By Patricia LaPointe
My Grandpa Pasquale was my best friend when I was four-years-old. He had to be. I was given the American female version of his name. He understood more English than he could speak so I needed to learn some basic Italian.
He lived with my Aunt Jo, upstairs from us and it was my job to go get him for meals. I would race down the stairs ahead of him and he’d call out “Patty, aspat- wait. I’d sit and talk to him for hours, never considering he might not understand everything I was saying. When he was overloaded by my words, he’d say Patty, you cyuck ya don- a chatterbox. He’d always be smiling or giggling when he said this, often pulling me on to his lap.
One day, shortly before my fifth birthday, I was going up to get him for breakfast, when Aunt Jo stopped me at the door. “ Grandpa isn’t feeling good. He’s going to stay up here.”
“Can’t I go see him?”
“Not today, Patty.”
As I turned to leave, there was an ambulance parking in front of the house. The EMTs were coming up the stairs with a stretcher. I tried to follow them up the stairs, but they wouldn’t let me.
I was waiting at the bottom of the stairs when they came down with Grandpa; Aunt Jo following close behind.
Grandpa called me over. “Pasquala, I’m sick and they are taking me to get better.”
“Will you be back for my party?”
“Of course. I’ll be there”
Several days went by. A week before my birthday, Mom told me Grandpa wouldn’t be coming home.
“Yes he will. He said so.”
Every day I’d say “Grandpa is coming home today.” I would run to the front of the house, knowing he’d be home at any time.
Finally, I was told that Grandpa went to heaven.
“But I know he’ll be back for my party.” I’d respond.
Taking me to the funeral home didn’t convince me. I was not allowed to into the room where he laid. But, I could get up on my toes and see Grandpa’s head.
“He’s in there sleeping. Can I wake him up?” I asked Mom.
She simply replied, “No.”
“OK, I’ll see him at my party.”
I spent most of my party staring at the door. Of course, he didn’t come.
Near the end of the party, Aunt Jo gave me one more present. She said Grandpa had bought it before he “left.” It was a tiny doll that looked like the Gerber baby. I broke down in tears, I finally believed he wasn’t coming back. That doll, now 65-years-old, remains in my dresser drawer ’til today.
© 2021 Patricia LaPointe
Pat LaPointe, editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter, is contributing editor of the anthology, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment. In addition, she conducts writing workshops for women — both online and onsite. Pat’s essays and short stories have been published widely. Currently, Pat is completing her first novel, forthcoming late 2021.
I loved your story, Patricia. You brought me to tears. I had a wonderful grandpa, too. Thank you for reminding me.