Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)
TITLE: Traveling Stone
By Chely Roach
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The overgrown brush came up to her chest. As she swatted the insects feasting on her exposed flesh, she began to wish she hadn’t come. She loved to tag along with her daddy on the weekends, but he was very quiet on the long drive there. Surveying the hundred acre jungle, a disgusted grimace twisted his face. Buried beneath years of abandoned neglect, there were hundreds of unseen graves. One of them was his father’s.
It took some time to find it. It always did. They located it with the only recognizable landmarks—Leigh’s grandpa was midway between the largest elm tree and the gravel road. The pleasant warmth of the morning was quickly replaced with the oppressive, sticky heat of the August afternoon. They began to work.
He sickled down a twenty foot path to the plot, and then cut away the thick stalks on and around the grave. He cursed under his breath. Leigh helped him lower the mower from the hatch of the station wagon, and watched as he reduced the three foot weeds to three inches of burnt yellow grass. She raked the clippings to the ditch on the other side of the road, while scanning the perimeter for snakes. Frequently, she would stop to obsessively scratch the legion of bites on her legs, streaking blood with her fingernails. When their patch was finally cleared, they both knelt to hand pull the straggling weeds from around the marble headstone. Leigh wet a rag with their water jug, and wiped the crusted mud off the engraved stone. She traced her fingertips across the letters of his name and the date of his death. Killed in a head-on collision a decade before she was born, there laid the grandpa she never knew.
They stood in silence side by side, looking at the meager results of their labor. Drenched in sweat, and burnt from the relentless sun, he shook his weary head, resuming the scowl that he would continue to wear all the way home.
The heat of that August fizzled into fall, long forgotten through the frigid winter, and wished for again as a glimmer of warmth teased their senses, now in early May.
After an indulgent brunch, the caravan of Leigh’s family navigated the curvaceous country road. Her father led the processional through the high wrought iron arched trellis, covered in green vines with tiny buds, which had yet to open. They gradually slowed to a halt in an immaculate garden of stone. Yellow daffodils speckled the landscape. A three tiered fountain cascaded in the center of a clear pond. Leigh’s eyes connected with her daddy’s—her chest swollen with the weighty emotion she was holding in. Their secret was moments away from its revelation.
With her aunt on one arm, her aging grandmother on the other, Leigh’s daddy led them through the lush, perfectly manicured grass. They approached the shade of a magnificent elm; a wooden bench resting under its canopy. Quiet tears were already streaking down Leigh’s face before her grandma’s eyes fell upon that familiar, fifty pound stone, etched with name of her beloved. Her daddy stood in the middle, clung to by his mother and sister. The trio openly wept bittersweet tears. The scab of an old wound ripped away, oozed with fresh pain; their sorrow mixed with the joy of a horrendous wrong now made right. Twenty years later, and twenty miles down the road, the traveling stone found its final resting place.
While observing their pain, for the first time, Leigh actually missed her grandpa. Previously, just the black and white picture of a ghost perched on a piano; he suddenly became very real to her. The void of his absence was palpable. She couldn’t help but wonder if he would’ve loved her like her daddy did.
However, it was her daddy’s tears that broke her heart. Leigh had never seen him cry until that day. She loved him so; such a special bond between daddies and daughters. The expense and effort it took to have her grandpa’s grave moved she would never fully know; but to see how much he loved, missed, and honored his own father made her fall in love with him all over again. She closed her eyes and prayed that she would someday find a husband as good as her daddy—and begged God to let her daddy live a long, long time.
She desperately wanted her someday babies to have the grandpa she never had.
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