|The Day Of Crying
2003 by Linda Hoagland
It happened when I was six years old. I saw my daddy cry. I didn’t know what to think about his crying. I had always heard him tell my older brother that grown men don’t cry. It makes them sissies.
“Crybaby! Crybaby!” I shouted at my brother every time there was a tear in his eye.
“I’ll get you, Linda Ellen,” he replied as he chased me vowing to break every bone in my body if he could get his hands on me.
We weren’t planning to go see my grandmother in West Virginia, but after a policeman came to the door and spoke with daddy, daddy told us to get cleaned up right now because we had to go to a funeral.
I didn’t know what a funeral was but I could tell by the look on daddy’s face told me it wasn’t going to be fun.
We rode in our green ’51 Ford traveling from Ohio to West Virginia. Mommy yelled at Terry and me for every little thing. She kept telling us to settle down. We weren’t doing anything that we didn’t ordinarily do when we were forced to sit next to each other in the back seat of the car.
There was a funny feeling in the air. I couldn’t have described it as tension when I was six because I didn’t know what that was either.
Mommy didn’t speak during the trip except to yell at Terry and me. Daddy didn’t speak at all. The only talking my brother and I did was to growl at each other.
When we arrived at grandma’s house, there were lots of people standing around talking. Some ladies were dabbing at their eyes with small, white hankies.
Terry and I were told to be very quiet, not to run and act silly, and to stay out of the parlor.
I stood around for a while, fidgeting, trying my best to keep myself occupied and out of trouble, but the parlor was calling to me.
Grandma’s parlor was so fancy with its starched doilies and shiny knick-knacks.
I watched several ladies go into the parlor, stay a few minutes, then leave, holding their small, white hankies. I had never seen so many small, white hankies. Some were lacey; some were embroidered with initials. They were so pretty and so delicate looking. I wished I had one for my very own.
I was tired of standing so I rocked for a while on the wooden, ladder-backed, rocking chair. Mommy yelled at me for rocking too hard and too fast and wouldn’t let me rock anymore.
I decided to stand next to mommy and roll against her new black dress. I wanted her to get mad at me and send me outside to play. Terry was already outside and that’s where I wanted to be.
“Go sit down, Linda Ellen. You’re wrinkling my dress.”
“I want to go outside with Terry.”
“No! You’ll get filthy. Sit down there and be quiet.”
“You let Terry go outside,” I whined.
“He’s a boy and older than you. He won’t get dirty. Now go over there and shush. Right now, Linda Ellen,” she said meanly as she pointed to a empty chair.
I went back to rocking but was told to get up so a fat old lady could sit down. The lady was crying softly and dabbing at her eyes with one of those small, white hankies. I wished I had one of those hankies.
I watched and waited for my chance to go into the parlor. No one was watching me so I crept into the forbidden room.
The room smelled different because of the pretty bouquets for flowers that had been placed all around the room. The furniture was pushed back to the wall to allow space for the flowers and a big box that stood on a stand in the middle of the floor.
I looked around to see that no one had entered the room through the doorway behind me. I walked up to the box so I could see what was inside of it.
The top of the box was propped open and I saw white satin and lots of fancy lace attached to the inside of the top of the box.
When I stretched as far as I could to see what was inside the box, that’s when I saw the woman who looked like my grandma.
She was lying there. She wasn’t moving. Her eyes were closed like she was sleeping. I stared at her waiting for her to move, but she didn’t.
She didn’t move one single bit.
One of her arms was lying on her chest. In her hand was a rose, a red rose. She was dressed in grandma’s best Sunday dress. Her hair was curled like my grandma’s salt and pepper colored hair.
She wore her eyeglasses even though her eyes were closed. Daddy would be mad about that. He said you shouldn’t wear your eyeglasses when you laid down because you might fall asleep. You might break them.
The woman looked peaceful and pretty, but that woman wasn’t my grandma. That woman didn’t have the little hairs on her upper lip like my grandma. That woman wasn’t soft and round like my grandma. That woman’s skin hung loose from her body. She wasn’t fat enough to be my grandma.
When I slipped out of the room, some sad looking men went in and took away the box. We were told we had to drive to the cemetery for the services.
Daddy was quiet. I didn’t like him to be quiet. I saw his hand hold onto the steering wheel of the car real tight. It made his knuckles look white and ugly.
He was so sad.
There was a small flag on our car and we were moved to the front of the long line of cars.
When we got to the cemetery, daddy got out of the car and told us to follow him. We climbed a steep hill and waited for the other people to arrive.
I wanted to pull my hand from mommy’s grip but no matter how much I wiggled and twisted, the grip would not let go.
I watched lots of people slowly climb the hill and gather around a hole in the ground where the box had been placed.
The ladies were dressed in their best clothes and the men were wearing suits.
The day was warm and sunny. It was a good day to run and jump and have fun. I didn’t want to stand still and listen to some man talk to the people gathered around that box. He looked like he was reading from a Bible.
I pulled and tugged trying to get my hand out of mommy’s grip. I started to say something to her when I saw her other hand rise into the air ready to strike at me. I stood up straight and tried to be good, at least for the moment.
When the man stopped speaking, the box began moving into the ground. There were men holding onto ropes and they slowly lowered the box into the ground.
Daddy started to cry.
Some of the grown-ups stood around daddy. They were holding him up. They didn’t want him to fall to the ground beside the box that was in the hole.
The grown-ups finally took daddy to the car and he sat behind the steering wheel staring out into space with giant tears streaking his face.
“Don’t cry any more, daddy,” I whispered to him when my brother and mother had climbed into the car.
He tried to smile at me but all he could do was shake his head to let me know that he would try.
I hope my brother forgives me for calling him those silly names.
Grown men do cry.
I know they do because I saw my daddy cry.
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