Aunt Irene…

My dad pulls the old two-tone black and white Fairlane into the driveway.  “I’ll be back on Sunday to pick you up,” he says.  I fetch my small overnight bag and open the door.  “OK,” I say as I slide from the seat onto the pine needle covered road.  This is my first visit with my grandmother since the funeral.

I make the more than quarter mile walk to my grandmother’s house up the driveway that disappears into a large grove of pine trees.  Hundreds of pine trees.  Some more than a hundred feet tall.  Pine needles cover everything.  

I‘ve made this walk hundreds of times to get the mail and to visit the old general store at the intersection down the road from my grandmother’s house.  I never fail to be awed by the majesty of the larger than life pine trees.   I reach my grandmother’s house and my Aunt Irene is sitting on the large front porch that wraps around the old two story.  “I’ve got a pot of pinto beans on the stove and cornbread in the oven,” she says as I place my foot on the first step that leads to the top of the porch where she is sitting.  “How is grandmother?”  I ask , reaching the final step and now up onto the porch.  I sit in a rocker and look at my Aunt.  “She’s doing as well as can be expected,” my Aunt replies.  “She’s very happy that you’ve come to spend the weekend with us.”

My Aunt rises from her rocker and I follow her into the house.   The house is divided evenly with a hallway that leads to the stairs to the second floor and a small bedroom tucked neatly in behind.  My bedroom when I was younger.  On the right is another bedroom, uncle Don’s and on the left is a door that leads to the living room.  The living room has not changed much over the years.  A large wood burning stove sits at the back wall, dormant on an early spring day in May.

My grand mother sits in the same chair where I’ve seen her sit for as long as I can remember.  She rises.  Small of stature, not 5 feet tall.  “Glory be!  Look  whose here.” Grandmother says, “ it’s little Staney,” wiping her wrinkled hands on her faded apron.  She shuffles slightly and I move to give her a hug.  I can feel the soft lose flesh of grandmother’s arms as she hugs me close.  My grandmother has pure white hair she wears in a bun.  I have seen her on occasion release her hair and comb it.  Family legend has it that she hasn’t had her hair cut since she was a small girl.

I ask her if there is any Muscadine wine on the back porch.?  A sly smile breaks through the wrinkles on her face.  My grandfather planted 8 Muscadine plants on a large trellis when he and my grandmother moved into the house.  I’ve spent many a day in the “vineyard” , which by now is fairly large, squeezing the grapes and popping out the sweet pulpy goodness.  My grand father also made wine from the grapes.  A large 10 to 15 gallon grey ceramic crock sits on the back porch.  A spigot , or as we call it, a spicket on the front and at the bottom.  Well within reach of a small curious boy.  I was never able to reconcile the taste of the wine and the wonderful sweetness of the fruit on the vine.
I hear my aunt remove the cast iron skillet from the oven.  I squeeze my grandmother’s hand and help her back to her chair.  My aunt is placing the skillet on the stove top and I close the oven door.  She turns the heat off on the pinto beans.  “Why did you have daddy put in jail?” I ask.

She stops what she is doing and turns to face me.  “He was disturbing the peace,” she says,  “and being a damned nuisance.”  “He scared your grandmother and me banging on the front door and stomping up and down the porch.”   “So I called the police and they came and arrested him.”

I don’t understand but I ‘m old enough to know it is something that I just have to accept and move on.  I tell my aunt that I’m going to take my overnight bag upstairs to my grandmother’s bedroom.  

The door to the bedroom is closed.  I open the door not knowing what to expect.  The bed is new as is all the furniture.  The floor has been painted a dark brown and the walls white.  New curtains hang on the windows.  There are no pictures on the walls or on the nightstand that sits by the bed.  One would never know that this room was my grandfather’s and grandmother’s bedroom for more than 50 years.

I place my small overnight bag on the bed.  I hear my aunt call and I turn to leave.  Before I step through the door I turn to look one more time.

No.  No one will ever know.

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