“This is me in the rain and I’m smiling,” my five-year-old says about the stick figure with blue circles for eyes and red circles for hands.
“And this is Grandpa in the place that dead people go. And he’s underground. This is his tombstone.” She points to a little orange rectangle. A double arrow connects the little orange rectangle to a big, smiling stick figure in a big brown rectangle. There are crosses on either side of Grandpa’s head.
Thinking inside my Mama-skin, I conclude that my daughter’s self-portrait with Grandpa is an idea that had bubbled to the surface, instigated by the altarcito her kindergarten class made for the Day of the Dead. Nothing more.
But I file the idea away for a time when I write about a good man who has passed into the Afterlife, a man who watches over this wife of the last forty-seven years, trying to send her messages of comfort from beyond. He hangs out in the corners of rooms trying to get someone—anyone—to deliver a message to his wife, but everyone—his four grown children, their spouses, eleven grandchildren, including two grandsons who share his name—nobody takes notice.
Then one day he whispers to one of his granddaughters. She thinks it was her idea to pick up the crayons and draw a cemetery in the rain. She’ll show the picture to her grandmother when she comes to visit at Thanksgiving.
Grandma covers her mouth and puts her other hand on her heart.