19: The Request

19: The Request

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

The Request

More and more, when I single out the person who inspired me most, I go back to my grandfather.

~James Earl Jones

I woke up when I felt someone sit on the side of the bed. I pushed my pregnant body up on my elbows, expecting to see my five-year-old daughter in need of comfort or refuge from a nightmare. Instead, I was surprised to see my Italian grandfather sitting there looking at me.

“Pop! What are you doing here?” I said.

He smiled and patted my leg. “I come to tell you something and to ask a favor.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, still groggy from sleep. He put his hand on my rounded stomach and smiled at me.

“You will have a boy coming soon,” he said.

My jaw dropped. “How do you know?” He nodded, tapped his finger against the side of his head, and smiled — a gesture he always made to assure me of his wisdom.

“Now I ask a favor since I never had a son. For you to give him my name as part of his,” he said.

I could never refuse my “Pop” any favor he asked of me. “I will be happy to give him your name,” I said. He nodded and smiled, then stood up. He waved goodbye and walked out of the room.

I let my head sink back onto the pillow and lay there thinking about what had just happened. It must have been a dream, I reasoned, because my grandparents and other relatives lived three thousand miles away. But I was awake, and he was there. He touched me and talked to me.

Dawn was surrendering to daylight when the telephone started ringing. I wondered who would be calling me this early as I stumbled out of bed. My aunt’s voice greeted me when I answered the phone.

“I have bad news,” she said. I sucked in my breath and listened.

“Pop had a heart attack in his sleep and passed away,” she said. I could feel the goose bumps rising on my arms as I slid onto the chair.

“I know,” I said.

My aunt gasped. “How did you know? Did someone else call you?”

I wanted to tell her about Pop’s visit, but I knew it would be impossible for her to understand because I was still struggling to put what happened in perspective. “Yes, yes, the call woke me up, so I don’t remember who called,” I said, knowing that was plausible since my relatives usually forgot about the three-hour time difference between the east and west coast.

We talked for a few minutes and agreed it would be unwise for me to travel during the last trimester of my pregnancy, so I wouldn’t attend the funeral. She said she would send me a copy of the obituary and one of the funeral cards.

I rested my head on the table, feeling a mixture of sadness at his passing and joy from his visit. Memories of my grandfather played through my mind for the next few days along with the reality of his visit to me. I knew it wasn’t a dream. It was too real. I felt his presence.

When the copy of the obituary and the funeral card came in the mail, I read the brief chronicle of my grandfather’s life. He was born in Sicily, immigrated to America, married, and fathered two daughters. He was a self-taught mandolin player, having learned to play by ear at an early age. His work history, retirement date and church affiliation were included.

The funeral card showed the cause and time of his death. I blinked and read the time listed once again. Pop’s time of death was only minutes before I awoke to find him sitting on the side of my bed.

I did give birth to a boy two months later. His middle name is Sebastian to honor my grandfather. And like his great-grandfather, he is a self-taught musician of a similar stringed instrument — the guitar — which he learned to play by ear at an early age.

My loving memories of “Pop” live on.

~L.A. Kennedy

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