Poppy’s Last Laugh
There wasn’t a dry eye in the big church that morning. Not unusual for a funeral, and especially for a man like my Poppy. That was what everyone called the old man who lay in sweet repose in the pretty wooden box and the only name by which I knew him. And the only name he knew me by was “Sonny,” even though I was named after him.
I was seven years old when he died and he was old. That was all I knew. And I knew this because that is what he told me anytime I asked his age.
“Old,” he would answer and then pick me up and dance around the kitchen with me until I was too big for that and he was too old.
There was a crowd there that day for his service. More people than I had ever seen at one time including the Christmas play. Looking back Poppy must have been a pretty important man to more than just me for such a turn out. People just kept coming, filling in sad face after sad face and I watched. My grandma made me. She said Poppy would have wanted it that way seeing how I was his favorite. That favorite part was something she whispered to me, not wanting to make any of the other grandchildren uptight.
So I stood there twisting and turning and watching stranger after stranger make their way up to say their final goodbye. Here they would come shuffling up like they had lost their best friend, and I guess in a way some had, seeing how Poppy was easy to be friends with.
I had never seen faces so long and eyes so fill with tears. That was until they took a peek in on my Poppy. Then like magic their tears would stop and grinning smiles would replace their frowns. You’d think they were looking at a newborn baby and instead of my wrinkly old Poppy they way their faces lit up, just the way Poppy would have wanted it to be. He didn’t like tears or sad faces. He told me so in a whispered voice as the end grew near for him and it was just the two of us in his hospital room.
` And when it looked like I was going to wiggle away and go take my seat with my mama and daddy, my grandma squeezed my hand and whispered how proud she was of me for listening to my grandpa and how proud he would be too. She was smiling too.
We all wondered how she would hold up. Her smile meant the most to me. Even when one of my uncles shot me a mean face after looking in at my Poppy and what I had done for my old grandpa like I promised, I didn’t second guess myself. My grandma made sure of that.
“You be sure I’m wearing my glasses,” my grandpa whispered there toward the end, “And not the ones with the medicine in them.”
I told him I would.
The glasses with medicine were his prescription glasses, the ones he spent more time looking for than wearing. The glasses he wanted me to put on him were those he wore when he wanted to make us kids laugh. They were his funny face glasses, left over from some dress up party years back. They were glasses with no lens, and a big plastic nose, and a little curly black plastic mustache. Poppy would always wear those funny face glasses when he chased us kids around the house Sunday afternoon. That was when we would all show up after church for grandma’s fried chicken, potato salad, and sweet iced tea. Poppy would chase grandma too and sometimes she would let him catch her and hug on her and kiss her while we all laughed. I guess that’s why grandma didn’t stop me when on my tip toes I reached in and switched out Poppy’s medicine glasses for the ones with the big nose and the little curly black mustache which didn’t cover his bushy white old man’s mustache very well.
Grandma, she understood. After living with Poppie all those years, my grandma understood and she squeezed my hand her tears and frown gone from her face as I took my place beside of her, not sure what I should do with my grandpa’s glasses. The ones with medicine in them. My grandma said put them in my pocket. I did. And I still have them.
They are too strong for me but sometimes I put them on and look in the mirror at my grandpa’s face. I have and bushy old man’s mustache now. And I tickle my grand-babies with it and their grandma too while they watch and laugh. And I have some funny face glasses of my own. And sometimes I put them on and chase my grandchildren around when they all show up on Sunday’s after church.
I think about Poppy often these days, and how the whole church went from sad to happy that afternoon all those years ago when he got the last laugh. And think about my promise to be good and live right and love Jesus so I could meet up with him in Heaven and see the angels laughing when they open the gates for the two of us, both wearing our funny face glasses.
Edward Reed Copyright 2018 This is a work of fiction.
Other works by the author.