When you’re seven and your Dad dies you will go to your first funeral.
You will like that everyone seems to be paying extra attention to you, but there will be a lump in your throat that you can’t swallow down.
You will feel annoyed at the sight of the packed church because your family is big and you know there won’t be a bench to fit you all.
You will feel pleasantly surprised to find that the good people of the church thought to save your whole family a bench of your own right in the very front.
You will feel lucky.
You will see a long box and an American flag so pretty over the top. You will wonder why it is not hanging on a flag pole, where it belongs.
You will look at the faces behind you because you are seven and you like to stare and you will see Penny. Penny who is always smiling and happy, the way anyone named Penny should be.
Penny, who likes your short hair and who’s carpet you threw up on when you wouldn’t stop eating pizza at her daughter Misty’s birthday party like she asked you to.
Penny who doesn’t go to church.
And you will remember she doesn’t go to church because Misty once told you they didn’t believe in God and you said a Hail Mary for them that night.
When you stare at the faces in the church and you stop at Penny, who is always smiling and happy, and you see that she is crying with a tissue in her hand, you will have your first moment. A moment when the dots begin to connect.
Because only something really bad could make Penny look like that in a place like this.
You will glance away quickly but every face will be the same. All of them crying.
The faces will make you sad. You will stop staring.
You will return your gaze to the box and you will know your Dad is in there. You will wait for him to come out. You will know that is just something he would do to get a good laugh out of everybody. You will remain hopeful and anticipate his joke.
But he will not come out.
The priest’s monotonous sing-song voice will pull you from your dots. He will talk about your Dad’s brown eyes which will get a small chuckle from the sniffling crowd because anyone with half a brain knows that your Dad’s eyes are the most sparkling beautiful blue eyes that ever were.
You will want to punch the priest in the face for calling your Dad’s blue eyes brown.
Your sister will nudge you with her elbow and point to your little brother who is smaller than you, but smarter. Smarter, because he connected the dots earlier. You know this because he’s already crying and you won’t cry until later.
You will walk away from the packed church feeling sad. People will encourage you to sing songs and act silly because they like to see the children happy when they have lost a friend. You will play your part. You will make them smile. But the lump in your throat that will not let you swallow will not be ignored.
You will go home with your big family, but it will not feel big anymore.