by Sara Etgen-Baker
In the two days since my arrival, Granddad and I exchanged only a few predictable, cursory words.
“Here’s your cereal; no milk, right?”
“Right, Granddad. Thanks.”
“You sleep okay?”
Although his silent house had kept me awake, I respectfully replied, “Yes sir. I did,” followed by, “How ‘bout you?”
“I’m old: I never sleep well,” he grumbled. “Just too many memories and ghosts.”The house became still as we struggled with what to say to one another. So we ate breakfast in silence; a silence so thick I could feel it drape around me like an old shawl. I pulled it against me as I plopped down into my grandmother’s chair suddenly aware of something else in the house, something different; a faint rustling, a soft presence of some sort. I didn’t know what it was.
Perhaps it was the lilt of Granny’s lavender perfume that lingered in the rich tapestry fabric, stirring memories of when I sat in her lap reading a book or sharing hot cocoa. Perhaps it was Granny herself. I closed my eyes and remembered that the house was full of noise and laughter when Granny was alive.
Now, though, the house seemed empty, lifeless, and unnervingly silent. I was young and impatient and needed to shatter the silence and to understand why Mother had sent me to visit my grandfather. I just couldn’t make any sense out of her cryptic parting words: “Remember, this visit isn’t about you.”
Granddad glanced up from reading his morning newspaper. “Your grandmother loved sitting in that chair and watching her grandchildren.”
“I loved sitting in Granny’s lap when she sat in this chair.” I watched his face. “It still smells like her.”
“Yes, it does.” He adjusted his glasses. “Her memory keeps me awake at night.”
“The silence at night frightens me and keeps me awake.” I choked back the tears.
He slowly raised one eyebrow and fumbled for words. “Why…uh…uh…why are you afraid of the silence?”
“Because the silence just makes me miss her more.”
“I miss her too.” He peered over his glasses. “In the silence, I hear her voice and feel her spirit rustling through the house. In that silence, I don’t miss her as much.” His chin trembled and his voice cracked. “I’m terribly afraid I’ll lose her forever if I don’t keep the house silent.” After another moment’s silence he mumbled, “Like memories and ghosts, she quietly lives in the silent shadows of both of our lives.”
“You’re right, Granddad,” were the only words I could muster.
We hugged one another; Granddad shuffled off to his bedroom. Nothing more need be said.
A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.