Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)
TITLE: A Special Visitor
By Debbie Roome
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She had set it earlier with a lime-checked cloth and a vase of magnolias, their petals the texture of soft whipped cream. I inhaled deeply allowing the fragrance to mask the antiseptic air. Matron ticked off a list on stubby fingers. “The chess set is here, the photo album and the box. Is there anything else you need?”
Alone again, I checked my watch before pulling the chess set closer. Hand carved and stained, it was my own creation. Woodwork was the one thing I was still proficient at. I knew Matthew was an avid chess player and this set was a gift for him; in a way, a peace offering. I set it aside and ran my hand across the photo album. It was a thick volume, bound with a faded red cover and held so many memories.
The first page displayed an enlargement of Rosalie at our wedding. What a beautiful woman she was; chocolate hair that curled on slim shoulders and skin like milk and roses. I still miss her. I flipped a few pages and paused as Trevor grinned out at me. He was our only child: a cuddly baby, a golden toddler, a gangly teenager, a confident young man.
A knock at the door startled me. “I expect he’ll be here any minute.” Said Matron as she placed some sandwiches and cookies on the table. “You’ll want some privacy so I’ll make tea as soon as he arrives.”
I went back to the photos as she straightened a crease in the curtains. Trevor and Carla had been married for eighteen months when Matthew was born and Rosalie was the proudest grandma alive. Every time she went to town she’d come back with a cute outfit, or a rattle, or a cuddly bear for him.
I closed the album and pulled the box towards me. Martin and Kay were good people. I had dozens of photos of Matthew and copies of his school reports. I knew what flavour ice cream he liked and had watched the video of his high school graduation. Yet, until now, he had known nothing about me.
I pulled a newspaper cutting from the box. ‘TRAGIC ACCIDENT KILLS FAMILY MEMBERS’ read the headline. I remember it like yesterday; the impact as the truck slammed into us, the screeching of metal on tarmac and then the silence. Rosalie, Trevor and Carla died instantly. My spine was broken and my lower legs crushed. Only Matthew, nestled safely in the cocoon of his baby seat was unharmed.
My life fell apart that day and facing long months of physical therapy and life in a care centre, I made a decision about Matthew. I couldn’t look after a small baby in my crippled condition and there were no family members to help out. From my hospital bed, I arranged a private adoption and Kay and Martin became his parents. I asked only that they keep in touch, while not revealing my existence.
Everything changed when Kay called a few weeks ago. “You’re not going to like this.” she said, “Matthew is asking questions about his family. He’s spoken of searching for relatives and I think its time to tell him the truth. He needs you. He needs to hear from you about his family, his parents, and exactly what happened.”
I didn’t sleep for a week. What would Matthew think? Would he want a cripple for a grandfather? I’d wanted to give him a new life, one free of tragedy and pain, but maybe I’d been wrong. Would he be able to forgive me?
After a week I called Kay. “Tell him. Tell him everything and see if he wants to meet me.”
“Harry.” Matron was calling me softly. I looked up and there he was; this young man who was so familiar and yet a stranger. For a moment we gazed at each other and then he was in my embrace; his strength pressed against my frailty, his hair soft on my cheek, his scent clean like soap. I realised in that moment what an old fool I’d been; how much I’d lost out on.
When he finally pulled away, his eyes were pools of forgiveness and hope; of compassion and love. “It’s so good to finally meet you, Grandpa.”
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