I saw proof that true love existed for the first time when I was 18 years old. I mean, I’d seen examples of it beforehand, so I knew that it had to exist. But it wasn’t until I was 18 that I witnessed good solid proof of true love, right before my very eyes.
My paternal grandfather died unexpectedly. Kind of. Granted, he was in his 80s, and he had been battling Parkinson’s for many years. But that’s not what killed him. Or at least, it wasn’t the only factor. He checked himself into the hospital one afternoon because he was experiencing minor chest pain. They kept him overnight in at the hospital for tests and observations. It was there, in his hospital room, that someone left the window open. From the breeze that night, my elderly grandfather contracted the pneumonia that eventually claimed his life.
We had a bit of a shock. It was like one moment he’d visited the hospital, and the next he was gone. Within a week my family was talking about funeral arrangements. Viewings. Blessings. Flowers. Herses. There was a frenzy of activities that accompanied his death.
He was the first of my four grandparents to pass away, and easily the grandparent I felt the least connected with. It was nothing personal, I just shared him with 15 other grandchildren. I only ever saw him at extended family events, and even those had dwindled as my cousins and I grew older. Through the funeral plans, I learned that he had been kind of a prominent figure in the Leafton Latin community. The Spanish bakeries had even put up notice of his death and an obituary was published in the local Spanish paper.
The funeral was scheduled following my first university exams. It was a year of firsts. There had been viewings on the preceding evenings and then the formal funeral held at the local church that offered Spanish mass. From the church, we went down to the cemetery downtown. My grandmother, his grieving widow, had managed to remain rather stoic throughout it all. No tears.
Only after the priest said a few words in the cemetery by the tombstone, did I finally see her flinch. They asked her directly if she wanted to stay and watch the casket be lowered to the ground. She gave the shiny brown box a pensive gaze and decided slowly that she would rather not. She put the red rose she held in her hand delicately atop my grandfather’s final bed and turned and walked away.
At this point, my grandparents had already been separated for several years. In fact, I don’t think they lived together within my lifetime. My grandmother was always sickly, a diabetic, and required round the clock care. She always lived with one of her daughters. My grandfather, on the other hand, was much more independent. He always lived alone in a building with other retirees. But my grandparents were not divorced. They remained amicable always, from what I observed.
Now at the lunch that was held for immediate family following the funeral, my grandmother sat beside me picking at the full empanada on her plate. She had no intentions of eating it. Her eyebrows were knitted solemnly above her permanent smile, but she hadn’t spoken more than a few words the whole time. Neither had I. We were both women of few words.
It wasn’t until the bill had been paid and the plates were being cleared that I witnessed my proof of true love. As we stood up to leave the restaurant, I watched my grandmother glance over at the faces of our relatives. As people put on their coats and started to head to the door, it was like something clicked.
Maybe she was remembering the 60 odd years she spent with my grandfather. Or the 7 children they had together, and moved across the world for a better life. Maybe the magnitude of the situation was just finally hitting her. Whatever it was, grief swiftly overtook my grandmother. Her head lowered in pain, her face scrunched up in devastation and an river of tears flowed freely from her eyes.
I knew in that moment that true love must exist because I was certain that I had just witnessed the breaking of a heart.