July On the Farm, Part Two: The Dale Saga Comes to an End
All Good Things Must End
I’m just warning you, this series of chapters is coming to an end. I have been pleasantly surprised and gratified by the response to these stories and the characters who told them. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been meaning to write a sequel to my first novel, and this series of short stories has been the testing ground, the practice field, as I prepare to begin that sequel.
So, although this series is coming to an end in its present form, it will be reborn once the sequel is published in, oh say, six months.
Now let’s catch you up! When we last sat with these characters, Sarah was told by Astarte that her grandma, known as Maw Maw, is dying. Astarte also announced that Maw Maw was coming to the Dale farm in Charles City, Iowa, for one last visit before she dies, and we were also told that Astarte’s mother, Sheila, was coming to the farm as well….in fact, it was mandatory that she do so.
So here we go!
Two Days Later
The roosters woke us, as was their norm, in the early morning hours of a July day that promised to be a scorcher. Their call registered in my brain, and several seconds later I stretched and allowed my eyes to open. Through the window the first hint of color appeared in the east. A slight breeze pushed at the lace curtains, falsely promising relief from the heat to come. I rolled onto my left side and put my arm around Sarah, pulling her next to me, giving her, by osmosis, the strength and compassion she would need as the day unfolded.
This day would be trying.
Sarah is a strong Cajun woman. For twenty years she lived in an eighty-year old shotgun house made of pine planks on the banks of Bayou Teche in New Iberia, Louisiana with her Maw Maw, and now Maw Maw was coming to join us so she could die with her granddaughter by her side.. We had received the call from Maw Maw twenty hours earlier during a stopover in northern Louisiana, confirming what Astarte had told us the day before.
Strong Cajun women don’t show emotions. Stoicism flows through their veins, but I knew deep down, Sarah was hurting something awful. The fact that Astarte had predicted this visit and impending death had been pushed to the background for the time being. There would be time, later, to discuss matters we could not comprehend. For the time being, according to Sarah, her main job was to be strong.
Maw Maw was due in Charles City at eleven that morning. Sheila, Astarte’s mother, was due later that afternoon. Their visits were related, according to Astarte, and all would be revealed, we were told.
Life is surely a mystery!
All about love, baby!
Eleven Arrived with a Silence like Death
That was my thought as the train finally came to a stop, spreading silence upon the platform and surrounding area. Five passengers were disgorged before a porter helped Maw Maw down the steps and into Sarah’s waiting arms. Tears rained from my Cajun girl, falling upon the shoulders of the much-smaller Maw Maw. I was shocked by the old woman’s appearance. When last we had seen her she was damned near vibrant and robust. Now her frailty defined her. She was stooped, pale and barely able to stand on her own. Still, she smiled when she saw me and, with Sarah’s help, shuffled to me and gave me a weak hug.
She held me at arms’ length and looked deeply within me. “William Dale, you appear to be in love, and I can see in my granddaughter’s eyes that she is a happy woman. You’ve done well, William Dale, and this old woman thanks you for sharing your love with my baby girl. Now Sarah, William Dale, you really need to take me to your home so I can see that daughter of yours. I want to kiss Heather before I die. Hush now, we’ll have no more words about it. An old woman knows when her time is up. I’ve lived a good life and this is the perfect way for it to end, surrounded by love.”
Ma and my sister Jeannie had never met Maw Maw. For that matter, neither had our daughter, or Astarte or her daughter Hope, so there were many introductions to be made when we arrived at the farm, but the introductions and sharing of love wore the old woman out, and by two she was prone in bed and her breathing was shallow and weak. I was stunned by how fast she had deteriorated, and now that she was with her only family, the deterioration seemed to accelerate, as if death had a schedule that simply would not wait any longer. As the final moments approached it was just Sarah, Maw Maw and I in the small bedroom.
“Sarah,” the old woman whispered. “We’ll have no more tears, hear me now? It’s been a good life. I’ve loved and been loved, and now it’s time. Promise me, now, you’ll pass on the love. Pass it on to Heather, and teach her to love. It’s the greatest gift you can give her, you hear me? William Dale, you be the man my girl deserves to have. Don’t you be letting manly pride or some such nonsense get in the way of loving my girl. I love you both.”
And she was gone!
A Knock on the Door
I held Sarah as she cried. In truth, I held her as we both cried. I’m not sure how long we stayed in that room, alone with our thoughts in the company of Maw Maw, but eventually our final reunion was interrupted by a knock on the door. I released Sarah and opened the door. There, smiling her radiant, peaceful and loving smile, was Sheila, our dear friend from Olympia, Washington.
“Wipe the tears away, dear friends,” she told us. “Leave me now with Maw Maw. No questions, please. Just allow me to sit for a spell with this lovely woman.”
We did as she requested. There is something about Sheila that inspires trust. If she wanted us to leave then we trusted she had a good reason for it. I took Sarah’s hand and we walked out of the bedroom, down the stairs and into the kitchen where the rest of the family waited. Astarte assured us that all was well. Her daughter, Hope, who reminded me so much of her grandmother, Sheila, warmed our hearts with her own smile and words of wisdom.
“Where true love exists,” she told us, “sadness does not belong. Today will be a day of wonder for us all, so let’s sit and wait patiently for the arrival of that wonder.”
And It Arrives
An hour passed….then two. Finally, as clouds parted outside and the late-afternoon was bathed in sunshine, our silent reveries were interrupted by footsteps on the stairs, followed by a familiar voice.
“What’s an old woman got to do to get a meal on this Iowa farm?” And with that question, Sheila and Maw Maw entered the kitchen.
Stunned would be an inadequate description. Two hours earlier Maw Maw had died. I had seen it with my own eyes. I had searched her wrist for a pulse and found none. I had watched the light of life leave her eyes. And yet there she stood, erect, glowing, the picture of vibrancy. How was it possible?
Sheila, anticipating our questions, spoke first.
“Remember always, my friends, that love alters reality.”
Indeed It Does
It certainly has for this writer, and I’m confident it will for all of you who experience it.
Thank you for following along as I took you on this journey. If you want to read the inspiration for this short story collection, I invite you to read my very first novel, The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today.” It will soon be available through Amazon as a paperback and eBook. And next year, about this time, you can read the sequel to that book, which I am now working on. In it you’ll once again be able to read about Sarah (with an h), William Dale and all the other characters in this short story series.
Remember, please, to do all things with love.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)