He crosses the road with Samantha in his arms. They both stand out; he is wearing a tealish green overshirt and she is in a fuzzy red suit. I said she looked like elmo; he looks like a little old man, but I know better. He talks big but I think deep down inside he means well.
He used to make me laugh when I was younger. We would sing and dance in circles with Amanda, my sister. I miss her but now there is Samantha. Despite my dislike of small children she has touched me, somehow. They make quite a pair; grandfather and granddaughter moseying along the sidewalk. The leaves provide a colourful backdrop and I am speechless by the beauty. Autumn is my favourite season by far.
Grandpa and I have come a long way. He no longer brings me cookies, but tales of God and angels as though I believe him. I bite my tongue as he speaks because sometimes, just sometimes, he says something simple and truthful. The time we spend together is awkward, but I have come to a new understanding of this man.
He used to make me laugh, and now he makes me angry. I remember the tears as he told me the hideous stories of what he thought had happened. I remember the hatred I felt for the man at that moment, the little old man in the teal shirt.
I don’t feel that now as he talks about the “shining city” after death, heaven. I don’t believe in it, and I feel like telling it to his face, but I don’t. I know it’s best because I cannot win an argument against this man. He is too set in his beliefs. Even though I am trying to ignore him his voice still filters through, and I listen. I know I will remember these things for years to come, and it’s almost ironic. Almost. Afterall, we are supposed to listen to our elders, are we not?
I walk across the street in search of more vibrant leaves. All this time I have been taping them onto a single string of thread diligently, and I realize the leaves over there are much more pretty. They have acquired the vibrancy we all strive for. He is still vibrant, the last leaf clinging to the tree.
I feel now, not hatred, but pity. He tells me how he won’t get into Heaven because he is a simple farm boy, but this world is full of beauty itself. I agree on the part about beauty, and am, for a moment, touched. I think about what he says. I don’t understand why he doesn’t think he’ll get into Heaven. If I believed in one I think he would for sure. I’m not sure what sin he thinks he committed, but it can’t be that great.
The leaf I pick up feels like felt beneath my finger tips; others feel like wax, fresh and hydrated still. I grab a bunch and carry them back to our porch where the man in the teal shirt is cleaning off his shoe. He is plain to the eyes, but he is the most vibrant person I know. He may have been a little late in his realization of how things work, but I can forgive him his faults.
There are things I have learned through the snippets I was not able to ignore that will follow me forever. The leaves I am taping to the thread have fallen, but he is not yet fallen. He clings to the tree, pushing on as far as his Earthly body will let him go, and I know even after he falls he will still be vibrant in our memories. Even those who see him as the simple farm boy he is, will not be able to deny him of that.