39: A Grand Visitor

39: A Grand Visitor

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

A Grand Visitor

Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.

~Author Unknown

My question took my mother by surprise. We were at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina when I asked her, “Mom, did you have a grandmother?”

My mother chuckled. “Everyone has a grandmother!”

“No. I mean, was she alive when you were born? Did you know her?”

“Yes,” Mom said, distracted by the monument.

I paused, unsure whether I should continue. My mother seemed happy enough to be walking around the national monument. With her mood so troubled of late, I worried my question might destroy her good mood. But the dream had been so vivid, I had to ask: “Mom, did your grandmother seem kind of like a gypsy?”

“What do you mean?” my mother asked, still half-distracted by the monument.

“I mean when she talked, did she have a thick accent, almost the way a gypsy would sound?” I asked, thinking of old-fashioned gypsy movies I had seen. It was the only comparison I could think of.

“Yes,” Mom said, “though I never thought of her accent that way. Why?”

“Did she wear longish skirts, and did she have long hair?”

My mother’s eyes widened. “Yes, why?”

“Mom, I think I met her.”

My mother stopped. Her face drained of color.

“Describe her again,” Mom muttered.

I did.

“Her hair was long.”

“Was it white and pulled up in a bun?” Mom asked.

“No,” I said. “It was darker, a reddish-brown, and it flowed all the way down her back. Is that what your grandmother looked like?”

My mother put her hands to her cheeks. “By the time I was born, her hair was white. It was long and silky, and she would take it down at night. By day she kept it up in a bun. But she showed me a picture of her once. She was younger, and her hair was darker.” Mom’s voice trembled a little. “It was a black-and-white picture, but she told me about her hair. It was a reddish-brown, and it flowed all the way down her back.”

We stared at each other.

“This is kind of scary,” she said finally.

I frowned. There was more, but I wasn’t sure whether I should continue. Mom was still pale. I turned away as if to study the monument.

“What did she say?” Mom asked. “What did she want?”

I kept my back to Mom for the moment. My parents had been having some problems lately. With the economic downturn, my father’s office was closing, and the threat of joblessness put pressure on their marriage. They fought all the time, often over nothing at all. There was no communication, and the one time I suggested they see a counselor, they both refused. My sister and I had just moved out after college, and when we called my parents focused only on superficial topics. When we asked what was wrong, they would never open up to us. And my mother had been living as if all of life’s possibilities and blessings had suddenly ended.

“What did she say!” Mom demanded, regaining her voice.

“She told me that I need to spend more time with you,” I said. “She said that you have been upset recently, and the real reason for it is that you have no one to talk to.”

Mom frowned.

“She said that the problems you’re having aren’t that serious, but it seems worse to you because you’re keeping it all inside.”

Tears started pooling in Mom’s eyes. I figured I had better finish what I started, so I continued: “She said that it’s too bad you don’t have a sibling, that all you’ve been thinking about lately is how you wish you had a sibling so you’d always have someone to talk to.”

“This is very true,” Mom managed to say. “Very true.”

“There’s one more thing,” I said. It was the most difficult part, and I wanted to get it out before I lost my nerve. “When your grandmother told me that you wished you had a sibling, she said something strange. Something that didn’t make sense. She said it was too bad you didn’t have a sibling. But then she took this photograph. She wouldn’t let me see it, but she took it out and studied it. She said, ‘well, there was the one sibling, but there was the month that pained him.’ Then she looked at the picture for a bit more before tucking it away in her skirt and turning back to me.”

“The month that pained — him?” my mother asked.

I nodded. “What did she mean?”

“I don’t believe this!” Mom said.

“What?”

“I never told you that I had a brother. He was stillborn. They named him and buried him. There was a month that pained him. It was the month he was born.” By this time, tears were flowing down my mother’s cheeks.

We stood in silence, watching the other tourists at the monument. It was my mother who broke the silence.

“I wonder why she told you that. What did she want?”

“She wanted me to be the one you can talk to about everything,” I said. “She wanted you to be able to confide in me. She doesn’t think it’s good for you to bottle up everything.”

“Maybe that’s why she told you about the little boy in that picture. Maybe she knew it would convince me that she was real.” Mom smiled sadly at me.

It would take time for my mother to process the dream, and it would take more time for her to finally open up to me. But she had always followed her grandmother’s advice, and this time would be no exception. But for now, my mother stared off into the distance, warmed by the comfort of knowing that even after death her grandmother was protecting her.

~Val Muller

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