July 15, 2002, 1:53pm
I've been thinking about my Papou a lot lately.
My Papou was near the youngest in a line of 7 seven kids. Out of the seven Biensoul first-generation kids, he was the first to die. This was four years ago.
I was in college, just starting my junior year (the year, as I term it now, that everything fell apart). My father came to get me, and I knew that Papou was gone.
I spent the entire week in Annapolis, trying to be strong for Yaya and Daddy. Every fifteen minutes one of them would break down, so I didn't. I refused to get sucked in...balance was needed. Someone had to wash the dishes and answer the phone, the door, sign for the flowers when they arrived. I tried my best, and called my professors, my boss (no, I told them, I'd be out all week, could I get the assignments over email?)
There was the funeral...I remember sitting there, and watching all of the people I loved and care about just lose it...and all I could think about was that my exboyfriend had come with a friend of mine...my neighbor had come...my uncle, who never shows any emotion, who ordered the flowers because he has the best taste, wailed and cried and broke down...
I didn't want to see my Papou in the casket. I remember him saying, "I don't want people standing around me sniffling and saying 'Doesn't he look natural?' because I won't!"
I was the last one in our row. I was overwhelmed, my knees felt weak and I shook and sobbed, and I felt an arm holding me up and a voice saying "That's your Papou...that's him...it's okay." I kissed him on the cheek and it was like kissing a plastic ice pack that had been in the freezer...so cold and hollow...
The voice was my "Uncle" Nicky; one of my dad's best friends...he practically carried me down the aisle and outside where it was a gorgeous September day.
On Friday, a bunch of the cousins and the brothers and sisters had come over for my Aunt and Uncle's 60th wedding anniversary, and everyone started telling "Uncle Charlie" stories...stories that showed an entirely different version of Papou...a partier, a lax-disciplinarian, a great card player, and a great brother. My Uncle George still refers to him in present tense: Charlie always deals cards like this; Charlie says to do this; Charlie and I talked about this (recently)...I thought about how little I knew him even though I spent so much time with him.
I think about his hands: they were always soft and warm; so soft, like gloves, and smooth. Sometimes his left hand would be a bit colder than his right because of the shaft for his kidney dialysis...but we were content, sitting on the couch, watching tv, holding hands...
I'm rambling today. I finally miss him.