After my grandpa’s funeral, I trudged into the backroom were he passed away. I took off my dark blazer, white shirt, tie, and slacks and replaced them with blue shorts and white t-shirt. (My parent’s house was full; so I had to stay in the one room every one else wanted to avoid.)
I ran five miles that day. It was clear and sunny as is the case in California most of the year. My heart felt dead and heavy like tarnished lead. My neck slumped me toward the ground, my arms barely swung by my side; for the first few miles, I was miserable.
But around mile four, a presence overcame me. And I imagined Grandpa Perez as a teenager. His hair was freshly cut, short, thick, full, and lampblack; his figure tawny the color of bronze. He wore dark brown polyester shorts that were too tight, a bright white shirt (also way too tight), and, of course, his world famous black leather brogues. The shoes made me chuckle. I wonder if they ever left his feet. I suspect he may even have been buried in them. They had divots around the stitches, which, for some unspeakable reason, I associate with carpentry–the trade that brought him to California and which supported my young father until he was old enough to enlist in the Airforce. They were “nice shoes”: the kind I imagine an old world cobbler repairing with delight.
Even though my grandpa seemed sort of ridiculous in that outfit, his bones were no longer brittle as chalk, his skin was no longer like buzzard’s chin spattered with tan shoe polish, and his lungs no longer gurgled with each terrible gasping breath. For the last mile, my grandpa was young, strong, and full of life again. For the last mile, my grandpa was a runner, like me.
Rest in Peace Grandpa.