Miranda knew that voice! She turned from where she was sitting to see her most beloved Gramps standing on the pier looking down at her. She jumped to her feet and rushed to give him a hug. Gramps gave the best hugs in the world.
She took both of his hands in hers and stepped back to look at this man of 88 years. He didn’t look it. He looked like he could be in his late sixties or early seventies at best. He was tall at over 6 feet. Age hadn’t diminished his stature. He was ramrod straight. He sported perfectly trimmed pure white hair and mustache. He wore his usual summer attire of Dockers slacks; canvass slip on shoes, and a perfectly pressed short sleeve shirt. Tonight his hair carried a certain luminescence under the full moon. It was almost translucent.
“Come my beautiful Miranda, let’s go and sit on the bench at the foot of the pier and enjoy this magnificent night. I built that bench just for a time like this.” While he had built it, it was sort of like the statement about George Washington’s axe. “I had to replace the head and then the handle, but this is still George Washington’s axe.” Such was the bench, which had been rebuilt or refurbished over the years. It may have originally been Gramps’ bench and while it had changed many times, it was still Gramps’ bench.
She locked her arm in his and they strolled to the bench and sat down. They didn’t say anything for a minute or two, simply enjoying the evening and each other’s company. When you love someone very much, sometimes no words are needed.
She finally said, “How did you get here? I never heard you drive up or saw any car lights.”
Gramps chuckled and said, “I turned off the engine and headlights after I came off the main road and coasted in. I wanted to surprise you.”
This is exactly the type of thing she expected from her Grandfather. He’d always done little things like this to surprise his grandchildren. She could see him approaching the driveway in his precious 1965 Mustang convertible he had so carefully restored. It was bright red with white interior and a white top. She could see him driving down the road with the top down and grinning to himself as he slipped it into neutral and glided into the parking area at the back of the house. Although he was 88, he passed his annual physical and driving test with flying colours.
She chuckled too and asked, “What brings you here this time of night? I certainly didn’t expect you or anyone else to make the drive from the city today.”
“It’s pretty simple my dear. I wanted to see you. I know we see each other quite often but don’t you get cravings every now and then to do something unexpected? Since your Grandmother died, I have a lot of time on my hands and sometimes I find the evenings a little long. Tonight was one of those nights so I loaded up the Mustang and came to the lake.”
Miranda knew that since Gran died, although Gramps had adapted and coped very well, there was still a hole in his heart. It didn’t show itself very often. He wasn’t the melancholy type. But, she understood.
“Well, I’m happy you came. Would you like some tea or something? We can wander back to the cabin if you’re chilly.”
He smiled, looked at her, and said, “I’m feeling very comfortable thank you. I’d just like to sit here with my one and only granddaughter and enjoy this magnificent evening.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes and then began to talk again. They talked about so many things that had happened at the cabin. Like the time she was being tormented by her brother Billy and in an attempt to escape her wrath, he ran full speed with her in hot pursuit into the screen door without bothering to open it. Needless to say the screen didn’t survive. A bone-chilling yell from Gran stopped them in their tracks. Gran was not amused her screen door had been breached in such a manner. No amount of “But Gran…” was going to get them out of this pickle.
Gramps always had a spare roll of screen in the shed and quickly replaced the screen on the door. Gramps and their parents laughed at the scene but Gran was far less forgiving. They both got a major time out and none of her special cookies for two days. Two days!
The time passed too quickly. Miranda thought she heard a vehicle come into the driveway and turned to look. She saw the fading glow of headlights behind the house.
“I wonder who that could be?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you go and check. You know where you can find me. I’ll be right here enjoying the view. I’ll see you later my dear. Now give me a big hug.”
Miranda readily obliged, turned from Gramps and made her way to the cabin.
As she approached, she could hear her father calling her name. He walked through the door and met her on the porch. He had a look of sadness and perhaps shock on his face. She knew something was wrong.
“Is Mom OK? Why did you drive here rather than phone me?”
“You Mom is fine. It’s Gramps. He died this afternoon Miranda. He called this morning to invite to go for coffee with him after his afternoon nap. He said he’d call to confirm the time and place. When he didn’t call to confirm, I went over and found him what I thought was asleep in his recliner. He’d died in his sleep.” Tears were in her father’s eyes as he said the last words.
“But I…” and then she stopped. She looked back toward the lake expecting to see her Gramps on the bench. Instead she noticed an increased silence around the lake. No frogs croaking, no loons calling, only the gentle lap of the waves as they met the shore. She was certain the moon had taken on extra brilliance.
She understood. Gramps couldn’t leave without a final goodbye to his granddaughter. She would always remember his last words: “You know where you can find me. I’ll be right here enjoying the view.”
She knew from this point on, Gramps would always be available to her just by sitting on his bench.
(c) Nelson Armstrong and Old Sage Publishing 2014