A Question of Respect Part III
‘Oh, Mine has been a lovely life; and some would say, even beautiful.’ Lying quietly in her bed, Grace Hawthorn’s mind conjured more memories. She had been raised in the clean, fresh southern plaines air, where her imagination could run wild. Unrestrained by the rush of more crowded places and uninfluenced by the urgency of city life, Grace had grown used to taking her time about things while allowing herself the luxury of entertaining intricate flights of fantasy.
From a very young age on, Grace came to realize that she was a little different than the other children who attended Sunday school and weekday classes with her. Though she had a best friend, Laura, and many other companions her own age, she always felt apart. Rarely did she find another who thought as she did; who had questions, who wondered about life; who had ‘great expectations.’ The girls and boys who were around her age, seemed to be content where they were and they expected to follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. Grace adored her mother and father, and loved her brothers and sister but, she felt a calling; a yearning that was not shared by her family or friends.
The frail, forgetful old lady turned her head to look out the window. She could see the sun shining brightly. It was a weekday, and there were many people on the street which ran near the window of her little room. ‘How things have changed,’ she thought. ‘Everyone is in such a hurry. I wonder where they’re all off to.’ During her more lucid moments, Grace was completely aware of her location, her history and her age. She was only a few years from reaching the century mark. Sometimes, when she was fully awake and keenly aware, she wondered at all she’d seen, all the miracles of the modern age. Oh, my, how much I have seen. And the time has just flown by. My, my.’
Remembering this, now, so many years later, a tear fell from Ms. Hawthorn’s eye. ‘Oh those were fine days,’ she thought; ‘I have lived a long and good life. I have no regrets, no misgivings and no apologies.’ These thoughts wafted in and out of her semi consciousness as she, again, drifted off into a deep, restful sleep.
From little things to the ‘larger than life’ episodes, a deluge of thoughts filled her consciousness.
Throughout her life, from early childhood on, Grace had kept a diary. She shared her most secret dreams and wishes with this loyal ‘friend,’ never telling another soul of her fantasies. Over the years, as Grace grew weaker, yet remained mentally acute, she continued to write about all the exciting events in her life. She also wrote about the sadness; her sense of loss when a loved one passed, her disappointment in the human condition and so many other, poignant aspects of her life; her observations; her ideas about philosophy, religion, politics, and many other topics which touched her directly and indirectly. Grace had a gift; an ability to speak for others in ways which they might not have been able to speak for themselves. Her empathetic nature made expression so easy and second nature. She’d opine about everything under the sun; giving advice, offering sympathy, lending a kind ‘helping hand.’ Her words were eloquently written, though simple.
Her written words were for her eyes only, though. She thought of her writings as if she were talking to her dear diary. As a young girl, she had kept a day to day history of her life in fact, she had faithfully written her innermost, deepest secrets in the small, tooled leather book which held her hopes and dreams. Each evening, after saying ‘goodnight’ to her parents and siblings, she’d rush up the stairs to her room, light the kerosene lamp and enter another world; a special place all her own. Her diary was her best friend. A faithful, loyal, companion. She knew she could ‘say’ anything and would not be misunderstood.
She had found solace in her writings; which seemed to her as old, tried and true friends. When she felt particularly lonely, she’d sit at her friendly little round table with the creaky chair and pull out the time worn, bound notebook where she kept all her secret thoughts and brilliant ideas. Here, she felt as if she were not alone; so deeply was she occupied by the words she wrote. Oh, she had so many lovely ideas populating her thoughts; she must commit them to paper! Her hands had become stiff and painful with arthritis, and her writing had become barely legible but, Grace Hawthorn continued to write.
There was one note she still needed to pen. This, perhaps, was the most important one of all. She had a message she wanted to share with the world; one that, she dearly hoped, would alter opinions and soften attitudes. She had decided to donate her body to science, with the hope that up and coming young Doctors of Medicine might learn something extra special as they knelt over her supine, still body. She was at peace with this idea; it was to be her last gift in life.
‘Oh, I wonder where my dear diary is,’ she worried, awake again; ‘what could have happened to it?’ Just then, a fleeting thought whispered to her, ‘it’s with your note, Grace; all your thoughts, all those unspoken yearnings, all your ideas and dreams are tucked, safely, with The Note.’
Again, because of the simple fact that she was very old and very tired, Grace lapsed into a deep, dream filled sleep.
The young Miss Hawthorn sat by herself beneath the thick, dense canopy of her favorite tree; the one that reminded her of the tall, spreading Maple trees that were native to her Heartland home. Just as when she was a girl, sitting beneath the shade of the beautiful, old trees which lined the long driveway to the farmhouse; now, she enjoyed the same soothing company of this ancient tree. Her favorite novel in her lap, Grace’s eyes took in the beauty of her surroundings. As she did this, the figure of a person came into view; approaching her location. She held her gaze still as the figure drew nearer. A gleam of recognition lit up her bright eyes as a big, joyous smile spread across her face.
Grace welcomed the sight of the handsome, well dressed young man. A smile graced his fetching, attractive face as he came to stand directly in front of her.
She had never married but, Grace was not unfamiliar with love and the excitement of sensual pleasures in her life. She had always been the “black sheep” of her family; she had always had a wanderlust for life as well as a curiosity about the more intimate side of her nature. Grace did not back down or turn away from her sexual side, no, she welcomed the fervor and heated exchanges she and the striking man who stood before her, shared.
They had met while she lived in the big city. “Serendipitous” she had often thought, when thinking about this thrilling gift she’d been given.
Her sweetheart, her lover; her ‘other half,’ had mistakenly entered the big, heavy, beveled glass doors to the foyer of the building in which she acted as the ‘first line of defense.’ (‘Oh,’ she mused to herself as the thought unfolded, ‘such a fortunate twist of fate was this chance encounter!)’
He boldly walked right up to her desk, placed both hands firmly on the desk top and looked purposely into her eyes! She felt an immediate electricity coarse through her entire being as she looked back, with as much determination as she could muster; to meet his.
“I’m afraid I’ve made a wrong turn, Miss…..” he said, without a flinch.
“Hawthorn,” she finished his sentence. “Yes?” she responded, also, without flinching.
“I am looking for the offices of Sinclair Oil; I fear I’ve missed my mark.”
Though she was supposed to maintain a professional demeanor at all times, Grace could not help but smile. The Sinclair offices were blocks away from her building. ‘Hmmmm,’ she mused; ‘just why is this attractive man standing before me?’
She proceeded to tell him, in great detail, how to find the Sinclair Oil offices. Blocks away! Again, she could not control the flirty little ‘smirk’ on her face as she reveled in the exchange.
By the time she was finished; he was practically laughing! They both were taking far too much pleasure in the exchange. As she concluded her lecture like presentation, a connection seemed to have developed between the lovely young Grace and the fine looking man.
“Miss Hawthorn,” he began, without missing a beat, “I would like the pleasure of your company this afternoon.”
Grace remained silent, allowing him to continue.
“Would you do me the honor of sharing an early dinner?”
Though the rapid nature of his invitation was not usual and, certainly; in some circles, frowned upon, she felt such an attraction to the man standing near her that, before she could talk herself out of it, she replied; “Sir, I do not, yet, know your name.”
Taken aback; realizing that, indeed, he’d neglected to introduce himself to the pretty young woman with the bright eyes and big smile, he stood straight up, in an involuntary reaction to this unforgivable ‘gaff.’
“I am at fault, Miss Hawthorn, he said as if chastising himself; “I am ……”
Just then, the rotary telephone which sat atop her desk rang loudly. She placed a finger over her lips as she gestured to him that she must take the call.
The phone rang loudly in the main office of the Retirement Home. It’s unnerving jingle woke Grace from a wonderful dream. It seemed so very real. It was about the time she met her sweetheart, who would be with her for many years. Oh, theirs was a torrid and unusual affair. It had begun so unexpectedly, so without warning. He had strolled into her office building, stepped right up to her and swept her off her feet. Theirs was a hot and fiery romance that spanned decades. She often remembered him, through the years. He had awakened in her the most sensual, erotic desires; feelings that just weren’t talked about among ‘good’ people in her life and in America’s Bible Belt. No; this was unchartered territory for the young Grace Hawthorn, almost scandalous! And, she savored every moment of pleasure the two of them shared. They had tapped into a secret; one which cannot be described and is often, elusive; they had an affair that remained ecstatic, electric, stimulating and satisfying. Breaking all the conventional rules of the day, Grace had indulged herself in him and he in her.
Her recollection had been ended too soon. Oh, how she hated that cursed phone!
Grace slipped back into the deepest of sleeps as she, once again, returned in dreams to her beloved childhood home.
The tall grasses and country corn fields were waving; undulating in the afternoon breeze. In the distance could be heard the lonesome, almost mournful sound of a freight train whistle. Grace had always loved this sound. To her, it was the most romantic music to her ears, floating, it seemed, in the wind; carried for miles and miles. She often wondered what it must be like to be on such a train, headed to parts unknown. She knew that many people, during difficult times, used the empty box cars as if they were passenger cars. One time, she had actually seen two young men run along a slow moving train as it passed through the small town. Ten and, even, five miles per hour were the speed limits on the rails when close to or in town. This offered a perfect opportunity for “hobos” to jump on to flat cars and box cars. She thrilled at the sight! How wonderful it must be; to just cast fate to the wind and throw caution aside and set off to see the world by freight train. She knew that the steel rails went through areas that were completely apart from the highways. Climbing to dizzying heights, barely squeezing through old, hand hewn rock tunnels that bore into mountainsides and ran for miles; the trains with the mysterious, melodic whistles followed a path all their own. She wished that she had had the nerve to jump on one of those trains when she had the chance.
Billowing, towering cumulous clouds began to form overhead. In a matter of only a few minutes, the sky was filled with these majestic formations; bringing a warning that a storm was building. Oh, how Grace loved the storms. The sky darkened, the edges of the developing thunderheads grew to a slate gray, and then, the earth became completely still. The calm before the storm!
Grace ran out to the southern lawn, as she always did when an impending storm approached. The glory of it! This beautiful, untamed act of nature! She felt most alive when the storms gathered and, then, exploded with the fury of so much energy. At these times, she didn’t care; she had no worries. She just had to be out in the middle of it; to watch it approach, to feel and be buffeted by the strong winds, to hear the thud and clap of nearby lightning strikes…to see the fantastic display of cloud to cloud and forked lightning as it spread across the sky just above her. Electricity was in the air! Her senses heightened, Grace could feel the strong thumping in her chest as the excitement increased…drawing near; getting closer.
In an instant, a rush of strong, straight line winds surged toward her. The sky was alive with the flash, bang, and sizzle of the electrostatic discharges crashing around her. As the storm grew larger and nearer, lightning bolts gave way to sheet lightning. She’d seen this so many times before; when the storm was right upon her! Her heart beat harder and harder as the excitement grew! Heart hammering in her chest, Grace gazed upon the brightest, most fantastic light display she’d ever seen…………….
There was a gauzy, ethereal feeling in the air. She heard hushed voices; saw, she was certain, the loving gaze of her mother before her. She wasn’t sure but, she thought she caught a glimpse of her sweet little kitten, Sassy; her favorite childhood pet, just out of the corner of her eye. Slowly, she turned her head. Yes! Yes! There was Sassy, her companion of so many years, so long ago. Sassy! She tried to call out but her voice was far too weak. She tried to reach her hand towards the black and white beautiful cat. She just could not move. Grace’s eyes remained on her childhood pet. Oh, how she wished to hold her again. Suddenly, she could feel the warm, soft fur against her face as she cuddled and stroked the beautiful animal. Such comfort in this little gesture; such familiarity and peace...oh, the peace of this sweet reunion…..
End of Part III
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Title :: A Question of Respect Part III
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