Author Megan Denby and I share similar feelings about the impact our grandfathers had in our lives. In my upcoming book Crying Girl, grandpa plays a significant role in the early development of the main character, Nicole, before he dies. Megan's story about her grandad resonates strong feelings within me and I trust that you will also find it moving.
Stanley Lockhart could walk, unremarkably, into any room and instantly be surrounded by children. At eighty years, he was comfortable sitting on the floor to help a child assemble a puzzle. I never heard him say, ‘Shh’ or ‘Just a minute,’ for he knew that every moment was precious to a child and every child was precious in that moment.
Stanley Lockhart was my grandad. There was no one like him. His eyes and smile visit me often. I remember the day Grandad gave me a newspaper clipping – details of a writing contest. We sat at his kitchen table, playing cards, and talked about me being a writer one day.
After Grandad died, I found that clipping in a drawer and I remembered the faith he’d had in me. I entered a contest and wrote about Stanley Lockhart. The award I won lessened my fears and so I took a careful step in the direction of my dreams.
It’s a rhythmic filtering of air between his teeth. It seems loud on the still morning. Fog swirls, creeps between the trees on shore. I stare at his hunched back, the green work shirt, the brown fedora.
And he whistles.
Water laps the sides of our boat. I trail my fingers in the cool water; make patterns in the glass-like surface. He turns and passes my fishing rod. My snarled line is magically straight. A fresh worm wiggles on the hook. He peers at me with crinkled, brown eyes and grins, one of those full-face grins. Then he pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and blows his nose. I watch, fascinated, as the end of his nose wobbles back and forth. I press the release, watch as the worm sinks into the murky depths. A loon calls and Grandad peers across the lake.
I follow the line of his outstretched arm. I can just make out the loon. Bobbing behind are two babies. They seem so small to me. I feel a nibble and my rod bends. Anticipation shivers down my back and I tighten my fingers. I glance up. Grandad still watches the loons. They are farther away now, just specks.
The sky is glowing. I watch as the sun slips over the horizon, bleeds orange into the morning. The lake shimmers, sunlight fracturing into a million diamonds as it hits the water. Grandad peers back and I smile. He smiles back and starts to whistle as he feeds his line into the lake. My arms tremble as I hold the two-by-four above my head. Grandad reaches up and hammers a nail into the wood, then another.
I lower my arms and feel the ache. I notice Grandad’s thin back, the thin shoulders, and the frayed work shirt. He lifts his fedora and pushes thick, silver waves back with his forearm. I stare at the tattoo of the lady on his arm and wonder where he got it. I’m tired but Grandad reaches for more wood. He whistles and carefully steps to the next window of my new home. I find another nail in my apron and join him.
The sun seems on fire. The last streaks of daylight cling to the sky then gradually retreat, sinking below the horizon. I feel the heat of Grandad’s hand as he pats my shoulder then he lifts the wood into place. This time I hammer.
I hold his hand, feel the warmth. I stare at the tattoo, watch as it blurs before my eyes.
The room is quiet save the chuff of Grandad’s breath and the bleep of the machine that monitors his heart. I smooth my hand across his brow, pray for him to open those brown eyes. His fedora hangs alone on the back of a chair. He seems so small to me in the hospital bed.
He sighs and I lean in. “I’m here, Grandad. I’m right here.”
He sighs again. I slip my hand into his; feel the worn skin, the familiar calluses. I peer toward the window and watch, as the sun hovers on the horizon, a purple rim of light that slowly fades to nothing.
Grandad may have crossed to the other side of the horizon but his light shines bright in those of us he touched.
What feelings or memories does this story resonate with you?
Megan Denby is an award-winning novelist who grew up on a farm with two older sisters and a younger brother. Once she discovered the world of books, she was lost, often reading to the wee hours of the morning. Megan has been writing for over thirty years. Her debut novel, "A Thistle in the Mist" was described by one agent as having a "hypnotic, fairy-tale-like quality" and was inspired by the turbulent life of her feisty, Scottish great-grandmother. A Canadian girl, Megan is an avid dragon boater and draws inspiration from the tranquility of her secluded cottage in Northern Ontario. She lives in the enchanting, lakeside community of Port Perry with her wife and passel of children and is working on the disturbing sequel, "Lost to the Mist”.
Contact Megan at: www.megandenby.com and http://notyouraveragelassie.blogspot.ca/