BY NANCY BOYCE
Copyright is held by the author.
IT’S THE WEEK before Christmas and it’s been 20 years to the day since Gran passed. My brother is being very secretive about his reason for picking me up and where he is taking me. He pulls up in front of the old stone cottage and we sit in silence for a few moments and stare at the building. I haven’t been back since my last visit with Gran. My parents’ old restaurant is an Irish pub now and Gran’s flat has been converted to a private banquet area.
We’re greeted by Shivaun, the pub owner. She knows my brother well and greets him warmly.
“I expect your brother has told you why I needed you to come here today,” Shivaun says.
I look at my brother inquiringly.
“No, I wanted to take Janie upstairs first. See if she senses anything,” Pat answers.
Pat puts his arm around me and leads me to Gran’s flat. Everything is different and it makes me feel sad. All traces of Gran have been scrubbed and painted away.
“I feel Gran’s presence,” I tell Pat.
“She’s not at rest, Janie. Gran passes Shivaun on the stairs all the time. Her patrons are starting to notice,” Pat explains.
“I’d like to be alone for a few moments,” I tell them and they leave me, closing the door behind them.
I walk over to the window. I spent many hours sitting by this window with Gran. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I see Gran’s table. I run my hands along the top of the old black, Formica table top, feel the coolness of the metal edge. I place my hand on top of the old vinyl chair. When I open my eyes I look down at the chair. There is that same cut in the top of the seat, spreading out, yellowing, wanting to spill its contents. I smell a cigarette burning and look across the table. There is Gran with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.
“Drink your tea before it gets cold, Janie,” Gran says.
I sit in my usual chair and wrap my hands around the mug that is now in front of me. “Tastes good, Gran,” I say. “I’ve missed you.”
Gran is in her housedress. The blue and yellow flowers are faded and the dress pulls across her chest. I look at Gran’s hands. They’re large hands that show years of hard work. Gran pats my hand and says, “I’ve missed you too, Janie.”
Gran has always been very direct with me, so I decide to be the same way with her.
“Gran, why are you still here?” I ask.
Gran looks out the window. I wait patiently for her to collect her thoughts. She looks back at me and I see sadness in her eyes that I have never seen before.
“I’m being forgotten, a bit more each day. Soon, no one will remember me,” Gran says.
“I’ll never forget you,” I say.
“In time, everyone I knew will be gone, most of them are already,” Gran says and then she takes another sip of tea and a drag on her cigarette. I watch the smoke rise in little circles. Her cigarette smoke always intrigued me as a child.
“Children are spoiled now; adults your age too. They think they have it tough, but they have no idea what it was like to live through two great wars and the depression. Anyone still living cannot imagine what turn of the 20th century London was like,” Gran says.
Gran’s attitude surprises me. She was never one to dwell on the past, but the past is all she has left now.
“All we can hope for is to leave a legacy of good memories and shape the minds of the next generation,” I comment.
“My memory is going to die with your generation. It’s like your parent’s old photo albums. No one wants them; no one cares. Children don’t want to hear about your grandmother,” she says.
“Your stories would be interesting to so many people,” I assure her.
Suddenly I realize what I need to do is to really assure Gran, to give Gran the peace that she needs.
“I’ve been writing, Gran,” I tell her.
Gran smiles and says, “Your mom liked to write too, but her stories and poems have all been lost.”
I stare at Gran, wondering how she knows this. I only have one of my mom’s poems. I don’t know what happened to the rest. I didn’t look after mom’s things when she passed.
“I can write your story Gran. I can share your story with people around the world,” I explain.
Gran looks at me and scowls. How can I describe the Internet to Gran?
“People have little televisions that they carry with them. They read stories on these televisions,” I try to explain.
“I want my stories to be on paper,” Gran says.
“I can do that too, Gran,” I say.
Gran places a big hand on mine and looks at me. I no longer see the sadness in her eyes.
“Thank you, Janie,” Gran says and then she is gone.
I stand and look through the window trying to compose myself. It’s much darker than when we arrived. When I turn to leave, the room is once more as it had been; a banquet room with no traces of Gran.
I join my brother in the pub downstairs.
Pat and Shivaun look at me anxiously. “You were gone a long time. Did you see Gran?” my brother asks.
“She’s at peace now,” I say. I turn to Shivaun, “I don’t think you’ll see Gran again.”
“What happened?” Pat asks.
“I’ll explain over dinner, but then I have to go straight home. I have a story brewing in my head.”