"OK, I hope this isn't awkward for you, but I don't know how Abuelo is doing today," I said. "So he might be fine and chatty, or he might be a mess."
Cayden shrugged and put an arm around me.
"I understand, babe," he said. "I'd be a mess."
I hadn't planned on going straight from the airport to my parents' house, but my aunt, uncle, and two cousins were still in town and wanted to meet Cayden. I'd been wanting my extended family to meet him, but I wished it weren't under such depressing circumstances.
We walked through the door and stumbled over four dogs while they jumped up on us and licked our hands. Something about bouncing, happy dogs with wagging tails made things less depressing. There's just so much life in those little guys.
Mom came around the corner and helped wrangle the dogs before giving both of us a hug.
"Meg and the cousins are out shopping, but they should be back any minute," Mom said over her shoulder as we walked through the living room toward the kitchen.
That's when I saw him. Abuelo was hunched over the kitchen table, his face in his hands, his shoulders rising and falling as he wept.
"It comes and goes," Mom explained, putting a hand on his shoulder as she walked passed him. He didn't flinch.
I wasn't even sure he knew I was there. I wasn't sure he cared either way. He was mourning the loss of his Carmen. I suddenly felt guilty about being around him with Cayden. Seeing how happy I was with my someone special was only going to remind him that his was gone.
I dropped Cayden's hand and squeezed Abuelo's forearm as I sank into the seat next to him at the kitchen table.
He glanced my way and shook his head. "Oh, Whitney. Whitney, Whitney, Whitney." He squeezed my hand on his arm, and I wasn't sure he'd ever let it go. I felt tears well up against my eyelids. My cheeks burned.
I didn't know what to say, so I just sat there and let him squeeze my hand.
Mom and Cayden had moved into the kitchen and she was asking him about his flight. My back was to them as I sat quietly at the table, so I didn't see my aunt come into the kitchen, but I heard her.
"You must be Cayden!" she said, followed by what I assumed was a hug. "I've just heard so much about you!"
"I get that a lot," Cayden said with a laugh. Most of them time when people say that, they mean "I've read so much about you!"
Dad and my uncle (his brother) came into the kitchen through the living room, both of them patting their dad on the back as they passed us. Dad bent down and kissed the top of my head, and my uncle gave me a one-armed hug. Abuelo had let go of my hand and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to get up or if I should stay there.
Dad introduced Cayden to his brother and I decided to join the rest of the family in the kitchen. I gave Abuelo one last pat on the shoulder and kissed him on his cheek before I got up. Surprisingly, his cheek was dry. He was out of tears.
"So what's the plan for tonight?" Dad asked.
"Well, everyone is meeting at my place later, and then we're all going out to a bar."
"That sounds fun," Dad said.
"Would be a lot more fun if my place had air conditioning! The damn thing broke!"
Mom gasped. "What are you going to do? Do you want to stay here?"
To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was stay at my parents' house with my mourning grandfather the first night I get to see my boyfriend after two months of no sex.
"I think we'll wing it," I said, but thanked her for the offer.
Meg, my 19-year-old cousin Misha, and my 13-year-old cousin Chloe came through the door with shopping bags in hand.
"We're back!" Meg exclaimed. "And Mischa did some damage!"
Mischa held a large shopping bag up and shrugged, shyly.
"Come meet my man," I said, pulling Cayden in front of me.
Mischa and Chloe said their polite hellos. Those sisters were definitely different from my sisters and me. We're incredibly loud and obnoxious compared to them.
"You girls need to go pack. We're hitting the road," my aunt said.
"We should go, too," I said. "People are coming over soon."
We all said our goodbyes. As I squeezed Abuelo's hand one last time, he looked over at me.
"I feel nothing," he said. "So empty." He patted his chest when he said it.
"I'm sorry," I said, because I couldn't think of anything better to say. "I love you."
He shook his head as we walked away. The second I got outside I hugged Cayden as tight as I could.
"Don't ever leave me, OK?" I asked into his chest. "I don't want to be empty."
He hugged me tight and whispered, "Deal."