It was a room of cloying Granny hugs and cheek pinching aunties wiping away big sobbing tears. It was the best room and on the large pine table Granddad lay still, tucked into his satin lined oak box quiet dead in his Sunday best bib and tucker.
The room was dark and stale. Full of heavy furniture and heavy hearts. He wasn’t old but then, to me at the age of three he seemed positively antique. All leathery and worn out with too much fresh air and hard physical work.
I was lifted high for my peek.
“Give the lad a look!”
I tensed my body like a plank, as toddlers do, and cried for my mother who was crying for her dead father.
Uncles chatted softly and I was the subject of too much Uncly head patting.
I wriggled free and darted from the best room and it’s dreary cold gloom and ran towards the bright outside light and clean air, alive with promise and free from death’s grimace.
I escaped into the orchard to eat until fit to burst, the green unripe pears squirming in my tummy like wriggly caterpillar soup.
A search party of older cousins dragged me back to the old house. My mother fussed and cleaned me up. Spitting into a hankie to wipe my face clean of pear juice.
Then all the women and snot-tripping younger children lined up in front of the house like servants for a photograph as my Dad and Uncles carried Granddad out.
His coffin was closed. I never did get that last peek. I remember him on the tractor and of hay fights in Summer, not a corpse in a box in a dank room.
We watched the hearse creep along the lane and down the Glen until out of sight past the rhododendrons where the foxes lived.
Then, Granny led everyone indoors to make mountains of sandwiches and kettles of tea in readiness for the returning men.