The elevator opened; a doctor and a nurse came by, both making a sort of fast strut straight to Grandma’s door. When they were inside, my grandfather (Grandfather? He looked much too young and soldier-like for that) fiddled with his rifle for a moment; almost the way some men I knew fiddled with a pipe while the words they needed came to them.
“I’ve been dead a long while, and she’s lived her life. Met people, done things, raised a child. People change; even dead people change. I suppose I’ll know in a few minutes whether we’re still enough of who we used to be to still love each other.”
“So you don’t know?”
“No. I have a suspicion and a hope, but we’ll see.”
“She’s definitely dying, then?”
“In about 15 minutes. I’m her escort.”
Noreen swallowed a giggle when I repeated this. The local paper had been running an advert for “escort services” lately, and our father had hummed and muttered and hinted his way through explaining what such services entailed.
“Our soldier grandfather quirked his lip, somewhere between amusement and annoyance. “It’s not quite a dance I’m taking her too. “
I wanted to impress him, so I said “You’re a psychopomp! Noreen, he’s going to lead her to the Land of the Dead.”
He wouldn’t tell us much about what it was like being dead. “It’s just like being alive, if you set aside the fact that it’s totally different. Some things stay, and others that you thought would never change just fade away. I can still assemble a rifle, or the ghost of one. I’m pretty sure I used to be able to wiggle my left ear, but I can’t now.”
“We should go in now; there’s just a few minutes left. If you want to do me and your Granny a favor, see if you can open a window in there, even a crack. I am very pleased I got to meet you.”