand, Edward did what he’d done, he left.
It’s day five of being a full-fledged adult at the age of seventeen. Mom and Dad are supposed to be here to help me with everything that’s left to come in my life. But they’re not. Last weekend, while bringing home the new bookcase some stupid silver prius swerved in front of them and they were the ones to crash into the tree, not the drunk twenty-four year old.
“Sir, where would you like the two caskets placed?” The funeral director asked,
“It’s not sir, it’s just Aiden. Uh put them wherever you want just don’t have them holding hands because that’s sadistic and disgusting.” I say, trying to lighten the mood as usual with my creepy sense of humor
“Oh alright si- I mean Aiden,” He recites probably for the four millionth time in his life, “As you please.”
Why does he keep asking me questions? It’s not like it’s a wedding and every detail matters. Just don’t be stupidly creepy and we don’t have an issue.
Is Cara really gone? Out of all twenty kids I never thought she’d be the first to go. So smart, so talented. She could throw a softball all the way to Alaska if she tried. Is that him?
“It’s not sir, it’s just Aiden. Uh put them wherever you want just don’t have them holding hands because that’s sadistic and disgusting,” he says, his voice just as soft as his mother’s used to be.
It’s definitely him, he’s got Cara’s humor. I’ve got to leave, this is definitely more than I agreed to when I said yes. I mean he’s practically a reincarnation of the daughter I left. Ah bad word choice, I need to leave, where’s the nearest bar?
It’s official that four ‘o’clock is most definitely the most miserable time of the day. Everyone came flooding in and they’re all crying.
Mom’s coworker walked in and opened her arms to hug me, “Oh sweetie,” She said, being the fifteenth person to use sweetie in only five minutes, “I know this is all so hard but you can get through it.”
I’ve already stopped listening. People think I need to be coddled when really I know it’s hard but life’s what it is and honestly is she really still talking. C’mon it’s time for me to deliver the speech that will definitely ensue waterworks: The Eulogy.
“Hello everyone,” and it begins, “thank you for coming today. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the son of Shawn and Cara Mcdermott. Of course they knew that, they’re not idiots Cara and Shawn both had a lot in common. For instance, they were both insanely into sports. Mom threw softballs farther than the eye could see and Dad ran faster than the speed of light. I know you all were expecting some huge speech about how terrific my parent’s lives were, and truly they were. But when I went to go write this, everything I tried to make sound nostalgic and symbolic sounded like a Hallmark card, and that was not Mom and Dad. So, I’ll just talk about how they met and everything from there. Fun fact: I’m basically making this up Dad, or Shawn, grew up in Minnesota. He was the son of a PE teacher and a novelist. Shawn moved to Maine when at 24, after his parents passing, blah blah dad was smart and he lived places he was granted a full scholarship to University of Maine for his outstanding sports achievements. That’s where he met mom. And you said you weren’t trying to be like a Hallmark card but your parents were living one. Cara grew up in a small town in Georgia, moving to Maine to escape the grieving over both of her parent’s death. Although my parents didn’t attend the same college, the community college where my mother went and the state’s university were close. I’m not really sure how exactly they met but I know it was through a mutual friend who attended college with one of them and took a class at the other college with another. Anyways, they met and dated right up until they graduated. Seriously did I never notice how cliche they were Then, they took a huge step and eloped, nothing too exciting but it was one of those madly in love type of moments as I remember my mom describing, wait is that who I think it is? she wore a tshirt and jeans and a veil they sold at the gift no it can’t be, keep going shop and my dad wore his work shirt and cargo shorts. She also had no it is, holy shit it really is said she had never been happier because neither of them had living parents or relatives so a ceremony just for them was perfect.”
I saw him, he stood in the back of the room. He was not dressed for the occasion with his Hawaiian t-shirt full of stains and messily untucked from what appeared to be an old pair of jeans. It was Edward Kerowack, the man I was absolutely sure was dead who’d I’d only seen in a hasty review of childhood photos from my mother. I’m pretty sure the pause I took from the eulogy was a lot longer than I had thought it was. But I had to end it and talk to him
“If anyone else has any stories or things they’d like to share, it’s an open stage.” I quickly concluded and speed walked, hopefully not noticeably, to the back of the room. He just saw me, am I really doing this? You’re probably hallucinating from stress, there’s no way it could actually be your grandfather, he’s dead. Just sit down to make it try to look like you’re not a sociopath.
When I got to the bar, I had a whiskey on the rocks, took two sips and realized that there’s a child in there that depends on me, possibly the worst person to depend on, but nonetheless depends on me to be there for them. Paying quickly, I made my way back to the funeral. He was mid-eulogy when I got back. I always did have that perfect timing. I could tell from the look of pure shock, or maybe it was horror, that was on his face that he knew who it was. He finished the eulogy hastily and ran back in my direction, quite noticeably. Then he stopped, turned into the closest row of chairs and sat down.
What the hell, kid? I know you saw me. Do I really have to approach you? Couldn’t you have just come up to me, yelled, stormed off and I don’t know, been a normal teenager. I guess adulthood is something I had to face sooner or later.
As I turned away to make my way to the bathroom, he was standing right in front of me. His wrinkles were staring down at me, like some type of horror show.
“Hey, uh, can we speak outside for a minute.” He said, rubbing the back of his head and staring at his feet.
“Sure.” I replied
Sure, is that really what you said? To the deadbeat grandfather who died soon after he left your mother as a child? YOU SAY SURE.
“I’m sorry about your parents, Aiden. I know I should’ve seen you sooner but I, well, there’s something we need to discuss. Since your other set of grandparents is deceased and you have no aunts or uncles, it’s just me who’s left. So according to state laws, I’m now your legal guardian.” He said this like he was telling me we were having meatloaf for dinner.
“You have no idea,” I managed to sputter out while my mouth was still gaping open
“No idea about what?” He replied, totally oblivious
“Did you not listen to the eulogy,” I started, “from the beginning of my life, all that my mom told me about you is that you left her and Grandma and then died.”
She told him that I’m dead? Listen I get it, I was a crappy father. But I didn’t leave her because I wanted to and she knew that. I left because I needed to find a job to help pay for Louise’s medicine. They were my only family and I needed to help as much as I could.
“She told you I was dead?” I asked, still shocked that the words are even coming from my mouth.
“Yeah,” he hissed, “You were a deadbeat father who left her at fifteen to go live with one of your other fourteen children.”
No this isn’t real. Cara was such a nice girl, there’s no possible way that she could’ve told this lie. Fifteen children? I was barely capable of taking care of the one, that’s why she went to live with my sister. Did I half raise a pathological liar?
“How does that even make sense,” I began, “if I couldn’t raise one child, what makes you think I’d want to go be with another one, let alone there’s fifteen of them. Kid, I couldn’t be there for your mom ‘cause your grandmother got sick and we needed money for her medicine. I left, went to work in the city, and sent every bit of it back home.”
“I don’t know,” the teenager in him arose through words, “You weren’t around to defend yourself so I just believed what my mother said, she was my mother. Emphasis on was.”
Oh yeah, you shouldn’t bash your dead daughter, even if she was a pathological liar who raised her child on those lies she was still his mother
“Sorry kid, it just kind of passed my mind,” I said
“Of course it would pass your mind,” he yelled, “how am I supposed to believe anything you say? If all this was true why wouldn’t you make your grand reappearance sooner? Huh?”
“You weren’t letting me finish,” I replied, using the same annoying tone of voice as him, “I wasn’t the best father in the world, nor did I say that. By the time your grandmother died I hadn’t seen Cara for years. I barely even knew her and she didn’t want to know me. She was way too young to understand what happened. So I sent her to live with my sister--”
He interrupted, a questioning look on his face, “Aunt Mary, I’ve heard of her.”
“See, kid.” I said, relieved, “I might of been a crappy father, but I’m not lying.”
How does one handle the fact that their mother covered up an entire human being with a death. Let alone try to understand that your mother lied about everything and somehow your grandfather, that covered up human being, is telling the truth. We spent hours talking that following night, I told him the stories I was told and he corrected them. We had a rhythm. After everything that had happened, having someone who was family felt more secure than anything I’d ever felt. I knew I wasn’t alone.
“Hey Gramps,” I said, “was it okay to call you that?”
“Just, just call me Edward for now,” I affirmed, feeling shaken by the word Gramps, “I should probably take you home you need some sleep.”
“I really don’t want to go back to that house, not tonight. It’s too empty for just me,” the words flowed just as quickly as the idea of me staying over popped into his head, and so it happened.
“I’ll just grab some sheets and pillows from the closet, do you want a blanket.” I said, sounding like a preteen at their first sleepover
“No really,” he reassured, “all I need is a blanket. The couch is perfectly fine.”
“C’mon, just take the guest room, it’s hardly even a foot away.” I said, gesturing towards the room.
“No really. I hardly knew her when she was alive,” he stated, his face returning to a blank state,“It’s weird enough being in her house and I certainly don’t want to be treated like a guest. Besides, I won’t be here long-- I mean we, we won’t be here long so what’s the point.”
“Yeah I guess you’re right, well there’s a blanket on the end of the couch. If you need me I’ll be upstairs, second room on the right. Goodnight, Edward.”
It’s almost impossible not to feel like she’s not staring at me from some part of this house. Let alone her kid is so happy to see me all of the time. I mean I was missing for practically all of your life. Yes your mom told you lies about my existence, but does that really excuse the fact that I never showed up? I never knew she told him that, I could’ve had a family but I never did. What the hell is wrong with me? Do I want to be alone forever? Maybe I just need some sleep to clear my head.
My alarm clock went off at its usual time, except this time it was a Saturday morning so I took my time. Eventually, I got dressed, paired one of my superfluous choices of flannels with the closest pair of jeans on the floor and I was out the door. I swung my way around to the bathroom to brush my teeth and become a decently hygienic person. I was not about to let my armpits come between more free food from family members showing up at my front door like last weekend. I swear James, Dad’s boss, nearly pulled that lasagna away. Mid-floss I realized that Grandpa hadn’t brought any toiletries with him. Which is why it was no surprise when I didn’t see his truck in the driveway, I walked down stairs to see him gone and a note in his place “Gone home to brush my teeth and stuff. See you around 10 -Edward.” I looked up at the clock, It’s 8:30 now he’s got an hour and a half. I’ll just eat some breakfast, maybe that lasagna?
It was just before daybreak when I woke up from a nightmare. Cara was lying there in her casket, but this time she was alive. She laid there and just stared at me and then, out of nowhere we had switched places, kind of like reality. I was in the casket and she was staring over me, rubbing her hands together and saying, “That’s better.” repeatedly. After I paced around the living room for awhile, I decided it was time to leave, go get some air. I wrote a note telling Aiden where I was going, grabbed my jacket and my green truck roared down the suburban streets. When I reached my hotel, I hadn’t nearly been driving for as long as I needed to. So I kept going, I kept going until I found a solution.
The state coroner said that it was a suicide. There was something about how his body was positioned that showed he did it himself with intent, rather than on accident. The truck swerved right and slid down, off the side of the road, and down the side of a hill. His truck was so old that there were no seatbelts. This caused his body to land straight onto the steering wheel on the tumble down and the valves in his heart were crushed, instantly cutting him off from oxygen. All of the other breaks and fractures wouldn’t have made for a pretty wake, so I didn’t have one. After this third time around, I had to force myself to be optimistic. Hopefully my life wouldn’t go as horribly as it did for my family. I saw one good thing, at least now he’ll be forced to spend time with his daughter. Maybe that’s all he wanted.