I don’t know why, but I was thinking of one of my grandfathers lately, the one from my mother’s side. I remember being a few years old and holding my grandma’s hand while going from visiting my great-aunt to my grandparents’ house who lived in the same village. We met grandpa who was in a carriage full of cantaloupes, taking the harvest from the field directly to the market in a small town. Grandpa Bunu stopped the cart, looked for a beautiful piece of fruit and handed it to grandma Buna to carry it for me.
He knew how to make a violin from a dry corn stalk and play it for me. We were best friends.
Some time went by. My mother was pregnant with my sister when she and my father took me on a train and stopped at my grandparents’ home that late summer. My grandfather had passed away.
I didn’t know what that meant. It was a nice unexpected excursion for me, but I realized that something was different than usual when I saw my aunts and a few neighbors all wearing black and talking in a low voice.
By the time we got in the yard, nobody paid attention to me. Mom was crying. She hugged her mother and sisters and went in the house. The first room was the living room with a cooking area, but they didn’t stop there. Buna opened the second room, the one for guests, where I wasn’t allowed to play. When they got in that room, they were not aware that I was following them.
And there was my grandfather, lying on a rug on the floor. I didn’t scream. My family members were crying and wailing and I stood there watching. I was seven years old, living in a communist country, where people couldn’t buy a coffin when they needed it. They had to go and order it and the body was kept on the floor until the coffin arrived.
The whole scene was pretty scary, but not for me. I walked outside and went in the backyard where my oldest cousin was carving a piece of wood. He was making a cross for the grave.
It was sunny and pretty hot, but I remember that quince tree and my cousin working under its shade. I joined him for a while, but when some vanilla fragrance had spread in the air, I rushed in the summer kitchen where one of my aunts was making donuts.
Grandma Buna was sitting on the edge of the daybed and wiping her tears. The sound of her voice was soft and I went and sat next to her while she was finishing a story.
“I asked him to pray to God and receive Jesus and he always said that he would not die until he would get right with God.” She stopped and sighed. My mom and dad were listening.
“And?” my mother whispered.
Grandma blew her nose.
“I don’t know. He got bad, then worse and when the doctor left yesterday, I knew there was no hope.” She tidied the margin of the bedspread with her tired hand. “He turned on a side to face the wall and I bent over to see him. He couldn’t talk anymore. I saw a tear coming down on his face, and then he was gone.”
My heart ached and I stayed there in the dim light and sobbed.