TITLE: The Granddaughter's Big Day
By Megan Starbuck
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The Granddaughter’s Big Day
Walking down the aisle, I don’ t fully take in the scene of bright red carpet and
padded pews around me. Normally I would admire the flower arrangements, but today I
don’ t even notice any. Instead, I’ m beginning to comprehend the reality and finality of it
all. I manage to keep the tears from falling from my honey-brown eyes as I notice the
gathering of family and close friends and then look straight ahead towards the altar,
focusing on the man I love. I admire his blue eyes rimmed with glasses, his trimmed
white beard, and most of all his child-like grin.
All eyes are not on me—and I’ m glad. I slip into a pew, sitting beside my older
sister, Marie. Moisture continues to fill my eyes until they can hold no more, and the
tears silently make their way down my cheeks. I don’ t bother wiping them away; I’ m
surprised I’ ve kept them in this long.
I look again at the man I love, or rather just a picture of him. That’ s all I will ever
see of him from now on. Pictures. I have a picture now in my mind of just a few weeks
earlier—the last time I saw him….
He’ d greeted me at the brown swinging doors to their basement. With his arms
open wide and a twinkle in his eye, he had said with a smile, “ Come ‘ ere and gimme a big
squeeze.” Feeling as special as I’ d always been told I was, I gladly consented. I’ d
expected his hearing aids to ring in our ears as we hugged. And what if I bring pain to his
nearly ninety-year-old body? I remember asking myself. But his old body surprised me
by feeling thick and firm as I wrapped my arms around him and my hands pressed against
the back of his soft, thin shirt. I hadn’ t seen him in such good health since long before
After our hug, I sat at the card table with my aunt and grandmother in the dark,
spacious room lit only by lamps and small, curtained windows. They pointed out that
Grandpa’ s good at appearing to be reading while in fact being asleep. I glanced at him
slumping comfortably on the love-seat in his worn flannel shirt and khaki pants with
suspenders—book open in hand. Eyes closed. I didn’ t wake him to say goodbye; instead,
I took a mental snapshot of his amusing posture before I left….
The worship leader’ s strong baritone voice finishes “ Amazing Grace,” and I
take a deep breath. On cue I walk to the wooden stage which my black high-heels clop
across filling the solemn silence until I stop in front of the metal podium. My sister stands
beside me and from behind the pulpit describes the highlights of a typical visit spent with
this great man:
“ I remember doing lots of fun things with Grandpa...the more I think, the more I
remember. He and Grandma would take me on walks, and when Grandpa would feed his
horse, he'd let me sit on its back while it ate. I've loved horses ever since….”
They took me on walks, too. I once jumped over a puddle and caused a small
uproar among them as they saw me land an inch above it—one arm rescued me from
getting mud all over myself. I instead got it only on that one hand.
“ …Whenever I spent the night with them, I knew it would be ‘ early to bed and
early to rise.’ I remember the early-morning feeling when I'd wake up and hear them in
I look down as she says this because it’ s one of my favorite memories—
something so ordinary that it’ s taken for granted until it’ s gone.
“ …It was always so calm and quiet—no air conditioner running...sometimes the
TV would be on the news or Good Morning America, and I'd always smell coffee.” Here,
Marie smiles and breathes in as if she can smell it this very moment. She continues, “ I
don't drink it very often, but I've been known to make a cup just for the smell.
“ I usually wanted oatmeal for breakfast because Grandpa always made it just
right...with raisins, a little brown sugar, and some milk. Sometimes I'd get to help feed
the chickens and bring in the eggs...or gather tomatoes from the garden. I loved washing
dishes back then, and I always got to do that at Grandpa and Grandma's house….”
Returning my gaze to my sister as I listen, I smile at how our experiences differ
here. Grandma still picks on me about never doing the dishes.
“ …Playing cards and dominos was fun, too, but as I got older, looking at all the
photo albums was my favorite thing to do. I've never known anybody with as many
photo albums as Grandpa! I specifically remember one picture that he said he took right
from the side of a road in Montana….”
I force myself not to let my mind wonder to all of my favorite pictures in his
“ …Looking at all of those pictures from his and Grandma's trips instilled in me an
appreciation for this beautiful country. The more I think about it, the more I realize that a
lot of who I am is because of Grandpa and the time he spent with me.”
She then nods at the sound guy signaling that she’ s done speaking. Getting
nervous, I blink back the tears and look down at my notes hoping everything goes as
smoothly for me as it did for her. The music begins and her soothing soprano voice
reaches the ears of the ones she loves. The words help them recall the man who is to
some “ Gramps,” to others “ Dad,” and to one “ Husband.” The lyrics remind them of the
simplicity in the things he loved. I join her in singing the first song I’ ve ever sung for a
Then it’ s my turn to speak.
Standing before my family, I—like my sister—take on the responsibility of
reminding them of the type of man he was. As I rustle the pages in front of me, I think of
my brother who will try celebrating his twenty-fifth birthday tomorrow while still
grieving his grandfather’ s death afresh. Looking at my notes to avoid anymore eye
contact, I tell my story about Grandpa….
He had insisted that Grandma stop. She then insisted that he remove her hat from
his head. That was an understandable request since it was pink and he was going out in
public. “ I don’ t understand why you like to wear that old thing anyway,” she said
“ It makes me feel like I’ m in the shade,” he explained.
I, who had been quietly observing everything from the backseat, let out a laugh at
that remark. The wide brim did indeed create a bit of shade.
He took off the hat, slowly unbuckled his seatbelt with a click, and opened the
heavy door. As he got out and walked to his destination of looking at campers that were
for sale on the side of the road, his wife noticed a problem. “ Meggie,” she strained her
weak voice in order to speak loudly enough for me to hear. “ Go catch that man and hook
his suspenders before his pants fall down!” Sensing the urgency, I get out of the car as
quickly as possible—no time for laughing. I run towards him noticing that one side is
hooked and it’ s no real emergency, but I continue to hurry like the cars zooming by.
After stopping him, I finally break into out-of-breath laughter. He’ s a little startled and
confused at first but then waits patiently as I finish fastening the strap. When I leave him
alone to finish his “ shopping,” he goes about it as if nothing had happened. I hop back
into the backseat and close the door with a thud to watch him from the car window….
The memory fades from my mind and, staring at the red carpet speckled with
stitches of charcoal black, I remember where I am. I had chosen that story from my
journal in order to make myself, and everyone else, laugh so that I could continue
through the next sad song without crying.
It’ s a good thing I did because, even when I chose that story, I hadn’ t known
just how overwhelming the emotion of this day would be at this moment. But as I spoke
I realized that this was the big day. The day I had a clear view of my oldest brother’ s
strong face—red, puffy, and wet with tears. The day my father gripped my small hand in
his, grasping it longer than he ever had before as if his only strength at that moment was
coming from me. This was the day I walked into my grandfather’s funeral.
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