If only Grandma Laura didn‚t have to live in a Nursing Home. During their last visit, Brad‚s footsteps sounded like thunder as he hurried to grandma‚s room. It was sad to see her in that old wheelchair staring out the window. Pictures on her dresser were of grandma in her rose garden, with Brad alongside.
Heading home, he asked, "How come grandma hardly talks? Or walks anymore?"
"Son, her legs can't support her. And her memory‚s faulty because of Alzheimer‚s disease."
"I just wish grandma was like before," Brad answered. He tried to imagine how grandma felt about not working in her garden, nor watching her pet goldfinch grow. Not even being able to fish anymore with Brad in her backyard brook. He remembered that day he caught his first trout. Grandma was there.
Stars winked each time he blinked back tears, thinking about their good times together. He missed her warm hugs so much. She often called him, "My little chickadee." Brad thought it was kind of neat.
"Getting older is part of life's plan," dad once said. ‚Even if she can‚t spend time with you now, she still has precious moments. During our next visit, watch grandma's face when she‚s sitting in her wheelchair beside the window. Don't speak, son. Just watch."
Today he followed dad‚s instructions, and watched grandma sitting quietly in her wheelchair. She had wheeled herself tightly against the Nursing Home‚s large side window, overlooking the garden. Grandma Laura had her usual large smile. After a few moments she cleared her throat and began a humming that floated down the corridor.
‚What is she looking at?‚ Brad wondered. Suddenly a robin jumped up on the window ledge, and stared at her. Its half-opened beak seemed to pass on a message to his grandmother. Then the red-breasted bird tilted its head and began to sing.
The boy hardly breathed. His parents were silent, eyes wide with interest.
Grandma Laura smiled, as the bird‚s song seemed to be just for her. In the car, Brad touched his dad's shoulder. "Was that bird really singing to grandma?" he asked. When no one answered he figured there was something he had to work out for himself.
Before Brad climbed into bed, he felt grandma's warmth. It came as a song in his heart. He leaned his head to one side like the robin, listening. It was a comfortable feeling. The same as when he was a little boy needing an answer to a question from her. Then Grandma would pull him into her lap and hum quietly until he fell asleep.
In his dreams, he was ‚King of the castle.‚ Sometimes he was a Forest Ranger, even a Jet Pilot. Grandma Laura often said, ‚Be anything you want to be.‚ From his window Brad watched the night sky. It sparkled like a bucket of diamonds, alive with excitement, like grandma's garden.
As he lay in bed, understanding suddenly swept over him, like an extra blanket. "Goodnight...grandma. I love you," Brad whispered. And he began to hum his own made-up tune, filled with good thoughts.
"Your grandma is like a rose," his father said at the supper table. "In her mind her beautiful garden is complete. That's why her face is covered in smiles." Brad had listened to every word. "She has such precious memories," dad added. "And you‚re a large part of her dreams."
Before closing his eyes this night, Brad made a decision. He knew he must plant a rose bush this summer. And like grandma, he too would grow many smiles.
* * *
¬ Richard L. Provencher
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