The only time I had ever seen my grandfather cry was also the first time I had ever seen an adult blatantly lose touch with reality. His first wife, my grandmother, Angelina, had died when I was five. She had been dead for maybe a week, and my grandfather came to our house and told my mother that he had come home from work and Angelina wasn’t there. Did she know where Angelina was?
I remember feeling confused. It seemed like my grandfather was pretending or playing a game. Except the bad feeling in my stomach told me something else was going on.
My mother told my grandfather to sit down and then she gently explained to him that Angelina had died, that there had been a funeral, did he remember the funeral? A look came over my grandfather’s face, one that I’ll never forget. He looked stricken. His face trembled and he began sobbing uncontrollably. He became a small child in my mother’s arms and that terrified me. How could this old man, my grandfather, turn into a small child? How could he forget that this wife had died when he had been at the funeral? I didn’t understand. My father was there too, but he had no idea what to say or do. He stood nearby and didn’t say a word. My mother held my grandfather and talked to him in a soft voice. My mother had the situation under control. She knew exactly what to do. Or at least gave that impression, which I suppose amounted to the same thing.