I had begun the Monday by discussing tragedies. According to my English teacher, a man’s death, however heartbreaking or disastrous, would not be a tragedy. To her, Aristotle, Frye, Hegel and Schlegel, it would simply be pathetic to them, there was not enough scope to a single mundane death to render it significant. An epic was needed; a grandiose tale chronicling the fall of a character larger than life but still diminutive before death. A simpleton stepping before an oncoming bus was not enough to qualify as a tragedy.
I had ended the Monday also discussing tragedies. My grandfather had died.
Who was he? Who was he to me? An old man. Father of my father. Liver of a hard life. Lover of my father’s mother. Enjoyer of few joys. My grandfather.
I had lost my shoes in the ditch next to my school. I had fallen in and it appeared that they had followed suit. The ditch was deep and we were poor. Shoes came rarely and when they did they were usually the cheap used ones. My shoes had been new. I was told later by my mother that my grandfather had labored to fish them out with a long stick; my mind’s eye sees him now. Bent over the chasm. What did he see in there? My shoes or me? I got my shoes back the next day.
He had taught me how to bike. It was embarrassing not to know, so I demanded the lessons. By attaching a metal bar at an angle to the end of my bicycle, he could hold on and direct me away from dangerous falls. I didn’t fall and I learned how to ride a bike. Like they say, I never forgot. I couldn’t.
He had taken me up the mountains to catch butterflies. We saw trees blossoming with dainty white and pink flowers. In the bottle that I brought with me stored a caterpillar I had caught. Maybe one day it would blossom as well.
I was craving sweets. I was craving for pets. I was craving for bananas. I asked and I received. He bought me my lollipops, my baby chicks, and my slightly sweet and succulent bananas; just how I liked them.
According to my grandmother, it had been during the night. She found him the next morning on the kitchen floor, already cold. Maybe he had gotten up to get his medication. Maybe he had never made it there.
We all die. A lucky few of us get to choose the time and place. Most of us live in squalid fear—when is my next day going to arrive? Having never met our mortality, we treat it as a stranger and thus forget about the one friend that will stay with us until we gasp our last breath. That Monday was a good choice. His children had all planned holidays and travels. Even his wife had wanted to travel around the country. Yet for some reason all of them had planned them for some time after that Monday. He chose well.
My father collapsed upon hearing the news. How? When? Why? My father had cried all night. His sobs made my baby brothers, too young to understand, giggle and laugh. A vision of a cold stone body thousands of miles away from his oldest son. My father is still crying.
I do not suppose I am smarter than my English teacher. Aristotle, Frye, Hegel and Schlegel probably all have the mental advantage over me as well. But in this instance, in this time, they are wrong. Simply wrong.
It was a tragedy in every sense of the word.