A Sunset Summer pt. 1

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It was the summer of 1982 when everything changed. I remember sitting out on my granddaddy’s porch in my favorite tank top and cut-offs, sipping lemonade and watching the sun set over the distant horizon. My granddaddy would sit next to me in his wicker rocking chair, not talking much, just gazing into collage of colors in the sky. This is how every evening went, sitting on his white wrap-around porch which was faded from too many years of neglect. Momma said that when Gramma was still alive the porch always had a fresh coat of paint, just like the rest of the house. Now it was only a glimpse of how beautiful the house had been. The green shutters that outlined the big, clear glass windows were starting to fall off their hinges and the paint was rusting. The porch steps were completely destroyed so that you had to leap all the way up to the porch from 2 feet down. The inside of his house wasn’t much better.

The only things on Granddaddy’s property that didn’t show signs of their age were the sweet birch trees that grew all over the property. Granddad would always make sure they were watered and cared for properly, and sometimes he’d let me help him. I always wondered why he’d take so much care of the trees and not his house, but I had only asked him about it once. When I asked him, Granddaddy just looked over at me with his wise blue eyes and said, “Now Meg, these trees are part of the living folk, like you or me. We’re just helping them stay that way.”

It was that year when Granddaddy got diagnosed with lung cancer. He didn’t like going to the hospital much so they didn’t find it until he collapsed in the kitchen when he and Aunt Bee were having a talk one afternoon. Aunt Bee called 911 and they rushed him to the hospital where they discovered that he had a brain tumor. They immediately started treatment though the doctor told my momma there wasn’t much hope of his living, seeing as the treatment was so rigorous and he was so old. The doctor also said that if Granddaddy came home after his first round of treatments, he’d need somebody there to look after him. Momma and I talked about it a lot and decided that we’d move into his house from our own beat up apartment building. We were the only ones who could, after all. Uncle Carl was in law school up north, and Aunt Bee had 6 children to look after, whereas all Momma had was me. It wasn’t too different to actually live in Granddad’s house. After all, we spent most of our time there already.
The only strange thing was Granddad. A lot of the time he wasn’t at home and when he was there, all he did was sit in his bed watching the brand new TV my Momma bought him and sleeping. It scared me how different he seemed. His face looked older, more vacant, and he was a lot quieter. We never sat out on the porch and watched the sunset anymore. He would just sleep. Sometimes I’d sit outside his bedroom door and watch him, how much more frail he looked. And thin, he was way too thin. And when he would get sick and hurt a lot I would be hurting with him. I would never cry though. I needed to be strong for Momma since this was her weakest time.
A few months after the treatment begin Momma brought Granddaddy home as usual, but something was different. They were standing up a little taller and my momma’s face shone as she grinned and said, “Hey baby, guess what? Granddaddy’s in remission.”
That night we had a celebration. Remission meant that Granddaddy had won his battle with cancer, at least for now. We dressed up in our best things and went out and bought a pint of ice cream to share. We turned on the radio and danced around in our living singing at the top of our lungs until we collapsed in a heap on the floor because we were so tired. When the sun set all three of us went out to watch it. And in my 9 year old mind this was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. Even now I can picture it as it was on that on that evening. We sat side by side on the porch swing, my head in Momma’s lap and my hand clasped in Granddaddy’s. I never wanted this night to end; I wanted it to go on forever.
For the next 2 months everything seemed brighter and more upbeat. Momma and I cleaned Granddaddy’s house and even put a fresh coat of paint on the outside. All three of us would go to the park at least once a week and I would play on the playground while they would watch me. They’d clap when I did a particularly hard trick, hold me up when I couldn’t reach the monkey bars all the way, and comfort me when I fell down. We'd go everywhere and see everything around during the daytime, but we always made it back to watch sunset on the porch. Oftentimes I would fall asleep with my head in Momma's lap. Those days were the epitome of my life, nothing could be better.





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