“This is the last bottle I have of our usual drink. It’s near impossible to find.” I pulled a bottle of liquor from my canvas bag. The midday sun made it shine like amber. “You never told me where you got your stash. Although, knowing you, you probably had a special contact in the Old Country.”
I smiled, laughing to myself. Then, one hand holding the bottle’s neck and the other stuffed in the bag, I paused. If I stopped to think about it, it would’ve been just like Grandpa to have a contact shipping him crates of the stuff, specially ordered and stashed away for holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. I laughed again, taking two shot glasses from my bag.
The warmth of July hung stiff in the air. It enveloped me like a heated blanket, making me sweat in places I didn’t even know I could sweat. Or, better yet, it encircled me like one of his giant, heartfelt bear hugs.
“Okay,” I said, filling the two shot glasses. “What would you like to toast to this year?”
I sat in the grass, staring down at the headstone. His name stared back like two unblinking eyes.
“Well, don’t hurt yourself by thinking too hard. Let’s toast to you, for all the times we’ve shared together. Even the ones we’ve spent here.”
I picked up one of the glasses and placed it directly in front of the headstone. With my other hand, I grabbed the second glass.
“Cheers,” I said. “Or better yet, į sveikatą.” I tossed back the liquor. It burned my lips, my mouth, my throat – with the sweet taste of honey – until it sat warmly in my stomach.
I took the other glass and poured the golden liquid into the grass.
“You know, one day you’re going to get me in trouble. I don’t think people are allowed to drink in a cemetery.” I laughed, nestling the glass in a patch of grass. “Even in the afterlife you still have the potential to get me into trouble.” I shook my head, smiling. “But Grandma just had to take one look at your face and knew you were the guilty one.”
I opened the bottled, filling the shot glasses. “I know we usually only do one of these, but this year’s a special birthday.”
A light breeze blew like a breath blowing out candles.
“What would you wish for if you were here?”
Another breeze rustled the leaves of trees like a whisper, gently bent the blades of grass like footsteps. It tossed my bangs and brushed along my cheeks. And, I swear, it felt more like the soft touch of a hand, reminding me of how he loved me in this life.
“It’s okay, if you don’t want to tell me. What could you even want after 100 years?”
I downed the liquor, poured his into the grass.
“Aš tave myliu,” I said with a smile. “If it was my birthday, I’d wish for you.”