When my grandfather Ernst, or “Opi”, how we called him, died, I did not cry. I was about 12 years old and he was really charismatic. Whenever he came to visit, he had candies and coins falling out of his pockets on purpose. He looked so young and healthy, it was impossible to imagine he would die— ever. He just had an heart attack during his nap. So when my dad told my brother, my sister and I what had happened, we did not believe him. We were too young to realise nobody would ever joke about announcing someone’s death.
A few years later, when I heard my uncle Joe committed suicide, I knew it was true, but I still did not cry. It was weird because I loved him. I was always looking forward to seeing him because he liked to be around kids. We played cards and tricks and he was so funny. Once he took me to a bar when I was about 8 and I felt so great just because he was talking to me like I was a grown up; or maybe like he was my age. I wanted to know what had happened. Why in the world would Joe leave 3 children behind, his brothers, his mother, and me. I already knew he was alcoholic and depressed since his father had died, but I was probably too young to understand these reasons were enough to give up on life. Upon learning Joe had hung himself in his bathroom, I remained emotionless, a bit like a zombie.
Then my aunt Ewa died from cancer. At least this one was not a big surprise, she’d been sick for a long time. Again, I did not cry. She was also special to me though. A model of feminity, always elegant, wearing perfume and make up. Ewa was also fascinating because she was an astrologist and I believed her explanations about the zodiac signs and all. I was old enough by then to know that I desperately needed to cry, but it did not happen.
Now, I am able to cry when I feel like it, and there are thousands of times I could have cried and write something about it. But when I started crying yesterday, I was not sure why. Then I remembered Opi, Joe, Ewa and how much I still missed them. I realised how I had been tearlessly crying their loss for so long. I felt lonely and had horrible images of a faceless man hanging from a rope in a cold bathroom. I knew it was not me crying but my younger self. I could not stop sobbing. I started writing this story and about halfway through, I felt better. I remembered a line from Coldplay: “Those who are dead are not dead, they’re just living in my head”. I regretted that no-one in the family really talked about them anymore, and writing about it made me realise how vivid my memory of them still was. The words kept on flowing from me to the keyboard. Peace grew all around the computer screen and in the room. This is why I write.
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