read the suite in order

by Evan Guilford-Blake


Last Sunday was my Grandma’s birthday. I went out to visit her — drove; the first time Dad’d let me take the car to go anywhere outside the city. I just got my license a few weeks ago; I had to wait ’cause I was – sick the last couple years.

It’s not that far, maybe forty miles; a little past “civilization,” just into the country south of where we live. It’s a real pretty drive on a nice day, and Sunday was beautiful. The trees’d just budded, there were those little yellow flowers, I don’t know what they’re called but they smelled wonderful, all along the roadside. I had plenty of time so I stopped and picked some. I figured they’d look nice in her bouquet. The breeze blew on my hair and face, and it felt so good! I missed that, all the time I spent inside. And in the car, there was just enough breeze so it was comfortable to ride with the window open and listen to the whip of the wind instead of the air conditioner. Not a lot of traffic, which surprised me. Of course, when I left, most everyone was still in church: I went to the early service, so I could start out before it got too hot. The sky was very blue. Nimbus clouds, lots of birds. Butterflies and birds.

I got there about ten o’clock, a little before they opened. I parked in the lot — there were only maybe half a dozen cars there — and waited, drank the thermos of black coffee Mom’d prepared for me. She made me take a couple biscuits, too, but I let them sit. Mom makes wonderful biscuits but, truth? I don’t much care for them cold. Most mornings, they’re fresh and hot, and we smother them with butter and honey. When I was in the hospital?, after I woke up anyway, I think I missed her biscuits more than anything. Them, and eating them with Mom, and Dad, and Billy; he’s my little brother. He wanted to come with me to visit Grandma but Dad wouldn’t let him. I’m glad. I love Billy a lot, but I wanted to come by myself. I mean, it was the first time I’d gone to see her since she died; it happened while I was in the hospital.

Anyway, I drank my coffee and then I walked in. Where Grandma’s buried?, it’s kind of a long way from the lot. We’re on the west side; it’s the oldest part of the cemetery. It’s really big, too. I don’t know how many folks are there, but some of the stones go back to the early 1800s. They had a farm near there, my grandparents, a really successful one. They raised corn and soybeans, kept a few chickens and some cows. My mom, she told me how she used to milk them and churn the cream and butter by hand, even though there were machines; Grandma just said it tasted better that way. She spent her whole life doing it like that. She even taught me how, when I was little. Or she tried, anyway. I wasn’t very good at it. I mean, I couldn’t figure out why I should do it when we could just drive to the store and buy as much as we wanted! I guess I was kind of lazy when I a little girl. Grandma never said that, though. She just kept showing me how and, eventually, I sort of got the hang of it.

So… I found her stone and I laid the flowers I brought on her grave, and I talked to her, about being in the hospital and like that, that I was sorry I hadn’t been able to tell her goodbye and that I’d miss her. Which I do. Then I just stood there a while. It was so quiet. Grandpa was the one who bought all the plots — ninety-six of them! — so we could be buried together, at least for a few generations. And they’re all marked — we all know where we’re going to spend eternity. Where our bodies will, anyway. Mine is near the southern edge, right under a weeping willow. I kind of like that: They’re my favorite trees. I could see it from Grandma’s grave, the tree, and, and standing there?, looking on it, I could imagine — no; no, not imagine: I realized I knew what it was like, to lie there, in the earth, to not know and, and yet to know: That there was a world you’d been a part of, full of sadness and loss, and laughter and love. I felt – I felt, for a minute, like I did when I was in the hospital. I dreamed, in the coma. I know I did, even if I can’t remember them. It’s funny — when I woke up, the first thing I did?, was cry, because I knew – something, I knew there was a world — one where sight and sound and smell didn’t matter — a world – apart, from this one, and I knew I’d been a part of it, too. And even if I tried I would never be able not to know that. That’s what I talked to Grandma about. I’m pretty sure she understood. I haven’t told anyone else, though, not even Billy. I don’t think he’d understand and anyway, it’s kind of my secret. 

Anyway, I stood there, looking even though I think my eyes were closed. Then I kissed Grandma — her stone I mean — and I walked back. I didn’t stop at my plot, or at any of the other graves. I’ll come out here again; there’s plenty of time.


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