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LAST KISS

LAST KISS

A Memoir

My grandfather, Opa, wasn’t a demonstrative person.  It was as if he spoke with his eyes. If you did something wrong, don’t think he wouldn’t know.  He could stop you in your tracks with just one look.  His eyes told you “That’s enough!” he didn’t have to say it.

 If you intended to do business with him and he shook your hand, it was as good as any binding contract. There never was a need for long drawn out written documents.

When he shook your hand, you had to know how to let your fingers and hand go limp in his vice like grip.  If one of his grandsons or granddaughters came to visit, it seemed he would rather shake hands than kiss someone hello.

 On the other hand, my grandmother, Nana, was the opposite of Opa.  She always had a kiss for everyone.

I know Opa loved Nana. They went everywhere together, church, rides to farm stands, visits to old friends, visits to their grown children and sometimes to the homes of their grandchildren. They would sit together; they would smile at one another, but, you never saw them kiss. Looking back over the years I spent with them, I think the first time I remember seeing them kiss was on their fiftieth anniversary during the reception they had to celebrate that wonderful event. Not kissing Nana didn’t mean that Opa didn’t love her. All you had to do was look at them and you knew they loved one another.

Nana and Opa were married almost sixty years when Nana died. It was a difficult time, but with death, peace finally came to be for Nana.

The day after Nana died, Opa showed his love in his own special way. He went downtown to the shoe repair shop and had Nana’s shoes re-heeled and polished. He couldn’t let her go to heaven without her comfortable and polished shoes. No one else would have thought of something so simple but yet so special; a final gift by the person who truly loved his wife of almost sixty years.  

On the day of her burial, family friends gathered in the funeral home before departing for the cemetery. The funeral director recited the protocol for preparing to leave the funeral home. Nana’s friends were first to say goodbye. Then came her grandchildren, their spouses and the great grandchildren. We went forward to the front of the room and each said a prayer and a final farewell to Nana, lying peacefully in her casket. Then it was Nana’s children and their spouses turn to say their final words of love and goodbye.  

As Opa approached the casket, my brother-in-law and I, waited at the back of the room just in case Opa or one of his children needed help. We watched Opa from the back of the room as he slowly knelt down on the padded kneeling pew with his arthritic knees. He quietly said his prayers, rose from the kneeling pew, reached down and touched Nana one more time. He then bent over and gave Nana her final kiss.  

My brother-in-law and I gulped and fought back our own tears as we watched. Nana received her last kiss to carry her home to heaven from the man that loved her in his own special way.

About the Author------------------

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 35 years and has received 22 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents. Keith has written three books, Fighting Crime With "Some" Day and Lenny, End of Watch and Murder in McHenry. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: I Pledge Allegiance, Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.

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