The apple was no ordinary apple. It was a Red Delicious and it had been cut in two and shared with her some fifty years ago. The man who cut it was her grandpa and he was confined to a wheelchair soon to die of multiple sclerosis. She and he were alone in the house and he rolled his wheelchair up to the refrigerator, managed to get an apple out, and then expertly used his pocket knife to cut it in two and then scoop out the seeds, coring it before sharing it with her. Back in those days on the farm no one had store-bought apples and certainly no one peeled, cored or cut the crabapples that the kids would pick directly from the tree, wipe on their jeans and eat on their way to the field to herd the cows into the barn for milking.
She still remembers this small act of kindness a prematurely aged man did for his young granddaughter so long ago that time itself moves about in her memory. Was she nine or was she ten and did he have two more years to move his wheelchair about or just one? What did he say to her on that afternoon, and did she sit with him quietly or did she talk as they both savored the richness of the apple? She would hear her parents say later that he was a stern man and tight with his money. But on this moment, he had a lightness of touch with both the small knife and with his smile. He’s never in her dreams, but she wishes he would appear, if for no other reason than to give her a fresh look at one of the men in her family who helped make her the woman she is today.
Time holds her hostage as she asks what more could she have wanted from that day. Everything, of course. Perhaps that was the point. She knows that now as she looks at old photographs from her childhood and finds her smiling adolescent brother, the mischievous one who teased her at times too much and who would grow up to embrace views with simple explanations. She now wonders what thoughts her grandpa had knowing he was going to die and what thoughts her brother had as he lay dying changed by whatever inside him had turned against him. He had become the image of their grandfather in appearance but not necessarily of conviction.
Grandpa had given her a gift, simple in itself but such a gift that it taught her kindness, tenderness and vulnerability on top of a love that makes one want to be worthy, generous, and strong. She had taken his apple into herself and had also become worthy. Sadly in the end, her brother had tried to take this apple from her. He had chosen not to share his thoughts with her. He kept his silence about what it was that had drawn him down into such a dark and solitary place. He simply closed his eyes and kept his own confidence about his firm embrace of a painful death, a departure which pushed others away and ultimately tore the fabric of what tied them and so many others together. He died according to his will. Their grandfather died against his will. Grandpa would have been just as mystified as she was.
Now these several months later, she is still trying to find the way to say good-bye, which was not important to him in the end. He had chosen to just shrivel up, jaw agape, without even a symbolic leather belt nearby to bite for palliative care. Her dreams have not allowed her to see into his chosen darkness. During this time, all she has wanted has been a last chance to spin him around as though they were children and he sitting on a swivel chair. She waits to see the moment when he will awaken and run forth in another direction. But it’s not to be. She envies Toni Morrison’s words of praise about James Baldwin and the gifts he had given her–“the courage to live life in and from its belly as well as beyond its edges.”
Returning to the special moment with her grandfather, she asks herself again what more could she have wanted from that time so long ago when her grandfather gave her something neither of them probably fully realized. From that simple act of kindness, she learned that what we will not grasp will be lost. Lost forever.
Now she has placed a slate marker in the meadow where her brother used to emerge from the forest on his walks while visiting. He came into view with his big smile as though he had just shot off a spinning chair.
Once of the Farm
Now of the Forest
Lost into Himself
Refusing to be found
Swept into the Shadows
Causing Pain and Confusion
Your Flight has seared my Heart
Now bring Light and find Rest
Be remembered Here