Black mold was taking residence in my lungs, I knew it.
I could taste the stale dust with each breath I took; salty granules grazed my tongue before I clasped my mouth shut and reached out toward my Grandfather.
My hand folded over his knobby shoulder as I teetered over something in my path, “Just a little further. I remember, I put it in this corner.” He declared as we weaved through disjointed isles in the shed of disintegrating mounds of furniture, toys, books, trinkets, knick-knacks, pictures, frames, lawn gnomes, and fragments of items that once held a purpose. The things here were useless, rubble of a better time that once was.
Passing a photo, I stopped. Perhaps it was the lack of light and fresh air, exposure to elements, or some holy and divine force keeping it, but the photo was completely in perfect condition. It sat atop a stack and smiled at me, told me to be patient. She had eyes like the first clear day of April, a knowing look that said she was far wiser than she let on in conversation, and the right side of her lips curved just a bit more so than the left in an attempt to withhold laughter. Blue eyes, a wise look, and a smile always on the verge of laughter, some said we looked alike. But hers were always so much bluer, she was so much wiser, and she always laughed harder. I reached out to pick it up, save it, and bring it in, but a grunt and crash behind me stole my attention.
“Well, I’ll be! Here! Lizzy I found it!” A liver spotted, arthritis riddled hand was illuminated by a beam of sunshine spearheading its way through the filth. Between the fingers and around the palm was clutched a sparkling strand of gold chain with a heart pendant dangling. The rest of the man, however, lay buried in a plethora of disuse.
“Grandpa…” I sighed and fought my way to him. Over bookshelves, under umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, a doll’s arm pulled at my hair, and toy trains coiled around my feet as I went through the wreckage and reached down to pull him up. Both our hands folded over the necklace protectively, our hands joined and linked, “Come on Gramps; let me get you out of here.” I cleared my throat of the dusted coating and pulled him forward. Once again I passed that smiling face.
“We’re late.” He said softly, and stared down at his hand as I drove. He looked uncomfortable in his seat belt, but I wouldn’t let him ride without one.
“No one’s keeping time, Grandpa.” I glanced between the road and my Grandfather’s sparkling green eyes, his shaking hands, and pursed lips. “But I’m sure she hasn’t been waiting long.” At that he looked up and grinned, too-perfect teeth nearly shone the shine of the sun right back at me and I laughed.
Once parked, it was a hike, but the way Grandpa moved one would think him a boy scout. His eyes were set forward, hand clenched tight, thumb caressing the soft curve of that golden heart. When he finally stopped, I took my post behind and leaned against a tree. Grandpa took a deep, rasping breath, his body crumpling. Down went the necklace, metal to stone with a soft clink. “It was your favorite, Peggy.” He whispered to the carved angel and pressed a kiss to the rain stained stone. For a moment we waited. Grandpa watched the headstone and I watched him. When he turned around he caught my eye and sighed tiredly, “Lizzy?”
I tilted my head, “Grandpa?”
“Can we clean out the shed when we get back? I don’t think she needs those things anymore.” His eyes trailed the ground at his suggestion as he nodded to himself.
My smile saddened and I agreed, “I think she’d like that.”