Thoughts of Spring
“Granma, I’m gonna live forever.”
“Now isn’t that something?” said Granma, bouncing little Timothy on her knee so he smiled and the sunlight caught his teeth, all eighteen of them.
Birds chirped from somewhere beyond the backyard fence. Granma caught Timothy’s head and turned it back to her so his attention wouldn’t wander. “Don’t you know that that’s never happened before? Living forever, I mean.”
“But it will, and you’ll live forever, too, and my mom and dad and friends—”
“Timothy, nothing in this world is forever.”
“Well, God’s not of this world, Dearie, what are they teaching you in Sunday school?”
The strident sound of the church bell shattered his thoughts.
Timothy hadn’t been to Sunday school in years.
Automatically, he straightened his back and glanced to his parents to make sure they hadn’t noticed his reverie. Their faces were still downturned in prayer, their lids shut and faintly glistening with moisture. Tears.
Heat rose in his cheeks. He quickly looked back down, trying to focus on the priest’s baritone homily, trying to focus his prayers onto the wine-red carpet, but he couldn’t conjure the necessary reverence to make his actions feel earnest. His emotions were expended.
He’d cried when he heard the news of Granma’s death. A twenty-one-year-old man could admit to crying without feeling ashamed about it. He had admitted it. That didn’t calm the shame simmering in the back of his mind.
“—to many of us, she was a loyal friend, but her devotion to her duty was what I think we all remember—”
“—remember the bird calls you showed me?”
Sunlight, a warm breeze, the rustling of leaves. Timothy could count the particles hanging in the air above his head. He looked back down, and Granma stood a meter from him, hands crossed over her lap and eyes gazing toward the trees behind the backyard fence.
“I think I can try, but it’ll be difficult. You know how Granma’s lungs feel nowadays.”
“Mommy says the smoking did it.”
“Well, your mommy’s a smart young cookie.”
“She’s not a cookie. I can’t eat her, Granma.” Timothy laughed, and Granma laughed too, and the warbling tones of an avian faded into the voices of a congregation in song. No laughter, just prayer.
Timothy blinked and tried to follow the words. He couldn’t. He only knew “Amazing Grace”, “Here I Am, Lord”, and traditional Christmas tunes. Even the clothing around him was unfamiliar: black suits and ties and black dresses both floral and more demurely designed. Timothy was used to a more variegated array at college, blue, green, and red, more like the stained glass windows that lined the cathedral than the people beneath them, lined neatly in pews.
The song trailed off. Mom audibly sniffled. Dad pulled her in, let her drain her despair into him. The soloist demounted the stage, and the priest, with his rumbling voice, implored the congregation to join him in prayer.
“We are gathered here today,” said Timothy’s grandmother, and Timothy shook his head. No. Try to think better thoughts. Happier thoughts.
Like spring, and flowers, and Grandmom categorizing them as easily as if she were a botanist. Bees humming and butterflies dancing on a breeze. Granma’s smile, the way it crinkled the skin around her eyes that made her seem both old and kind. And then, as Timothy watched in mute horror, the skin, desiccated now and colored with makeup so her skin appeared plastic, pulled her face taut and blank, and she was lying in her coffin very still while the priest intoned verses that were meant to comfort but were only words in the end.
But Granma didn’t look like she was sleeping. She looked like she was about to open her eyes and say to seven-year-old Timothy, “Nothing lasts forever.”
He should’ve slept more last night.
Posted Dec 09 2013 - 09:21 AM
Thoughts of Spring
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