Returning Home A Promise Kept - A Short Story
Driving Through The Tears
The road seemed endless, as the sun fell behind the mountains ahead. My head was spinning, and my heart was breaking. I had driven all night; since learning of my grandfathers grave condition. As I continued driving the tears streamed down my face.
The doctors words, “He hasn't responded in hours. We don't think he'll make it through the night.” repeated loudly in my head.
Grandpa Jacob, had been my rock! He and Grandma cared for me since I was 3 years old following my mothers sudden death. He had given me his life savings to get into the medical program and cheered me every step of the way.
“Graduation is in two weeks! How can I graduate, without him there?”, I screamed and thrashed my hand off the steering wheel.
Just after midnight, I arrived at Edgeway Hospital. The smell of antiseptic filled the air, as I raced to the ICU. “He's been in and out of consciousness all day.” the nurse told me as we walked toward room 304. The sounds in the room seemed disruptive. How could anyone be expected to rest in here? My eyes focused on the heart monitor, as though it were the only proof he was truly alive. With my head on his bedside; I fell asleep, holding his hand.
“Rachael, is that you?” his wispy voice was lacking it's usual strength. This man, once so strong, was fading and even his voice had suffered. “Granddad, I love you! Yes, yes! I am here.” I sighed with relief as I said those words, possibly one last time. Miles of highway had made me question that possibility, over and again.
Through labored breaths he said, “Rachael, darling, I love you! You've made me so proud. I've got something for you in the drawer of my room at the retirement home. Promise me, you'll take care of it.”
He was talking like a dying man. My heart sank as I realized, he knew his time was coming to an end. “Yes, Granddad. Of course, I'll do anything for you. You know that! But, you're going to be around for a long time, so let's not worry about that shall we.”
Where Has The Time Gone
I held his hand and we talked until he fell asleep. I cried as I realized I may have seen his eyes for the last time. His hand was so frail and seemingly small in my own. I took note of the wrinkles as proof of the many things changed about this once strong and powerful man. No longer could he pick me up in his arms and carry me when I did not want to walk. He needed me and I felt incapable and helpless.
Where has the time gone?
The memories rushed through my head of dinners around the large oak table he built with is own two hands. He constantly boasted his accomplishment and talked of the many dinners the family shared there. The table would be mine someday and I was forced to promise I would never complain when my children wrote too hard with their pencils and left indentations in the wood. "It's adds character." he would say as he pointed out the first time I learned to write my name still ingrained in the wood for everyone to see.
Grandad Passed Away
Asleep on the edge of his bed, my face was resting on his hand when the alarms sounded. A rush of doctors and nurses filled the room. I was brushed to the side as they attempted to revive Grandad. My heart beat loudly and I hit my knees in prayer.
"Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name.........."
The prayer quickly turned to begging and pleading, but it was no use. At 6:15 in the morning, Grandad passed away. I stood staring at his lifeless body and for a moment pretended he was only sleeping.
Remembering the Promise
Two days after the funeral, I drove to the retirement home to gather his belongings. I had nearly forgotten the promise when the nurse opened the drawer and handed me an envelope addressed: “Miss Rachael Harlow: In the event of my death.” It contained only a set of keys, and a deed to our family home.
I hadn't been back home since I left for college.
As the nurse helped me load the car with his things, pictures of helping Grandpa on the farm forced a smile. Nurse Nancy said, “Jacob was a good man, and he sure was proud of you! We're sure going to miss him around here.”
I could not wait to see the farmhouse again. It represented a time when life was uncomplicated by world issues and all night studying for exams. Rounding the corner of the old dirt road, I could see the house was deteriorating. The porch swing was hanging by a single chain and the railings of the porch were broken. The paint on the side of the house was peeling and the roof was all but caved in. My heart sank as I took in the damage.
A smile crossed my lips as I noticed the walnut tree Grandpa and I planted when I was 4 years old still stood shading the bench where we used to sit and shell peas. I could almost hear him laughing as I asked him to eat one raw and grimaced when I did.
As I walked up the steps I noticed a yellow sign on the door. “This property has been condemned by the Board of Health. For questions call......”
How had this happened? A once beautiful, 2-story farmhouse where I'd taken my first steps, condemned! I'd never known another home. Sitting down on the porch steps, I cried until I could barely catch my breath.
'How could I take care of this?'
On Monday morning, I began 3 hours of phone calls. After being transferred at least a dozen times to seemingly careless people, a woman stated, “Prove you have contracted someone to repair the house within 90 days, and we'll send someone out to inspect the house when it's finished.”
Keeping My Promise
With the deed for the land as collateral, I received a loan and hired a contractor to repair our old house.
In the meantime, I returned to college where I graduated two weeks later. I was lost in Grandpa's absence, but I'm sure he would have been proud.
I began work, in the Edgeway Trauma Center, almost immediately. Working there makes me feel closer to him.
I returned to the farmhouse often to monitor the progress, insisting it be returned to its original state. After 3 long months it was finished. As I walked inside the first thing I noticed was the large oak table sitting in the dining room. It had not changed a bit. I walked over and took a seat in my normal place. There I could read, "Rachel Harlow" printed in the wood.
Grandpa Would be Proud
I married a wonderful man 2 years later, and we moved into the old house. Today, my 4 year old son, Jacob Jr. and I planted another walnut tree in the front yard.
"Jacob honey, it is time for dinner."
As we sat down at the large oak table, I began to laugh. There in Grandpa Jacob's old place I could read the ingrained writings of my son, "Jacob Harlow." Grandpa would be proud!
A Promise Kept!