When my own grandmother died I went on vacation in Florida. But when your grandmother died I went to her funeral. I didn’t really know my own grandmother, nor did I know yours that well. But I did know you, and I knew you’d be at the funeral, and I knew you’d be on vacation in Florida, which is why I did go on vacation in Florida and did not go to my own grandmother’s funeral.
When my own grandmother died my mother called me from the airport in Arizona. She had been trying to get there in time, but my mother’s mother died when my mother was in the air. I was supposed to go on vacation in Florida with you tomorrow. My mother told me to go on vacation. You told me you wanted to go on vacation too. I told myself that my grandmother would want me to go on a vacation instead of going to her funeral. That was probably the most true.
The Florida Keys are hot in the summer. It took us fifteen hours to drive there. Why did we drive there? We picked a small bouquet of flowers early into the drive and set them in the cup holder. They were so beautiful and then they died from the heat. It was so hot that you started to lose your hearing. At dinner the last night neither of us could hear anything. You were talking so quietly because it sounded so loud in your head. You couldn’t hear a thing I was saying from across the table. What I was saying was, are you having fun?
When your grandmother died I was ordering a burrito. Well, to be fair, that’s when I learned that your grandmother had died, from you. I went to the funeral because I hadn’t seen you in six months and your grandmother would want us to see each other. That was probably also true.
The funeral was strange. It was only the second funeral I’d ever been to. The first funeral I went to was when our students’ mother died suddenly. Her six sons carried her casket. Stan, the oldest, cried the hardest. Your grandmother’s funeral was not like Stan’s mother’s funeral. First of all, your grandmother was white. And Catholic. Second of all, you were there. At your grandmother’s funeral Rena’s sister told stories about your grandmother and everyone laughed and cried. That’s what Grammy would have wanted and Rena’s sister knew it. The best story she told was how one time at Walnut Hills after Church, Grammy took her around to every table in the place and asked the people, do you mind if this young woman sings to us. And of course everyone didn’t mind, so then Rena’s sister had to sing because Grammy had asked her and because everyone in Walnut Hills had said yes she should sing. So she sang the song that she had sung for Grammy and everyone in Walnut Hills and she near brought the house down. You were crying so hard you were shaking and grabbing the wood on the pew in front of you. I tried to cry then and I scrunched my eyes up but no tears would come.
I cried in the car on the way home because I had seen something not meant for me, that funeral. When my own grandmother died, I wished I could have a second chance at her dying, so I could do it better the second time over. And then when your grandmother died, I did have a second chance to do it over, and I did the other thing, which was to go to the funeral, and that was somehow wrong too. If someone else’s grandmother dies I will know to not go to their funeral, because they were not my own grandmother. And if my other own grandmother dies, I will know that I must go to her funeral. But then, but then, my other own grandmother has already died.
Nora McGannlives and teaches high school in New Orleans Louisiana. This is her first published story.