Today I went to the mall with my father. We were going suit shopping. Normally, I love going to the mall, swiping my charge, and carrying home bags. But today was very different. We were buying a suit for Shane's upcoming funeral.
The first salesperson we encountered was a flit of a girl. Younger than I am and "not my style," as my dad noted. She wouldn't take his measurements, didn't know how long alterations would take. So we moved on to the next store.
Click "read more" for the rest of my mall encounter and my conversation with Grandpa and Grandma.
As we approached the next suit department, my dad said, "I think that's the man you're looking for," and he was. Ed was old school salesman. In his 60s, in a suit, and knew what he was doing. He had my father in a suit that fit perfectly within minutes, somehow finding one that needed no alterations. We picked out shirts, and then it came time to pick out ties.
Shane was pretty stylin' and I like to attribute part of that to myself. Shane always had a knack for sticking me with the bill after picking out jackets, hats, and t-shirts. But I never really cared because he was my baby brother and what's a big sister for if not to buy stuff.
So I looked through the tables of ties. And I imagined that I was with Shane instead of my father, not willing to acknowledge that I was picking out a tie that Shane would never see. I brought 6 to the counter and knew that Ed disapproved. But my father trusted my advice, purchasing 2 that I could picture Shane wearing.
Instead of discussing the obvious, I talked about how good of a deal we had gotten. How lucky we were to have had Ed as our salesperson. How it was great that we did not have to have alternations made to my father's suit.
On the way home from finding appropriate funeral garb for my father, my grandpa called. Grandpa served in World War II. Grandpa had always been a hero to Shane and me. Grandpa broke my and my father's heart on the phone. He said how he felt helpless. How he wanted something to do. How he wanted to help. My father bravely navigated an 8-lane highway and spoke to Grandpa at the same time, expressing how we were all helpless and playing a waiting game as to when Shane would come home.
I then talked to Grandpa. I asked him what town in Austria he visited while he was still serving in the Army but stuck in Europe after the War had ended. Shane and I had visited my Grandpa and Grandma during Shane's leave time, and we were lucky enough to hear some of Grandpa's war stories. Grandpa told me he couldn't remember at the moment. We talked a little longer and he recollected that it was Strassburg, Austria. I don't know why the name of that town mattered so much, but I know it took Grandpa's mind off of the death of Shane for at least a few seconds.
And then I asked to talk to Grandma. Grandma is not, technically, my "real" grandma. My father's mom died about a year before I was born from breast cancer and I never had the pleasure of meeting her. Grandpa remarried my Grandma Hazel, and Shane and I never thought of her as our step-grandmother, only "Grandma." I remember one summer when we spent a week with our grandparents, Grandma was talking on the phone and made a reference to her step-grandchildren. I was young, didn't understand, and was furious. While we do not share blood, she is and always will be my Grandma. I always say that I inherited my ability to bake in the kitchen to her, despite the fact that this is scientifically impossible.
So I ask to speak to Grandma. And she was helpless. And I have to hold it together.
"Hon," she says, "Hon I am so sorry and we love you so much and we loved Shane so much and you are so special and we are praying for you." Grandma is the kindest person I have ever encountered. She goes on to say that she feels helpless. That she wants to help.
And so I tell her, "Grandma, I know that you feel like you aren't doing anything. But I know that you are praying. And I know that you love me. And I can feel your love and your prayers. And I need you to keep praying for me and for all of us."
I'm hoping that this is helping and not hurting. She says that she will pray. That she loves me. That she will do anything she can to help. And I don't know if I even believe in God at this point but I have to because that means that Shane is in heaven.
I don't know how I didn't cry when I spoke to her. After I got off of the phone, my dad told me that it was because Grandma needed me to be strong and to not cry.
Later in the day, I screamed at the top of my lungs in the car with the windows rolled up so that no one could hear, until I became hoarse, tears pouring out of my eyes, where no one could hear or see me.