Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)
- TITLE: At the Top of the Stairs
By Patricia Turner
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Now, twenty years later, sitting at the bottom of those same stairs, the feeling was very similar.
Up the stairs, at the top, was where my grandfather lay dying.
I looked around me, remembering kinder days. Holidays filled with stories and laughter. Warm talks I had with my Grandma as I got into my teenage years and had so few others to really talk to.
My aunts and an uncle sat in silence in the living room, waiting. The kitchen table was covered with food; ham, fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, brought by friends from church and neighbors and so far, untouched. A fire had been kindled in the great stone fireplace but it added no more warmth than the stones themselves did to the dreary day.
I wasn’t sure why I was here. Grandpa and I hadn’t seen each other in five years. My five year-old daughter, Angie, born with no apparent father, was responsible for the rift, or I guess I should say, I was. Knowing how religious Grandpa was, I couldn’t look him in the eye with such a stain on my conscience. Now here I was. With Grandpa largely unconscious now, I could hope for little in the way of reconciliation. Yet, weeping inside for the lost time together, I yearned finally to make it right with him.
“Cassie, it’s good to see you.” My oldest cousin Joey sat down beside me on the third step. “Where’ve you been?” He knew perfectly well, I thought, but I also knew he was trying to be kind.
“A long way from here.” I answered, gazing up the stairs. He followed my gaze, and must have known what I was thinking.
“Why, what were you afraid of?”
Good question. What, really, had I been afraid of? That because my own Dad disowned me, my Grandpa would reject me too?
“He missed you, you know. I doubt there was a day that he didn’t think about you. He’d ask about you and Angie also. Why don’t you go up there and see him?” I looked at Joey, partly hoping, and partly disbelieving. “Go on.” he encouraged, gently.
Taking my hand, he helped me to my feet. Reluctantly, I started up the stairs.
Doubt and guilt gnawed at me as I approached the room where he lay.
Standing at the door, finally, I gasped.
Grandpa, pale and shriveled in the large four-poster bed, had his eyes closed and his breathing was shallow and rattled softly. A spread that Grandma had crocheted covered him. Tears filled my eyes, grief overwhelming me.
Entering the room, I saw the pictures that were everywhere. Pictures of my parents, my aunts, and my uncle as children, and as they had grown, along with pictures of their children adorned the walls and every piece of furniture in the room except for the bed.
I approached the bed slowly, almost turning around to bolt from the room.
As I drew closer, it was the picture on the bedside table that made my tears turn to sobs. The picture was of my Angie, sitting on a pony. It was taken on her last birthday. It was in a white frame and placed next to an open Bible, the only other item on the crotched-doily covered table.
Glancing down, a verse caught my eye.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 KJV
My breath caught in my throat at the words. I picked up the book to look more closely.
Setting it down again, exactly as it had been placed originally, I saw that my grandfather’s eyes were open and looking at me. A faint smile was on his lips. His hand moved slightly on top of the cover.
Kneeling down, I took his hand in mine.
“Grandpa, I’m sorry…so sorry.” I sobbed, my tears uncontrolled. “Forgive me, please.”
“No...th…ing to for…give, my love.” Each precious, whispered syllable sapped his meager strength.
But those welcome words, welcoming me home, will be my strength forever.
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