“His son’s been gone for a mighty long time, going on ten or twelve years thereabouts”
Gail’s grandmother paused to remove stray strands of grey hair from her forehead. She had always worn her hair in a tight knot at the nape of her neck , which oftentimes came loose these days from restless nights and little more than twenty-five bushings of the 100 strokes called for. She hardly let anyone help with her hair. Said it was hers and hers alone and it, meaning her hair, said it was doing just fine.
It was obvious to Gail that her grandma’s crowning glory wasn’t of the slightest concern, as she was hellbent on opening the clasp to her well-worn pocketbook and murmuring in frustration.The younger woman bit back a small giggle as her eyes followed the wrinkled crease between her grandmother’s eyebrows widen on her forehead.
“Now, John’s a man of his word who always said he’ll never stop serving folks at his establishment.” She looked at Gail through thick lenses. “He should have a couple of cans of that sweet pineapple I like, sitting right there on the shelf for you to grab hold to.”
The girl had an inclination to grab the purse, gently of course, but thought better of it. This disease demanded patience. Still, she wondered how long this particular feat was going to take her grandma who insisted on doing things for herself and would stubbornly refuse any help from her family. Finally the clasp gave way and opened to wads of aged papers spilling out from various compartments of the antiquated handbag. Unfazed, the woman busily searched every area of her prized possession, failing to notice that Gail’s mom had come to join them in the kitchen. Time seemed to stand still until they heard-
Gail’s laughter was one of relief and merriment. “You struck gold, grandma, she said, in response to the woman’s excited reaction. I’m proud to know you haven’t lost the gift of perseverance. Grandma eyes twinkled as she blinked in recognizable flashes of her granddaughter. Her bony fingers held the yellowed slither of paper toward Gail with a flourished twist of the wrist.
“Now, daughter, you should be able to follow the road to his place. It’s quite a ways inland, but the landmarks your daddy circled in red should be able to lead you there and back… well before midday.’’
They exchanged disappointing glances. The doctors had warned them early into her grandma’s diagnosis about the memory loss, but the reality took some getting used to. One minute your loved one knows you and within a blink of an eye, you can become a distant memory, covered in foggy brainwaves of a mind that never quite finds clarity. What they’d just witnessed in the kitchen wasn’t uncommon. Gail’s’ grandmother was reliving another time and place. Those early days when she was middle-aged and still feeling young and girlish.
Her grandmother loved family gatherings, especially during the holidays when she rose in the wee hours while everyone was still sleeping, to prepare the turkey with all its trimmings. Her delicious pineapple upside down cake called for the best quality pineapple and making it was the highlight of her grandmother’s Christmas.
But, this day and time was quite different and there would be no cans of pineapple lining the shelves of a long ago memory. John & Son’s storefront grocer was long ago demolished, the land used as part of a huge community shopping mall in their small town. At 88, Gail’s grandma was living with dementia and had to be placed in a home for geriatrics, six months after her dad’s death two years ago. This would be her first Christmas at home since her son passed.
The pineapple upside down cake was no longer a family tradition in the house since her dad was killed in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. Her father’s ailing mother would never know that her son wouldn’t be right there at the head of the table with the rest of the family, enjoying her special pineapple treat.
Gail and her mother couldn’t bear to tell the old woman that there would be no pineapple cake in their house because she and her mother had decided to bury that special memory along with him. Gail’s mom placed a finger to her lips, “Wait here.” She creep up the stairs leading to their bedrooms, returning with a piece of paper in her hands.
“Here’s the address to your Aunt Margie’s new house. I’ve already called ahead. Your dad loved pineapple upside down cake and your grandmother always made it as a special gift for him on Christmas. Your grandmother and aunt Margie spoiled your daddy to no end.”
It finally dawned on Gail why her aunt always had leftover pineapple cake on hand whenever they visited after the Christmas holidays. Gail was giving her mom an extra loving daughter hug and fighting off happy tears, when they heard a joyful voice coming from the kitchen.
“Hurry along now dear.” Be careful where you step daughter. the roads can be treacherous at this time of year!”
“Don’t worry,” Gail responded, with a twinkle. “I have a list and a map. What could possibly go wrong?”
I hope you enjoyed reading my short Christmas tale. I’m editing some of my short story rejections and will post a few of them from time to time. Feel free to share your insights or some of your own shorts.
Peace, blessings, and goodwill toward all!