My grand-papa was a brilliant man. He used to bring me lunch down at the mill, and would sit with me while I ate. He would tell me of the war. He told me jokes, and if other fellows came around he would make the nice ones laugh and the means ones leave.
He would take the lunch box back home with him and tell me “Whenever the end comes, it won’t matter none, cause I’ll still love you in the afterlife.” He never liked saying goodbye. He wouldn’t answer any questions ’bout it either.
He got sick suddenly, and couldn’t make the trip for lunches anymore. Sometimes grand-mama would come with lunch, but she wouldn’t stay. If there were fellows around she wouldn’t even get out of the ol’ truck, just wait for me to notice her there.
I visited grand-papa every Monday and Wednesday night, and all day Saturday. I would bring books to read to him, and puzzles he might like. I’d bring him dinner in the lunchbox sometimes. He ate in bed now, so no one else wanted to eat in there with him.
Suddenly, one day, he wasn’t in his bed. No one ever found him. Something inside me heard him whisper “Verify your own self, got it?”
I spent every moment I could spare walking the fields around his home, and around town, and the whole area. I told everyone I came across that he was missing. After a few weeks, people sort of looked at me with pity and nodded their heads, and made polite excuses to finish an errand. I knew they thought he was dead. I knew he was just missing.
Months passed by and I could feel his presence walk by during lunches. Every Monday and Wednesday night I would walk the trails around the town in the countryside hoping to find him. With autumn came the fog, and the chilly night-time air.
Grand-mama called me over to her home, and when I got there I saw my parents car there too. I went inside and they all were grim and silent.
“I think you should stop looking now,” Grand-mama said. “It is getting cold and you’ll catch your death out there. He is gone, just accept it.”
Mom and dad just nodded slowly.
I couldn’t bring myself to cry in front of all of them. I quietly got up and went out on the porch. The sun was setting behind the fog somewhere and it made the dusk a strange swirling mess. I saw him for an instant, with the fog moving around him, and any sadness was replaced with excitement.
I leap off the porch, and sprinted to the spot I saw him, and there was more movement further from the house. The shape seemed vaguely humanoid. I ran after it. After I knew I was far enough away from the house they couldn’t hear me, I called, “Grand-papa, if that is you, please talk to me. I miss you.” In that vulnerable moment, the sadness of him being gone hit me, and I dropped to my knees. “Don’t leave yet.” I said.
I heard him approach, and I saw him kneel down. It was a young version of Grand-papa looking eye to eye with me.
“I told you I’d always love you, even in the afterlife. I have lobbied for this chance to tell you, let go. If you don’t let me go you’ll die sooner than you’re meant to. Let me go and you’ll be able to verify your own self, okay?”
“Oh grand-papa I love you too, and I’ve looked everywhere for you. Why did you disappear?” I tried to stop the tears.
“Doesn’t matter. I need your word you’ll let me go.”
“I give my word to let you go. I’ll never forgot you grand-papa.”
The fog cleared, and I saw what I had hunted for months, grand-papa’s clothes and a few bones. Some animals had taken most of his bones, but these were his clothes, and his turquoise bolo tie was a few feet away. I gingerly collected them, took off my jacket and bundled it all up. I found my way to grand-mama’s home in the darkness and fog. I placed the bundle on the kitchen table and said to my parents and grand-mama, “I will stop looking now.”