My hands were lost in those of my grandfather as he pulled me along the trail with youthful energy. The child-like gleam in his eye sparkled like I had never seen. Red dirt kicked up in thin clouds behind us as we moved swiftly along the dirt road. The imprints of my cowboy boots landed in stride with his in a ration of three steps to his one.
Suddenly we came to a halt just outside the barn. A grin illuminated his face as he knelt down to my level. I peered into his sparkling blue eyes. “I have a surprise for you.”
Excitement tickled my stomach in overwhelming spurts that caused me to bounce up and down. “What is it paw-paw?”
He reached around the corner of the fence and pulled out a bottle. “Spring is here, and we have our very first calf.”
“My calf, paw-paw?” I said is slow disbelief.
“Go feed her, she’s waiting in the barn.” Together we climbed up onto the large bales of hay. With my hands in his, he showed me how to feed the calf by bottle.
“Spring is the life giving season.” He twirled my long dark pigtails in his hands. “It is our life after a long winter of cold and dying. Rain will come to give life; flowers will grow in your grandmother’s garden. The animals will have their babies.”
“Is that why grandma died in the winter, because she was cold?” The logic of my four-year-old mind tried to comprehend what had taken place in our life on this farm.
Sadness filled my grandfather’s eyes. I felt sorry I said it.
He released the bottle to my hands, and said, “Hang on tight to that now, she needs to eat.”
I fed my calf in silence until all of the milk was gone. “Paw-paw, can I name her Elsie?”
“Yes, child.” He was standing by the door. I could almost see the thoughts whirling around his head. “Come, now.”
Again my small hand was lost in the enormous grip of my grandfather’s. We walked back down the red dirt road to the brick house. He took me to the flowerbed that sat in front of the house.
“Do you remember what we do with the dead leaves?”
“We pull them off.”
“Do you know why?” I shook my head that I didn’t. “Well, these dead leaves are just holding back the beautiful flower that is trying to grow. We pull them off so that the flowers can bloom. See in the winter, all of the roses died, but we tended the rose bushes, didn’t we?”
“The roses will bloom again, won’t they?”
Again I nodded.
“Your grandmother had to shed off her old skin, that was dying. It was keeping her soul from blossoming. When God reached down and touched her dead skin, he freed her soul to blossom in heaven.”
“Grandma Rose bloomed again?”
He sat in silence for a long moment with tears streaming down his face. He took me by the handed, and in silence, he nodded.
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