Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)
TITLE: Last Photo Op
By Lucile McKenzie
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It is 1960 and we have driven up from Oregon for the annual family reunion at Mossy Rock State Park in Washington. The campsite, nestled in the lush woods, teems with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Grandfather cannot see, but he can hear the happy chatter and shouts of laughter, and smell the heady scent of warm woods mixed with the succulent aroma of frying chicken. Terry, tired from running through the woods, rests easily against his great-grandfather.
Cousin Janet rushes up, her still-chattering teeth testify to a dip in the lake, chilly even on this warm July day. Wrapped in a towel, she drops into a chair next to grandfather. “Brrr, Grandpa, that lake is cold!”
Grandpa chuckling, agrees, remembering his own chilly dips in the lake long years past. Terry, eyeing his cousin’s shivering form, says, “You got goose bumps.” Janet. smiling, stands to go find dry clothes, “You want them?” “Noooo!” Holding the boxy Kodak camera, I stand in front of grandpa and Terry. “Smile,” I say and they look in my direction as I snap the photo. A ball bounces in the dirt by Terry, he grabs it and runs away.
“Round up everybody and tell them lunch is ready, “ my mother says and soon we gather around the picnic tables. After a quiet moment for grace, we pile plates high with the usual picnic fare, fried chicken, watermelon, hot dogs, cakes, pies, and cokes from the ice chest. Someone fills a plate and takes it to grandpa. Aunts and Uncles, his children and their mates, sit near him to chat while they eat. Uncle Owen and Uncle Galen bicker amiably about the relative merits, or lack of, that year’s presidential candidates, Kennedy and Nixon. The afternoon passes in a happy blur, the day ends. We plan next July’s reunion here again. We take grandpa home, hug him goodbye and begin the long drive back to Oregon.
In June of the following year, Terry falls out of a tree and lands face down in a small creek. Grandpa calls. “I’m sorry,” he says, and we know he understands, for many years ago his four-year-old son, Wilbur, died of Typhoid Fever, and one never, ever forgets. A little over a week later, Grandpa dies in his sleep and exactly two weeks after Terry’s funeral, dazed and numb, we drive to Washington to bury Grandpa.
We pull the black and white snapshot from the album and gaze at their two sun-dappled faces turned toward the camera just one short year ago.
There was no family reunion that year.
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