Untotaled: Stepping 9 — Goodnight, Sweet Prince (November 12th, 1965) … April 5, 2014

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(Transcript)

I was scared.

Normally, I was ecstatic to visit my grandpa’s house, because after a brief series of greetings and obligatory, slobbery kisses, I was allowed to go into the nearby living room where there was a large, brown horsehair couch–my favorite perch. I loved to rub my legs against the scratchy surface. It was a delicious brown–caramel, chocolate and orange soda, all “splurged” together.

But on November 12th, 1965, arriving at Grandpa’s home, it was a much different scene.

As always, I was greeted at the door by Queenie, his collie, who was overly zealous and friendly, and always smelled–well, pardon the cliché–like wet dog.

This time there was no greeting from Gramps. Instead, we found him in the living room, kneeling over Irma, whose breathing was laborious, was white as a sheet and had creamy drool dribbling out of the corners of her mouth.

Grandpa was crying.

My mother moved to his side to comfort him, and I stared at the suffering lady. I didn’t know much about Irma–she never talked. I mean literally, I had never heard her speak.

She was passed off by my Grandpa as his houseguest/friend/maid/cook. I heard relatives refer to her as “retarded, evil, a slut and a foreigner.” Absent understanding of what many of these words meant, my interpretation was to just stay away.

Irma seemed to have no problem with our distant relationship, so on this horrible day, when my beautiful, brown horsehair couch was turned into the deathbed of this strange woman, I heard my mother utter these words: “Jonathan, come over and say good-bye to Irma.”

Yes, this was a day and age when people actually died in their homes without heroic measures.

I thought to myself, “Say goodbye? I’ve never said hello.”

I eased over to her side and touched her forehead. It was clammy and cold. I jerked back and then was embarrassed by my revulsion.

“Goodbye, Irma,” I managed, and then shuffled out of the room.

Two weeks after Irma died, my mother went out to console Grandpa and spend the night, and they placed me on the brown couch to sleep. They turned off the light and I was left in the room with the memories of Irma and her demise.

I was so frightened.

Lying there on the couch, I thought I could smell her. It was horrible. Squeezing my pillow tightly, I prayed.

“God, I’m scared. Please take the scare away.”

I don’t remember anything after that. I went to sleep and woke in the morning without any signs of the previous night’s terror.

I was transformed–not just for that occasion. I can mark that night as the time when much of the childish apprehension, insecurity and trepidation departed from me, like a vapor, leaving a boiling pan of water.

I was stronger.

I would never, ever be that afraid again.

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