“I’d like to propose a toast to-”
“Grandma, no,” I hissed, pushing the glass in her hand back down to rest on the tablecloth. “This is not a party.”
“Nonsense! Every party needs a toast!” she exclaimed, swatting my hand away and raising her glass of water again.
“Grandma,” I whispered impatiently. “I don’t think you understand. This is not a party. It’s a funeral. Nobody here wants to toast.”
“I’d like to propose a toast!” she yelled louder, causing every pair of eyes in the room to turn to us. She raised her glass higher, grinning happily. “To the death of Marcus! Begone with you! I never liked you anyways!”
Small gasps traversed the room, and, to my horror, one man stood up looking so angry I thought his head would fly off his body and steam would blow out his ears like in the cartoons.
“What did you say?!” he shouted loudly, pointing to my grandmother and knocking over a glass of wine in the process.
“Come with me,” I muttered into Grandma’s ear, yanking her arm and leading her out into the hallway of the church.
“No one parties these days,” she said, shaking her head with disappointment. “Not even the young folks!”
“Grandma,” I told her, looking into her eyes and making my voice even like I’d been instructed to do so many times. “This is not a party. It’s a funeral.”
“I know that, dear. I proposed a toast to that fool’s death! What was his name again? Millard or Maxwell or…”
I watched her trail off, losing her train of thought as the light escaped her eyes.
“Marcus,” I told her, careful to be gentle. “His name was Marcus, and-” I stopped, blinking back tears that had made an appearance behind my eyes. “And he was the love of your life.”
“Oh,” was all that Grandma said.
“Yeah,” was all I could say in response.
I watched her struggle for a second, her face twisted as she tried to remember my grandfather.
“Did I love him?” she finally asked, sinking down against the wall until she sat on the hallway floor.
“Did he love me?”
Grandma smiled for a brief second, but then she began to cry silently, tears spilling over the edges of her empty blue eyes and down her wrinkled cheeks.
I knew she must have remembered something about him: the way he smiled at her every morning over the top of his newspaper, or how he sent her yellow carnations every first Sunday of the month. Somewhere in her mind, a door had creaked open the tiniest bit, letting just a few memories escape.
She sat there staring at the blank wall for a long time until, eventually, her tears had stopped and dried up.
After what seemed like an eternity, she looked up at me and smiled.
“Well, let’s go back in. I don’t want to miss Marcus blow out his candles!”