Even though it was singing its heart out, I was the only one who noticed the little bird. There it sat, perched among the magnolia blossoms. Magnolia blossoms were my grandma’s favorites and reminded me of her, same as the little bird which had taken its place along with the rest of us to say our goodbyes.
Surrounded by tear filled eyes and down turned faces, heavy hearts and long embraces I tried to be still and listen to the old man who read from the big book. The little bird was alone too, its song soft and sweet like those my grandma sang to me.
Everyone was so sad. I was sad too as I watched the little bird half expecting my grandma to break free from that big wooden box and with wings spread fly straight into the arms of God.
He was up there, up above the clouds and the blue, and if anyone could fly to Him it would be my grandma. I wasn’t old enough to know much, but I knew God was waiting on my grandma. It was something she told me and more than once.
The summer before, I stayed with her from the day school let out until the tomatoes in her garden had all turned red and it was time to put my shoes back on and head to my next grade. Where did summers like that go, when the best memories are made?
“Wings,” she said when I asked her why she walked all stooped over. We were weeding the garden, her in her bonnet and flowery long dress and tennis shoes with the toe cut out.
Covered in dirt wearing a necklace of sweat beads, I listened as she told me how when you get old, life has a way of making you bow forward, so the Lord can give you your wings.
She said I wouldn’t have to worry about that for a while, getting old was a long way off for me. Not for her though, as the two of us worked away in her last garden, evening sun setting across the tops of trees, cicadas screaming, and watermelon sliced and waiting in the refrigerator.
She lasted longer than anyone thought she would after my grandpa passed. She kept right on going, some way. She said it was her faith.
Now that I am older, I understand why she never gave up, even right up to the end when her little body was so broken down and ravaged there was hardly anything left. I rubbed her back. She liked that. My hands tiny and gentle, searched for wings through her thin housecoat. She smiled knowing, and promised they were on the way. I tried to smile back but it was with all hard, the hurt and tired in her eyes.
“If you were a big boy you could drive us over to the airport like your grandpa used to,” she said with another smile, a memory smile. I remembered that, all those trips the three of us made to the airport where we watched the planes big and small taxi down the runway and with engines that roared, zoom into the sky. It was great fun, the three of us had, as we picnicked on saltines my grandma loaded with peanut butter and sipped grape drink which gave us all mustaches, even grandma.
“Flying lessons,” is what she called it when it was just me and her that last summer and she took us to the airport in my grandpa’s old truck. When she cried, I cried too. We both missed grandpa. Now, I miss them both, more every day, since those summers long ago, when there were more tomorrows than yesterdays and my own flying lessons were still a long way off.
This a work of fiction dedicated to grandmas and grandpas.
-Edward Reed 2020