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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Personal Peace (06/01/06)

TITLE: Old Conflicts Don't Die
By Sandra Petersen


“What was it like back then, Grandma?” the young man asked.

His grandmother raised her cup and sipped her coffee in reflection. Should she tell him? Or were some things better unsaid?

“Grandma?” he prodded gently.

She closed her eyes, remembering. So many things she could say, so many unresolved issues.

When she again looked at him, she saw his grandfather. His eyes penetrated the wall she had erected so many years ago around these memories. Yes, he was too much like his grandfather.

“Your grandfather and I had many things in common. We loved each other so much. When he left, we were just beginning our life together,” she murmured.

“I wish I could have known him,” her grandson said. “They say he was a hero.” Her weak smile was his only answer.

“But what was it like?” he repeated. “I want to understand.”

She sighed. “I wasn’t over there, of course. I saw the television news reports like most other Americans.” Grimacing, she added, “The nightly body count. How many of the enemy were killed or maimed compared to how many of ours. A score tallied daily to try to convince us we were winning.”

“You sound bitter.”

“Grief can do that, Danny. Your grandpa was one of those cold statistics, and I had just learned I was pregnant with your daddy. I didn’t know what to think.”

Yes, the knife still twisted in that old wound in her heart, still caused searing pain. Oh, Dennis, why did you volunteer to go to Nam? God, why did you let him? She could have no peace in her heart until God answered those and her other questions.

Her grandson reflected over his lukewarm coffee. “They say you went a little crazy.”

She nodded, waited for him to ask the probing questions she knew were still to come, the ones she wasn’t sure she could answer.

“You stopped going to church. Did you stop believing?”

She remained silent. What could she say? God had abandoned her when He let her husband die.

“They say you protested the war after my grandfather died.”

She grimaced again and shut her eyes. “Yes,” she whispered.


There it was, the question she most feared. She let silence fill the minutes until it became almost unbearable.

“Couldn’t you have honored his memory instead?”

Hot, angry tears spilled down her cheeks. She heard her grandson push his chair back, scraping the linoleum. Opening her eyes, she winced to see him grasp his crutches and rise. She tried not to stare at his one empty pants leg. Towering above her, he still seemed more a giant than her grandson.

“Where are you going?”

“To the cemetery to visit Grandpa’s grave and pray,” he muttered, moving toward the door.

“Wait, I’ll drive you there,” she said. He paused for her to get her purse and keys.

Arriving at the cemetery minutes later, she hesitated behind the steering wheel. Could she put her pain aside long enough to accompany her grandson to the gravesite? Danny was already on the crutches and moving toward the neat rows of markers.

She glanced at him, then away. Why did war have to inflict such suffering? The war that stole Danny’s mobility was in the Persian Gulf; the war that stole her husband had been in Viet Nam. Two generations had been touched. So needless.

“Coming?” Danny called back.

“Yes,” she answered. She had stayed away so long, she wasn’t sure she would remember where he was laid to rest. But Danny knew. He was already at the grave by the time she left the car.

“Grandma,” he said. “I want to pray with you. Old conflicts don’t die until their ghosts are laid to rest. These ghosts that have stolen your faith must be laid to rest.”

She protested but he stilled her with one look.

“Do it to honor Grandpa, and to receive God’s peace inside.”

She swallowed a lump that constricted her throat. “I don’t know how to begin.”

“Scream, yell, cry if you need to. Just talk to Him. Should I wait in the car?”

She shook her head no and embraced her grandson. Her tears began anew as she turned her face to heaven and released the sorrows of forty years. As she knelt before the cold headstone, she pleaded, “Please forgive me, Jesus, for my anger and bitterness. I need You.”

Only then did peace find a resting place in her heart.

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This article has been read 1272 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Christine Miles06/09/06
I can't say I entirely understand where this grandson is coming from, nor do I understand why his question is so hard for his grandmother but maybe it's because I live in a country where people aren't obliged to go to war. I'd like to get more inside the heads of your characters. Write well.
Jessica Schmit06/09/06
I was a little angry with the grandson. He seemed so harsh. I think I would've slapped him if he talked to me like that. Your dialogue was great and the build up was wonderful as well. I did think the ending was a little weak, but all in all you had a strong message and you communicated your intent very clearly in this story.
Helen Paynter06/09/06
I think this explored the area of prolonged bitterness very well. However, I felt the grandson had two separate roles. In the first half, it seemed that he had his own aganda - his questions were his own rather than to help her. In the second half, though, he became more of a therapist/ counsellor, it seems to me. Just my opinion, though. Enjoyed the read.
Jan Ackerson 06/12/06
I like the characters here--they are three-dimensional, flawed, realistic. A deft touch with the dialog makes this a very readable story.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz06/13/06
Sometimes it takes someone asking direct questions and even being a little sharp or abrupt to cut through the walls we build around our emotions. I liked the way this grandson was able to get to the heart of the matter. After all, he shared something in common with his grandfather and was probably the only one who could ask the probing questions at this point.
Anita Neuman06/14/06
I was thinking that the grandson was too harsh, but when his own situation came to light, that added a new dimension to his own perspective on the situation. Very well written!
Sherry Wendling06/15/06
A moving story and well deserved win! Double congratulations! I may be dense, but I truly value dear ones who will be this open with me. I have no trouble giving it back, either! "Iron sharpens iron!"
Sally Hanan06/15/06
It's a pity you only had 750 words here to convey everything you wanted to, and as a result you had to end it a little abruptly, but I would encourage you to make this longer so as to add in the emotions as Grandma grapples with her chat with God at the grave, and I'd also add in description of what both people do with their hands and bodies as they dialogue. She could twist her skirt with her fingers, he could lean against the wall or push back his hair etc. Stuff like that gives us more of a picture of what they look like.