How It Felt When Opi Died

Journal Entry Written June 6, 2014

Yesterday I had a grandpa and today I do not. Opi died last night, on his birthday, which I didn’t even remember. I spent the day as normally as any other day. I wrote in my journal while eating breakfast, went to work, came home, taught piano, and then sat down to watch Elysium. Then, right in the middle of my ordinary, everyday life, the phone rings. I think nothing of it. Mommy comes down the stairs.

“Opi died,” she said. “We’re going to Omi’s.”

I don’t really remember what happened next. I remember feeling a shock, as though someone had just randomly turned the lights off in the middle of a party or school assembly. I remember Papa yelling and saying that we should have visited him because Opi had called Uncle John to tell him that we hadn’t come.  Suddenly, we were in the car… driving to pick up Krystyna from the movies… on our way to Omi’s house. 

In the car, Mommy called Uncle John to tell him. Omi was already asleep. Then she called Uncle David. 

I was in the backseat, trying to make myself as small as possible, crying and silently screaming into nothing. I was crying because I never got to say goodbye. Crying because I’ll never get to kiss him again.  Crying because the third man who ever held me in this world was gone. 

He asked for us, called for us, and we weren’t there. 

We got to Omi’s house and saw Uncle John talking on the phone outside. Auntie Regina arrived shortly afterwards. They went inside to tell Omi.

The rest of us sat in the dark waiting. I couldn’t look at Opi’s desk, see his pencils, hear the creak of his chair, or notice his frayed cushion without crying. At length, Omi came down, dressed in black, and we all got in the car to drive to the care home.

At first, I couldn’t go in to look at Opi’s body but then I forced myself to look. There was my Opi, lying as though he had just laid down to sleep.  He looked so peaceful and quiet. No ragged breathing, no blue ears, no veins popping out, no runny nose. Just my Opi, silent and still, as though he was a wax figure. 

I can hear him laughing and saying, “isn’t it?”, twiddling his thumbs at us, and singing “Oh, ist das schon,” and calling Papa “Eddie”, and pronouncing my name like Katzandra. I saw his little shoes in the corner and the BC Catholic paper on his desk, and Rango still tied to his bed.  I wanted Opi to get up. To wake up with that dazed look on his face, followed by that smile of recognition when he saw me. I wanted him to stroke my hair, and ask me about school, and tell me I’m a young lady or a fraulein, or give me transit directions, or tell me about the books he was reading, or stories about his time in Kitimat. Stories that I was going to write into a book one day but now I can’t because I can’t remember the details and now I can’t even ask him. 

We went to Omi’s house afterwards and drank tea and took out some photos of Opi. I spilt the flower vase when I leant over to see them and water got everywhere. I saw Opi’s prayer book, worn-out and duct-taped together on the pool table and I almost took it. I almost reached into the bag to put it in my pocket but I didn’t. I hope I will get that prayer book and be allowed to keep it. If I can’t have Opi back, I at least want that prayer book. 

We got home around 1:30am and I don’t even remember falling asleep. Suddenly, I was awake and I saw that it was 7:00. By 7:30, I was on the bus and going to work. I had to force myself not to think the entire day.  Everytime I thought, I teared up. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them see – this was the thought running through my brain.

It was weird to see other people going about their day: their normal, ordinary routine while I was without my  Opi. I think about how I’ll never knock on the door and hear him say “Coming” as he gets off his favourite, weathered chair or how he’ll never walk me to the bus stop. I’ll never lean on his shoulder again or lovingly touch his hand or see him walking slowly and seriously along.  

My bed is covered in tissues. My eyes are still overflowing with tears. I’m thinking about one of the few kind-hearted, generous men I know. This morning, my eyes were so puffy I could barely open them. My vision was blurry the whole day. 

I should have visited him more when he was at the care home. I never got to play that game of chess with him.  I weep for all the memories and all the future memories that will never be. I took a picture of Opi on the last day I saw. That was two weeks ago, May 23, 2014. He’s old and weak but he’s smiling in the spring sun and he’s happy. When I zoom in, I can see the creases on his skin when he smiles, and the blotches of red on his cheeks, and the deep indent on his Adam’s apple and I love him. 

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