To Plant a Flower

We will bury my grandpa next week. It will be the second funeral I’ve gone to this year and ever.


No one wore black. He had told them not to. And he and his wife told them often enough that they remembered.

His eldest daughter wore white, carrying her shoes over the grass. Her sister’s dress had flowers all over and of all colors; she tied a bow around her loose ponytail like he would tug on when she was little. His son wore one of his father’s old navy suits. It had a shine to it, which distracted from how tight it was around his belly. And the tie had one of his father’s gemstone pins stuck through it.

The rest of the family followed suit. Browns and greens and yellows and baby blues and baby pinks. They looked like a Crayola box. Those who had sunglasses kept them in their pockets or purses along with the tissues.

He was in the middle of it all and silent, same as he ever was while all the attention went to his wife. She wore red. She stood between her husband and a picture of the two dancing at their son’s wedding. She never wore much jewelry and didn’t wear much today: earrings, a gold necklace of the cross, her wedding ring on her left hand and his on her right.

After everyone had hugged and had a laugh at the older grandkids who rarely dressed up and looked that way — one had his tie too short, another his collar unbuttoned — the pastor asked everyone to join him in the Lord’s Prayer. Most mumbled through it, a couple did the sign of the cross, some just stared at the ground.

Then each took their turn to talk.

One of the grandchildren told a story about the time his grandpa taught him how to change a car tire. They had meant to change the brakes, but after they got the first tire off, they took turns trying to screw off the brake cylinder. Then grandpa started laughing. The people who had screwed on the cylinder had used a power tool. He and his grandson never had a chance. Then he tried one more time.

Two of the other grandkids spoke fewer words, quieter and facing their grandpa. A son-in-law thanked him for helping to raise his kids. So did a daughter-in-law. Another son-in-law told the story about when he asked his blessing to marry his daughter and how long the older man had stared at him with those basset-hound eyes of his, how slowly he wiped his mouth drawing out his fixed frown then reached out his hand. “Of course. But it’s my daughter you should really be asking,” he had told the man who now started snorting at the memory.

That man’s wife stood up with her flower dress and bow. She knuckled at the corner of her eye. She said that some years ago on Christmas Eve she surprised everyone by showing them her tattoo, a rose above her left shoulder blade. She tugged at her dress sleeve to show it again now. Her mother turned away and her older sister sucked her teeth. They still hated the tattoo but were much quieter about it now. Back then after they and everyone else had finished criticizing the “ink stain,” she looked at her dad. His mouth and eyebrows pulling in opposite directions, he said, “I like it.”

His son rubbed at his forehead, though the sweat still fell down his cheeks. He talked about cooking carne asada with his dad in the backyard. He felt weird the first time he took over the grill for a family barbecue. It was on his dad’s Saint’s Day, and he thought he should be able to relax. He handed his dad a beer instead of the tongs. He was facing the flames with his dad behind him talking to his compadre, but he wasn’t sure which was making him sweat. When he thought the first steak might be ready, he asked his dad to come take a look. His dad got up, walked over and looked down. Then he looked at his son and squeezed his shoulder and sat back down. A week ago when he asked his dad if he knew what would happen when they took out the breathing tube, he said the old man looked at him and squeezed his hand.

His eldest daughter was already crying. She said she misses him, she loves him, she wants to hear his voice, to feel him hug her, to see his smile. She loved his smile. She said it was the greatest smile.

His wife was last. She leaned on her eldest daughter, burrowed her forehead into her son’s chest, held her other daughter’s hand. Then she stepped forward. “I love you,” she told him.

After a while, they lowered him into the ground and shoveled dirt on top of him. The clouds came in. It was going to rain soon.

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