The Peach Tree
The remainder of a peach is sitting on the counter at my grandmother's house
Its tender yellow flesh and acid tang sweetness now settle in my young stomach
Its juice fills my blood and runs down my chin
The jagged seed is all that's left of the once vibrant plump fruit
I assume that it should be discarded, but my grandmother shows me how to plant it in a terracotta pot in the backyard.
On a fall afternoon, I dress for a first date, carefully selecting my clothing and planning my words
Excitement and anxiety dance together in my heart
I've waited a long time for this first date and my hope is full
Before I go, my father calls. "You need to come say goodbye to Poppie", he tells me
It's not unexpected, but today it still feels sudden to me.
As I enter the room I see my grandfather in his bed
My grandmother is leaning over him speaking imperceptibly into his ear
As I approach him I begin to hear her voice, whisper-quiet as she sings him his favorite hymn
Her eyes meet mine briefly but can't be held long from the last glimpses of her love
I say goodbye to my grandfather but can't help feeling like I'm intruding
on something far more significant; the tender passing of a shared life
I'll leave this room shortly to go on my date
The sweet flesh of my Grandparents life together has been consumed by time,
but the seed of that moment has been planted in my heart.
Years later my sons play on the floor of my grandmother's house
The box of toys that she keeps on the bottom shelf of her bookcase is one of their greatest joys
As they construct new worlds out of the inanimate plastic dinosaurs,
my grandmother cooks their lunch in the kitchen
The smell of fried chicken and white gravy intermingle with the sound of the song she hums to herself
Occasionally she breaks her song to call out to the boys, making sure they are safe
Mostly though, she does this to entice them with the food they are so eager to eat;
her own playful little game with them
When lunch has been consumed, my grandmother pulls out her world-famous
chocolate cake which she always seems to have on hand
It is moist and dense and she warms it so that the fudge on top is molten
My boys can hardly contain their excitement as she scoops out a little vanilla
ice cream to go on top of their pieces
Once they have their bowls, she will sit on the couch with them as they eat and watch their favorite cartoon,
smiling and listening as they chatter on about the story.
When my boys are a little older we go to visit my grandmother at the home she lives in
Every Tuesday at 9am we arrive to find her dressed in her finest and ready to go
As we drive, she watches the sun bounce off of the highway signs and
wears the "rock and roll" sunglasses that we bought her
At the coffee shop, she introduces her grandsons to everyone she can, telling them how proud she is of them
When I bring her coffee to her, she sips it and shakes her head. "Too strong," I ask.
"Yes, too strong," she replies
I add a little water and she sips it again, pleased with its new balance
As she drinks her coffee, she holds my youngest son's hand and talks cheerfully with my wife
Afterward, when we drop her off at her home, she invites us to stay for lunch in their cafeteria
As we eat, she beams with pride; her family sitting around her sharing a meal (in front of all her friends).
My family and I are planning a picnic on a spring afternoon
Homemade granola and roasted nuts are portioned out for each of us
Sliced apples and freshly washed peaches sit on the countertop waiting to be sorted
Before we go, my father calls. "You need to come say goodbye to Gran", he tells me
It's not unexpected, but today it feels sudden to me.
As we stand around her bed she sleeps quietly
My sons touch her face and brush back her hair
We sing "amazing grace" because it's the only hymn we're sure the boys know all the words to
The nurse tells us that she's mostly gone and won't likely respond, but as we sing her lips move and
I think that she's singing along in her own way
We tell her that we love her; that it's 'ok' to go
I tell her that years ago she planted a seed in me when my grandfather died
That seed was her love. And that seed has grown into a tree, whose fruit is singing over her now
And one day, those fruit will plant their own trees
And her love will have produced an orchard.