Grandpa was standing outside the barn, his arms spread, his tongue poking out. The snow fell around him. His loose dressing gown blew behind him like an open road. His eyes were shut. His hair was crows.
All of us were there. Billy, Sandy, all the uncles, cousins, aunts, the whole family. A fire blazed in the fireplace, a bustling in and out of the kitchen brought cakes, cookies, coffee to the table. Becky and Matt, my niece and nephew played a board game on the rug. Will and Ricky ran through the house playing some unintelligible chase game. My wife and her sister sat in the kitchen laughing over the story of a family camping trip when they were kids.
We looked all over the house, in the bedrooms, and the basement bathroom, even the garage where he kept his tools, but we couldn't find him.
It was Becky who noticed. "Grandpa's outside!" she said, her hands cupped around her eyes, face pressed to the back window. By this time, only the wet shine of grandpa's head was visible, the tips of his fingers held up towards the dark sky. We ran to the back door, opened it wide. "Grandpa, grandpa!" Becky shouted. And then he began to move. Arm over arm, Grandpa began to swim first toward the house, then out into the fields, the forgotten cornstalks buried deep in snow, raised arms appearing above the drifts. “Those who are dead will still be dead. Those who will die, still will die,” Becky said, her breath making mist as she spoke.