A Sunset Summer pt. 2

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It was one of those days when everything was chaos. Granddad, Momma, and I had gone to the park in the morning, then run to the grocers, and then back home to work around the yard for a while. Momma tried to make Granddad lay down inside while we puttered around the yard, but he wouldn't have it. He told us that if we were going to make him sit down and watch us work on his own yard, he might as well be dead already. So Momma gave in and let him work with us, though she wouldn't let him do anything she deemed 'too strenuous'.
We worked all afternoon and then went inside for some sandwiches. Granddaddy said he was just going to take a quick nap before supper because he was a little tired. We didn't think twice about it and kept on fixing our sandwiches. When we were done with the dinner preparations we checked on Granddad and saw that he was still sleeping, so instead of waking him up, we went ahead and ate our sandwiches.
Momma and I found quiet things to occupy us as the sun grew lower and lower in the horizon, but as the evening wore on and Granddaddy still didn't wake, we began to worry a little. As the sunset began to fade without us there to share it, Momma decided to wake Granddaddy up herself. She went into his room and gently shook him, but he didn't wake. She tried a little harder, but to no avail. Then she prodded and poked him until my arms hurt just thinking about it. As she was doing this her voice called out to me, calm, but forced like a kid being forced to come back down after jumping real high on a trampoline. "Hand me the phone baby girl," she said slowly.
Now when Momma gets that tone with me, I've learned to do whatever she asks as quickly and as quietly as possible. I grabbed the phone from the kitchen counter and handed it to her. She dialed a three digit number and quickly placed the phone by her ear. I stopped listening as soon as Momma started talking. Her voice had lost its calm tone and took on a more frantic, more weak one. That scared me just as much as her first tone. I didn't know what was happening to Granddad, or why he wouldn't wake up, but I knew it wasn't good.
Soon the sound of sirens filled the neighborhood as an ambulance pulled into our driveway. Some official looking men came into our house with a stretcher and took Granddaddy away. They asked Momma if she wanted to come with them but she said no, she would be along later with me. Then Momma started packing Granddaddy's stuff together and piling a lot of it in the car. We both got in and drove off into the night, following the distant sounds of the ambulance. Momma's hands were tense on the steering wheel, which meant she was concentrating real hard on her driving, so I didn't bother her with the thousands of questions I was dying to ask.
We rushed into the Wakefield Medical Center and straight up to the reception desk. The lady there directed us to the curtained space where Granddaddy was being held in the emergency room. He had doctors and other medical staff swarmed around him, poking needles into him and doing all sorts of scary stuff which brought me to tears. My Granddaddy looked so helpless lying there. We sat down by the curtain, out of the way so they wouldn't have to trip over us to help Granddad, but close enough so we could hear what they said. After what felt like hours one of the doctors came to us and told my momma that Granddaddy's cancer had come back and had spread all over his body. They were going in for emergency surgery, but they needed her consent first. Momma readily gave it, but not before she asked what the chance of recovery for this kind of procedure was.
"15% chance of making a full recovery, seeing as the cancer has spread, and looking at his age," the doctor said matter-of-factly, "We'll see you in a few hours and give you an update on how it's going."
The night following was the longest night of my life. Scenes of it flashed in and out like dreams. I remember us crying and hugging each other, scared for each other, and scared for Granddaddy. Then things kind of went to black until the doctor came out and told Momma that they had lost Granddaddy half way through the surgery, and even though they had tried for an hour to revive him, he was really gone. Momma bent over she was sobbing so hard, and then gripped me in a hug so tight I feared she would never let go. In my 9 year old mind I couldn't possibly fathom what death meant, because all the people I had ever lost before were gone before I could remember much about them. I believed that Granddaddy would reappear the next day, right as rain, and ready to go care for his trees, and watch the sunset with me. But Granddaddy didn't appear. Not the next day or the next.
The funeral was on Saturday. I put on my new little black dress and followed Momma to the church, where I had one last look at Granddaddy lying so still in his coffin, and it hit me then and there that I would never see his smiling face again. I broke down into tears and couldn't move from that spot until the pallbearers came to take him away. Momma escorted me to a nearby chair where I sat crying while the funeral was going on outside. She sat with me the whole time, helping me through my break down, as I had helped her through hers a few days before.
That night, and for many nights to come, as the sun went down, I wasn't out there to watch it. The trees in the yard stood forlorn and forgotten. The house went back to its previous state of disrepair, though not because of Momma. She went to work at two jobs, one at a gas station, the other and a grocery store. I, on the other hand, couldn't bear to do much aside from getting up in the morning, anything else seemed like I was betraying Granddaddy by doing it without him. I couldn't even move the TV remote from his bedside table because I was afraid that by moving it, I would lose the memory of seeing Granddaddy pick it up, and flip through the channels on a day when he was too tired or too sick to do much else. I didn't want to lose him, or lose my memory of him. I felt that by doing things he would've done without him, I would forget the memories we'd had together, doing those things.
I had gotten so out of schedule that I didn't even remember my own birthday until we got a letter in the mail announcing that school was going to start again in two weeks. My birthday was always on the day we received that letter, and Momma always told me that they used my birthday to remind them to send out the notice. I didn't think I could go back to school again and face all my friends, knowing that my life had completely changed since I saw them last. I tried not to dwell on the memories of Granddaddy walking me to school or hobbling along the street after me with my forgotten lunch box. School would never be the same.
Since it was my birthday, Momma came home from work that day with a small cake that said, 'Happy birthday Meg' on it along with 10 little candles. It was late in the evening as Momma blindfolded me and led me out on the porch as the crickets serenaded us with their song. She took the blindfold off my eyes only for me to behold the most beautiful sunset that I had ever seen. My eyes filled with tears as I thought of all the times Granddaddy and I had spent out here together.
"I can just see Granddaddy up in heaven, painting this sunset in the sky just for your birthday, baby girl. He was always the happiest out here with you," Momma said as she smiled down upon me. I realized right then that Granddaddy was still watching the sunset with me, except now he was up in heaven, where there was no pain and no sickness. And as far as forgetting him, watching the sun go down and the stars fill the night sky would rather be a reminder of all the memories we'd had together.





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Bee16 said...
Dec. 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm
This is very well-written! I can picture this clearly...
 
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