A Story by Fetish Ewing

A story I wrote in freshman year of high school detailing the lesson I learned about the bonds that tie family together after my grandfather's passing while I was in the fifth grade.


The year before by grandfather died, I bought my dream hat at the local Wal-Mart. I also found these cool pair of sunglasses, but that’s a different story. I wore that hat everywhere. I put so much pride in that hat; all my friends were so envious of me. It was a black cap with a white stripe lining one of the sides. Even if I wore some piece of seven dollars from Sears, strangers thought I had the best fashion sense. Manhattan, Kansas made everything so easy.

Whenever I wore that hat to school, the littler grades would stare in awe at me because, in their minds, I held some position of importance. Being half African-American and Korean had its ups and downs, but momentarily, all because of that hat, I became “king” of my elementary school; the students were my country folk and the hat was my source of power. I was invited to the popular group. I played football with the toughest of them and I actually made my first touchdown. The girlfriends came and went like the snowflakes that cause the greatest snow days, but disappear without a trace the day after. I was climbing up that ladder. No, I was taking the elevator.

The night my family got word that my grandfather had passed, it was simple enough. My dad latched himself to the computer downstairs and did extensive research on how to hold a funeral, my mother was crying somewhere or other in the house, my sister made another one of her overly dramatic melodramas, she grabbed the family dog and wept on the stairs, crying, “Oh, Pepper, grandpa’s dead!” over and over again as if to give reason for our dog to share her pain and weep with her. Me, I was numb. I was completely numb. But I felt guilty for not feeling any strong emotion, much less go into hysterics, so I lay down, spread eagle, on the living room carpet and let the floodgates open. I cried. Not as much as I should have, but it gave me satisfaction. I murmured to myself, “I’ll stop stuttering if it’s the last thing I do”. I knew I wouldn’t keep that promise, but everyone else, except my father, was acting irrational, so I felt a keen obligation to, also. It’s a family thing.

My dad drove us to the retirement home where my grandfather had lived. His apartment was all the way at the end; even my grandfather had that sense of exceptionality to him. The police officer, who gave us the news, led us into his room. The paramedics were already there. They were leading my grandfather out on a stretcher with a blanket wrapped over his body. My sister, the idiot, suddenly started screaming and yelling, “I want to see him one more time!”. The paramedics, being sympathetic but hesitant, lifted the blanket off of the top half of my grandfather’s body. His head lulled to one side and I looked right into his eyes. His eyes, open, unseeing but piercing, were a pale blue. When you hear a person describe dead eyes as milky white, they’re lying. They’re blue. My sister lunged savagely for my grandfather’s body. I wanted nothing more at that moment but to punch her lights out. She hung onto my grandfather’s chest, crying her eyes out. She convinced everyone in the room except me. Finally, after what seemed like a few minutes but was really half an hour, my dad drove us all home. I didn’t sleep that night. Those eyes kept me company.

The full regret didn’t hit me until the next day. I went to school, hinged my backpack on the coat rack, and I burst into tears. All of my friends gathered around me and, after I told them the reason for my fragile demeanor, comforted me. My dad took me out of school early that day. The family made plans to hold a funeral for my grandfather. The funeral was a small one. My grandfather was cremated and was being sent back to New Haven, Connecticut where most of my relatives, on my dad’s side, resided. Most of the residents at the retirement home were there. In the front of the room was a picture of my grandfather. I must have seen that picture a billion times while I visited him. He was wearing a fancy, navy blue suit and he had a suave smirk on his face. He looked like a movie star. I remember nothing of what the pastor said, but after the service, while everyone was talking amongst themselves and my family was being comforted, I stepped up in front of the room. I stared hard at my grandfather’s picture. I was finally missing him. And when I realized that, something miraculous happened. My grandfather’s picture changed. It didn’t twist or warp or haze, it just became different. And to my amazement, I wasn’t looking at a picture of my grandfather anymore. I was looking at a picture of my father. It was the first time I noticed how much they looked alike. In awe I murmured “Grandpa” and walked off.

My family took a trip to New Haven, later on, to attend my grandfather’s other funeral. I was thrilled because my dad told me that I would meet the rest of my relatives. My mind buzzed with anticipation, wanting to have an eccentric aunt or crazy uncle like in the movies. The drive to New Haven was a story in itself, but to make it short, it was long. When we finally arrived at my Aunt Evelyn’s house two nights after we left home, I leaped out of the car and I leaped right back in. This was not Kansas anymore. This was the straight-up ghetto! I saw tin trashcans outside of every house, “thugs” outside of some of the houses with their hoods up, talking amongst themselves, but as soon as we pulled up, they all turned and stared. I guess I should have been scared of being mugged, but at that age I didn’t know what that was. Thankfully, my Aunt Evelyn burst through the door of the house we pulled up in front of and helped us carry our luggage inside. My cousin, Seth, greeted us, also. Seth is considered the prodigy of the family. He’s about eight but already in the fifth grade. Seth and I don’t get along for whatever reason. We actually fight. It’s pretty pathetic on my part. I got to sleep in Seth’s bed that night.

The next night, most the Youins clan stopped by Aunt Evelyn’s. I met more aunts, uncles, cousins, second and third cousins and family friends than I could remember. I met my four third cousins, Marcus, Weebo, Kwami and one other whose name I can never remember; Cousin Deeco, who, and I can say this comfortably, looks like a model. His son, Eric, was unbelievably polite and well behaved; Cousin Peter, who’s a woman. I may have mistaken her name. Maybe it’s Peta. The members went on and on. There was barely room in the house to walk up two steps in any direction. I felt pretty out of place, though, however nice my relatives were. The closest album I knew sung by African-Americans was my sister’s new Destiny’s Child CD. That night, I couldn’t sleep. The eyes had left me, but I would have traded them for the feeling that I felt that night. Worrying about my grandfather was more preferable than what I worried about then.

One of my uncles was planning the New Haven funeral. The church we all went to seemed to be thirty times larger than the one back in Manhattan. And I was happy to see that almost every seat was filled with either family or friends. I was standing around with my family when I looked over and saw my sister. Not the sister I lived with then, but the sister that I hadn’t seen in over eight years. The sister that already had two children and had another one on the way. I wanted to go over and hug her so bad, but I was hindered. On the drive to New Haven, while I was finishing the second level of whatever game I was playing, I overheard my parents talking about this sister. I overheard them saying, “Well, ______’s mother probably won’t attend the funeral.” And some other phrases that tipped me off that this sister wasn’t really my sister, but that she was my half sister. I loved her to death, and to learn that she was only half of a sibling to me…what else could I feel but anger, confusion, distrust.

As we all sat down (my family sat in the front row) I kept looking behind me and stared at this half sister of mine and her children. She was older, yes, but she still looked the same. I wanted to feel her, to give her a big hug, shake her hand, maybe, to make sure that she was really there. I had a hard time believing that she was there because it had been such a long time and I had missed her so much. Her children, two little girls, about six and two years old, were beautiful. Even though they were full black, I saw so much Asian in them, the slant in their eyes, their light skin color, that I felt that I had finally found a tangible connection.

I brought my hat with me to the funeral. I was wearing a suit, but I thought that the hat would accentuate my “coolness;” that it would allow me entrance into my relatives’ world. About in the middle of the preacher’s sermon I slipped out the hat from my pocket and put in on my head. I turned around with as much of a serene demeanor as I could maintain. I knew that my relatives would smile, they would nod, they would…throw daggers eyes at me. They looked like they were going to jump me at any second. I quickly turned back around to face the front. I could feel their gazes piercing the back of my head like lasers. I felt a hand squeeze on my shoulder. My dad whispered in my ear, “Take of the hat, show some respect.” I took off the hat and faced the front for the rest of the sermon.

After the service, everyone walked down to the basement of the church to have a feast. All of the usual “black” foods were being served: barbequed ribs, cornbread, collard greens, food that my immediate family rarely ate. I found a table where no one else was sitting and poked at my meal. I wanted to be alone. A woman I didn’t know sat down next to me and started to eat. I was angry with her because she didn’t even look at me, acknowledge me. I was about to move but, with a herculean effort, I relented, for I remembered the hat. I kept my eyes on my meal and finished it without looking up once.

When we got back to my Aunt Evelyn’s, I didn’t talk to anybody. What could I say? “Oh, that was a very nice sermon the pastor made.” They would have probably slapped me, and I deserved it. I had failed. My relatives would never accept me. My family would leave the next night. I decided to wait it out and play basketball in the basement, which was a popular haunt for the littler ones. It was a while before my uncle, whichever one, called us all up to say goodbye to the relatives that were going home for the night. I was expecting, if anything, negativity.

Everyone was still talking, laughing and just making a great bunch of noise. Then suddenly everyone settled down and gathered in the living room. It was as if it was rehearsed. They didn’t signal to each other or anything, they just knew to go to the living room at the same time. I was suspicious at first, but then I thought, “Someone’s probably going to make a speech or something.” We all got in a circle (I was surprised the living room allowed that much space) and held hands. We were going to pray. Everyone took turns, going around the circle, offering their prayers and giving their well-wishes to the family, to Grandpa. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would, thank God, but afterwards all of my relatives still hung around. Cameras popped out of pockets and purses left and right. My relatives wanted a group picture of all of us. We all went to one side of the living room, practically taking up half of it, and got very close together. Some relatives sat on the couch, others sat on the floor. Most were standing up. We smiled brightly and proudly as one of my uncles, juggling a batch of cameras in his hands, took the first picture. Later, he decided he wanted to be included in some of the pictures and my mother volunteered to take the rest of the pictures. Finally, after the last picture was taken and the last relative took themselves, and their plate of leftovers, out of Aunt Evelyn’s door, I trudged upstairs to Seth’s room and fell asleep.

The next morning, my family left Aunt Evelyn’s house and we headed back home. Somewhere along the way, maybe at a gas station or a rest stop, I lost my hat. I was distraught for a few days. I became a normal kid again at school, though I kept many of the friends I made while in the era of “the hat.” A couple of weeks later, my dad brought home the developed photos from our stay in New Haven. I plopped on the couch and opened the photo packet. I shuffled through photo after photo, smiling at some, grimacing at many. Finally, I came across the group photo of my family and relatives. I stared at it for a long time. I smiled, realizing that all along I didn’t really need that hat to form a connection with my relatives. I’ve never had trouble sleeping over this incident again.

© 2013 Fetish Ewing

My Review

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Lavon, I like the way you tie the hat in through out the story! You tell this very matter-of-fact, which has it's benefits and draw backs. It's great because I didn't have any problem following where you were going, but it's not so great because it didn't pull me in or pull at my heart strings. In a revision, maybe try playing with adding more details. Describe events and what things looked like with more vivid imagery. I think that would add a lot to this story. Even when you talk about being pulled out of school, there is distance, and I think conveying more emotion would add another element to this story. Best of luck!

Posted 8 Years Ago

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Added on June 18, 2013
Last Updated on December 16, 2013
Tags: Black, Korean, Manhattan, New Haven, Grandfather, Eyes, Hat, Family, Relatives, Ghetto, Destiny's Child, Church, Funeral, Retirement Home, Cousin, Suburbia, Sleep, Stutter, Sister, Culture


Fetish Ewing
Fetish Ewing

Savannah, GA

Hi, Please, check out my work. I'm an extreme extrovert, but I also value my "me" time. I'm the kind of person you don't need to feel bad for if you see me shopping or going to the theater by mysel.. more..

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