They buried her in the city but his grandparents lived in the country. His skin felt cold as cement as he sat on the hill at dusk and watched the owl that fluttered around Old Doke's barn. There was the sound of cicadas burzing in the brush; it was his first night back.He sat visible, hoping his favorite playmates might happen by or look out of a window and see him, but even that desire dimmed the longer he sat on the pat-down grass—anyway, how does one inform a vacation friend that one’s mother has died?
Later, after sleeving into a jacket, he sat again in the sheltering grasses waiting for the cool night air to descend and the heavens to darken enough to show several faint sky-wonders…Stars.
Death had made him cry for his only parent, but now, like always, the night opened upon him and revived his love of the mother in nature. And it was comforting to be out here among the tall grass; for like nature, his mother was a tall woman, and he had always felt safe in her long arms.
When they played football she was half tree, and he could never quite bring her down. Even now he recalled how her athletic muscles bulged on his sweaty cheeks as she dragged him to the goal line. The mother he had always known would sometimes bend at night over his bed, her hair would hang like the dark willows, and as she smiled lovingly while she stroked his face, he saw in her eyes the gleam that planets fulfill just after sunset in a western sky.
In each of his twelve adventures in life, she would take him places: each summer she drove; he got to see the way. He remembered seeing how the lands were laid down with dark green crops, and woods rivered apart by brown fields or sun-brightened, gray roads. The skies over these expeditions were awesome, and though the woods being explored may have been thick and steep, none of the things he saw seemed larger or more thrilling than the sky—whether expanded deep by a domed-blue or hazened- over with star-shine.
While the sky kept deepening, the calls and answers of a hundred serious crickets stereoed in at him. Aldebaran and Thuban began to show and glimmer on the best dark he had seen in a long time. "We are not alone" the movie had said, and looking out into the star-heavy void he had to hope and agree.
He began to rock slowly, arms around his knees, as he peered back and forth across the infinite distances between constellations, which he called `star friends.' It was then that he heard the sounds of his grandfather's slow heavy tramp, attended by the cadence of pocketed keys. When he finally looked up at the changed man who now sat next to him, the vacancy that kept shifting in both their empty souls fled into the depths of the night, and once there, seemed to stare back and stalk their solemn star party. Then he felt the warm arm of experience slide across his shoulders and, for the third day in a row, hug him in.
His grandfather spoke softly, his words even and sure, "See that star—the big one?"
"Can you go there?"
"And you don't have to," his Grandfather said, as he stared upward admiringly into the wide vault. "Compared to the vastness of the universe, it's as close as across the road. But all the while you sit here it is coming to you. You see its light. It has sent it; a measure of it will cling in and around you for as long as you remain on earth. I like to think that all the 200 or so kinds of light sent toward us is part of that birthright—that hugging that Mother Nature does to let us know some of ‘the rest of the story;' coming toward us first, from the day we are born, to draw us where the rest of her life resides."
As they continued to sit, the sounds of nature quiescently echoed in the summer hillside, and while the pauses in the essence of their own small talk could be heard muffling off a ways only to disappear low into the grasses, they could feel a brightness of heaven brooding among the deep between them.
Yes, it was the best dark he'd seen in a long time....