Frankly, I didn’t believe him. He was an old man – dying and senile, according to the doctors. Still, something urged me to open his closet door.
Earlier that afternoon at the hospital, my grandfather’s hands, trembling and cold upon mine; and in a voice barely above a whisper, asked me to bring a glass jar from the shelf of his closet.
“Bring it to me, please.” His pale blue eyes pierced my own and I nodded. He smiled, his hand releasing mine as he fell into sleep.
Probably Grandma’s ashes, I thought. They’d been married over 60 years. Their love and marriage would be considered a hallmark in today’s world.
Looking back, I’d found it odd that what they shared had so little influence over the rest of their family. From my parents to my four siblings, there were divorces and infidelities too numerous to count. Love, I’d come to believe was only for a select few.
I’d been raised mostly by my grandparents. I had been my parent’s last (and unexpected) child. My other siblings were grown, out of the house by the time I arrived, and my parents (I guess) felt no obligation of a do-over of what they’d seemed to have failed at so miserably before.
I’d never felt a kinship to my family, nor as far as I could tell, them to me. And that is why I was at the hospital alone, listening to my grandfather ramble on about a glass jar, containing some kind of secret to life.
Back at his home, memories -paused in moments of absence - swallow me as I enter through the front door. Musky, yet familiar smells, household creaks, faded upholstery and curtains, amber light through pulled window shades embrace me like opened arms. This had been the place of my youth for close to 20 years.
I’d been away for about three years – starting my own life. Even have a girl – reminding me a lot like grandma.
But now, hesitant as an intruder upon another's life, I open my granddad’s closet door. It is dark inside with the stale odor and color of well-worn clothes. A naked light bulb with a chain hangs from the ceiling. I pull it on and a feeble light causes shadows to pool in the crevices of the old garments. Even some of my grandmother’s flowered dresses hang here - familiar with the scent of lavender.
It did not take long to find the jar my grandfather asked to be brought to him. As he’d explained, it would be on the top shelf, nested beside a green-leathered photo album. Taking them down I was surprised to see the jar empty but for what appeared to be a few clipping of dried grass.
I moved out of the closet and sat on my grandparent’s bed. Curious, I opened the album to find black and white photos. Along the bottom of their white-scalloped boarders was a date, June 5th 1953 - 60 years ago.
One of the pictures is of my grandparents as a young couple seated on a blanket in the middle of some kind of meadow. A pond speckled with ducks and swans glide peacefully behind them. Their hands are clasped as they lean into each other, shoulder-to-shoulder, their faces and smiles smitten with an undeniable tenderness. Below this picture, in my grandmother’s, hand the words: Stan proposes to me today!!!
Looking closer, I see an empty jar on the blanket, oddly identical to the one lying on the bed next to me. I turn the page of the album to find a picture of my grandmother. A beautiful playful smile lights up her face. She is holding the now lidless jar and seems to be pulling grass, just beyond the blanket…
I take the jar and album to my granddad’s bedside. Tears fill his eyes as he opens and caresses the photos of his beloved wife. He asks that I open the jar. I do and he puts it to his nose.
Time held still in a jar escapes and he is no longer my aged and frail grandfather - moments of absence have inexplicably been erased. Beneath the sheath of his mortal shell, even as he draws his final breath, love’s battle with time shines through.
I try to imagine its cause and am left only with the picture of my grandmother placing shreds of grass into an empty jar 60 years ago.
I wonder about glass jars in my own life.
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