Sun 10 Nov, 2002 03:57 pm
Most of Grandpa's hair had been trampled out by the ages. What was left huddled in nervous fringes around his ears and above the neck. This I noted anew that sultry July evening when the shadows were lengthening and I entered to find him in a wheelchair. He was poking around in the corners of the room, and he and the wheelchair literally vibrated with nervous energy. His ears were huge because all the rest of him had shrunk. Not until I called his name a third time did he wheel around to face me.
Grandpa's eyes were wider than an owl's. They made great red circles, each with dark, dried out, ball at the center. I detected not a glimmer in them.
"Are you somebody I used to know?" he asked.
I tried to tell him and I performed a dual task of examining his features. This reunion had been sixteen years in the making. I drank in the bald pate that ran into a sun-ravaged brow, scant eyebrows, prominent Dutch nose that hung like a decayed monument over a mouth drawn in by shrivelled tissues, wrapped on toothless gums.
Grandpa was ninety-eight. Since he had always tended to mumble I rarely understood all that he said. Because my voice is like his, and I think he was hard of hearing, you can imagine the conversations we had always had.
After an arduous time of it Grandpa finally conceded that I was one of his daughters' offspring. Which one, though, I am sure he had not a clue.
Grandpa talked, harkening back to earlier times.. I watched his once powerful hands grasping the rubber of the wheels. These hands had once wrested people's homes out of the raw materials dumped there by the old lumber yard. He sat a little straighter as he recounted days in the sun. Animated, smiling, he became the same Grandpa I knew. The dullness had left his eyes.
"I built x hundred houses." He looked around as though I were a whole group of listeners. "That was enough, wasn't it?"
He centered on things we would both remember. For that reason I think he might have had a glimmering who I actually was.
Eventually it had to end. He allowed me to hug him - hug a set of bones, really. They were the frame of a big human being. But the human being was slowly abandoning ship.
"See you Christmas," I promised.
"Bring the rest of the boys," he said eagerly, referring to my six brothers.
During the course of my visit he had seemed to drop thirty years. Now he was reluctant to turn back. I left him there, waiting for Christmas.
I wrote this piece as an exercise for a writing class. At the first it had been my intention to recount how I went there hoping to erase the estrangement between myself and Grandpa. Because of space limitations, I had to pare it down to what you have just seen. Actually, my 97 year old grandmother was in the room with him. She knew right away whose son I was, though she did not know which. It took two days before Grandpa could gather his wit to talk to me as a grandson and not a mysterious stranger. For myself, the hug I gave him was a burial of all the bitterness. I was never to see him again. Grandma survived him by about two years, so I still visited her some more.
Nice piece, and about the right length for the subject. It's good to see other posting short prose. I was beginning to feel like a duck among swans.
It is so much easier to turn out a bit of verse than a good piece of prose, I think. If I feel sufficiently encouraged I will do more of both. Thanks for the kind words.......
I love writing when it take me somewhere I want to be and this piece did edgarblythe, thank you for sharing it with us.
I found the vignette (and your addendum) to be quite poignant. It brought a tear to my eye. Relationships can be a such a complex, seemingly contradictory mixture of love, disappointment, anger etc.
They just refuse to be neat and orderly.
A good piece of writing, edgar. Very descriptive and a topic to which many of us can relate. I certainly can.
Edgar, I found myself right there in the room with you, almost smelling the stale, old person smell. Anyone who has had a similar experience will be especially drawn to your piece.
Thanks, all, for the kind comments.