"You can have anything of his you would like," my grandmother said as we stood in the doorway of her bedroom. It had been a month since my grandfather had passed away and yet I still expected him to be there. Everything looked the same. Not even the air had been disturbed and still, it was disturbing.
I sat down on my grandfather's side of the bed. The covers were pulled up and tucked under his pillow, crisp, military style. It was as if the bed had never been lived in, just the way they liked to keep it. His reading glasses were carefully atop of the newspaper he had been reading the night of his stroke. I shivered slightly, feeling the lump within my throat beginning to develop. My grandmother sat next to me, placing her hand on my lap.
"Go ahead," she repeated.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the things that I would want of his. The things I wanted, I knew I could never have. I wanted the last can of beer that ever touched his lips, the motor oil that stained all of his undershirts. I wanted to have the first robin that he saw every spring, the one that told him summer was soon to come. I wanted the handprints of flour he left on his navy blue work pants, every time he baked. I wanted the last pink chocolate he had eaten and the box it came in. I wanted the very last breath he took on this side of Heaven. I wanted him.
I cried the same single tear that I wiped off my grandfather's cheek the day he finally let go, letting it linger, a reflection of the pain that resonated so deep inside of me.
"Don't cry sweetheart." She kissed the top of my head.
I leaned into her, absorbing the warmth of her I so desperately needed to feel. "This is so hard. There is so much of him that I want, but if I can't have him I am not sure any of it means anything."
"It means everything," she said softly. "There is a little piece of him in everything still here. There is not one thing in this room that does not make me think of him." Her strong soothing voice began to waiver. "You just have to find the thing that speaks to you in that way." She gave me a gentle squeeze before leaving the room, shutting the door behind her.
I thought deeply about what she said. I got up slowly and walked to his dresser. With conviction I opened his top drawer. Carefully folded in the corner was a stack of white-cotton handkerchiefs. Right away I knew this was my heart's prize. I took one out and shut the drawer. I rubbed it against my cheek. I wanted to feel what he felt everytime he touched his "hanky" to his skin. It brushed me softly, like a feather in the wind.
I thought about how he always had one with him, accompanying him in his back pocket. I thought about how it contained every bead of sweat from his forehead, the echo of all the hard work he had done for his family. Not only was it a part of him, but he was a part of it.
In my hands was the link between; him and I, now and than, life and death.