Valentine

valentine

Snow is dusting the road as I drive into town to pick him up.  It isn’t quite noon yet, but we decided this would be a better time than trying to reserve a place for dinner.  Neither of us wanted to be out very long after dark anyway.

All the shops are decorated in shades of red, succumbing to the falling white flakes of ice.  In fact, if it weren’t for the pink hearts, it would almost look like Christmas again.

I’m wearing my warm boots, even though the snow won’t last long; the forecast merely said ‘flurries’.  We plan on spending some of our time outside, and I don’t want to be in a rush to leave.

I pull into the parking lot and park the car.  He’s waiting inside.

The air is chilly, but without the biting wind that would make it miserable.  Wrapped in my nicest coat, I take more notice of the peace that seems to settle with the February weather.  My steps are soft, not wanting to break the winter spell as I enter the nursing home.

Granddad is waiting by the check-in counter, leaning on a cane and wearing his Sunday best.  He turns as I come in, and his smile lights up everything around him.

“There’s my Rosie!  Prettiest girl in town.”

His smile is contagious, lifting my spirits even higher as I wrap my arms around his neck. “You look real handsome, granddad.” I pull away and smile at the lady behind the counter. “Hi Anna.”

Anna pushes the sign-out sheet towards me, and I fill out granddad’s name as he pulls on his coat.

There’s a local diner close by that has run since longer than I can remember.  Granddad says it’s the standing winner of the town’s ‘last the longest’ contest, and most of the locals are passionate about it holding that title.  I can understand why.  The place is a part of home.

We get a booth together and order.  For a moment after the waitress leaves, I watch granddad as he watches the last of the snow float down.  I can see the distant past flickering in his eyes.

Then the moment is gone, and we’re smiling at each other and talking about the now’s and the this year’s and the somedays. He tells me about his friends he’s kept up with and how they’re doing, and I tell him about the new things I’m trying and the new people I’m getting to know.  Together, we are years upon years of living that stretches into the distant future.

It is a strange perspective to have.  A wide view—and, because it’s granddad—a real yet hopeful one.  It grounds me.

When we finished our plates and as we wait for the check, he puts his hand over mine and looks straight into my eyes. “You’re doing good Rosie.  Things feel slow, but that’s because life is often long.  You just keep on and keep on.  You’re doing great.”

All the tiny buzzing voices in my head settle, and for once I am present and I am focused and I am okay.

We go to the florist next.

The shop is busy with last-minute buyers, but we aren’t in a hurry and I’m still thinking over granddad’s words as he picks out a bouquet.  He loves daffodils and I love roses, but we both know that today is a day for peonies.  Pink ones, with a hint of purple.

We get a bunch of them, and a small box of chocolates.

The snow has already disappeared from the road, fading into the cracks and allys of town.  There is one last stop we want to make.

I pull into the cemetery and park the car.

Granddad carries the flowers and I carry the chocolates, walking side by side down the well-kept footpath.  Clouds are starting to break up, just enough for the day to brighten a little before the sun sinks down again.  We turn, and come to a stop in front of a gravestone.

Granddad leans on his cane, the flowers shaking from a slight tremor in his hand. “Hello Rosealeigh.”

The love of his life.  The laughter to his smile.  The original owner of my name.

“Hi grandmum.”

She loved the colors of autumn, the cadence of poetry, the twinkle in granddad’s eye.  She loved history, and rivers, and she loved pink peonies with hints of purple.

Granddad carefully places the bouquet, brushing off bits of dirt from the lettering on her stone.

I watch him, letting him take his time.

Granddad has always been a patient man.  I’ve always loved that about him, how he never got frustrated or hurried.  The only time I’ve heard him raise his voice was when I’d caught a fish the size of my face and he couldn’t wait to tell grandmum, who was all the way across the lake.

I wish I’d inherited his patience, but I’ve struggled too much with a sharp tongue and rising pulse for it to be natural.  For me, I have to be purposeful.  For me, I have to practice over and over until it comes out smooth.  For me, patience will have to be learned.

Granddad brushes the top of the gravestone with the softest, featherlight touch.  He has always been my greatest teacher.

I open the chocolates and we eat them together as we talk about grandmum and memories and the flickers of the past that stay in granddad’s eyes.  We stay until our words fall into a thoughtful silence.  We stay until my fingers are numb.

We stay there until the sunset begins to stretch out across the sky and the wind stirs from its slumber.

Granddad holds my arm as we follow the sunset to my car.

 

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