Spiritual Fiction posted July 30, 2012

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Grandpa T.

by Writingfundimension

"Grandpa T's dead, Aggie."

It's just after midnight, and the caller is my older brother, Quintin. He and Grandpa T. are close as a pair of dice, and he's been struggling to accept my grandfather's transfer to hospice care. 

My stomach does a flip-flop.

"What? When did this happen? I talked with Mom earlier and there'd been no change in Grandpa's status. She and Dad wanted me to know they were considering ending life support. But I got the impression they were going to wait until morning to talk with Grandpa's doctor one more time."

My brother's voice wobbles with emotion. "The decision's been made for them."

"How can that be? Grandpa made them his guardians -- no one else but them."

"Just for once can you cut me some slack, Aggie? I know all that, but something straight-up weird just happened, and you're the only person I trust to tell me if I'm going nuts."

A chill skims the surface of my spine. I shimmy upright and lay back against my pillows. "You sound weird, Quint. Like you've been crying. Where exactly are you?"

"At Mom and Dad's -- camped out in the family room. Watching television is keeping me sane at this point. Or at least I thought it was. Now I'm not so sure ... can I trust you to hear me out without jumping to conclusions?" he asks.

My first instinct is to continue our ongoing argument about my being the bossy know-it-all kid sister, but my brother sounds panicked, and I'm surprised by how much that scares me.

"Yes ... okay ... I'll try."

Quintin releases a long, ragged breath. "I've promised Grandpa I'll  place his swimming medal in the casket with his body. I don't think I can keep my promise."

Feeling like I've been lured into playing a carnival toss-up game, I answer, "You wake me up from the best sleep I've had in a week to tell me you're having second thoughts about a promise you made to Grampa T?!"

"Will you just shut up for a minute and listen to me, Aggie? I'm a jerk for waking you up, okay, but just hear me out! Grandpa appeared out of nowhere, right frickin' in front of me, not twenty minutes ago. He was as solid as I am and he looked fantastic."

Hoping to inject some common sense into the situation, I reply, "Obviously you fell asleep and had a dream, Quint. It's a classic example of wish-fulfillment."

Quintin yells into the phone, "I don't want to hear your psychobabble, Aggie. I was not asleep. I was watching the tail-end of a movie when a bright bubble the size of a quarter appeared above the television, zooming from left to right for at least a minute before disappearing."

"Okaaay, the bubble talked to you?" I cut in, and Quintin goes silent long enough for me to feel guilty for interrupting. "I'm sorry, that was mean. I do want to hear what you have to say."

"The bubble did not talk to me, Aggie. The bubble came first and then Grandpa appeared."

Biting my cheek until it bleeds, I quell an irrational urge to laugh. "After the bubble disappeared, is it possible you then fell asleep?"

"As a matter of fact, after the bubble disappeared I went into the bathroom and took a shower."

"Maybe you fell asleep after your shower. Hot water and all the stress ... you probably dozed off."

"How many times do I have to tell you, I did not fall asleep. In fact, I'd just gotten off the phone with Katelynn when the bubble re-appeared. It was bumping against the ceiling above the television. I figured it had to be some kind of bug, so I went looking for the fly swatter. When I came back into the room, there was Grandpa, leaning against the sofa with his arms crossed and a big smile on his face."

My cat, Clarice, suddenly sits up from a dead sleep, arches her back and hisses in the direction of my bedroom doorway. I juggle the phone in one hand and reach to calm her, but she won't let me touch her.

"Is that your cat I hear, Aggie? She sounds upset."

"She's got her hackles up, but I don't see what's upsetting her."

"Maybe Grandpa's visiting you now."

"That's not even funny, Quint."

"So you don't believe me." The sadness in his voice touches my heart. I put aside my doubts and answer as truthfully as I can.

"I think you saw something that was real and important for you, Quint. You'd definitely be the first person Grandpa would visit before making his transition to the other side."

Quintin blows his nose, and when he speaks I can barely hear him. "This next part is what I'm having a hard time with."

He continues, "Grandpa's lips didn't actually move, but I could hear him in my head. He said he would always watch over me, especially at the swim meets, but that it was time for me to completely believe in myself. He asked me to place his Conference medal around his neck before they bury him. But I don't think I can do it, Aggie." 

I understand probably better than anyone what Grandpa's swimming medal means to my brother. He's worn it for every swim meet since he started competitively swimming as a sophomore. Giving it up on the eve of the Western Conference finals made no sense.

"Oh, Quint, that's a tough one.  What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet. I feel I should honor his request, but I'm really afraid of what will happen."

"Sometimes we just have to act as if we have faith, even when we don't, Quint. You work really hard and nothing has been handed to you. You are a great competitor with loads of talent. What if Grandpa is trying to tell you his medal is a crutch and you don't need it anymore?" 

"I hadn't ever thought of it that way. But what if I fail?"

"It's not a failure if you give it your all, Quint. You're ready for this, and you won't be alone.  We're going to be there rooting for you, and I have a feeling Grandpa will let you know he's there, too."

Two weeks later ...

Cars line both sides of the street in front of my parent's house.  The party to celebrate my brother's success is going full swing. I'm a little nervous about what I have to show him, but excited at the same time.

"Hey, Aggie." My brother's eyes are shining with happiness as he envelops me in his arms.  

I murmur in his ear, "I'm so proud of you, Quint. You did it. Just like Grandpa knew you could."

He takes my hand and together we sit on a bench in a secluded section of my mother's garden. "I felt him there, Aggie. I mean not just before the meet, but when I was swimming ... I was in a zone and I felt like Grandpa's arms were superimposed over mine and nothing could keep me from winning it all." He looks down at his feet and then back up at me. "Probably that wish-fulfillment stuff, huh?"

Tears gather in the corner of my eyes. "Quint, I've got proof that Grandpa was with you. Take a look."

Pulling my camera from my bag, I slowly scan through the pictures I'd taken of my brother swimming. In every frame, there's a quarter-sized blue ball just above my brother's head. "I had my friend, Thad, check it out. He's a professional photographer, and he's confident it was not a lens aberration or reflection off the water."  

Quintin's face is red, and he blinks quickly to keep back the tears. I place the camera in his hands and say, "Watch it as many times as you need to." Pressed against his shoulder, together we marvel as frame after frame reveals a perfect blue orb that seems to kiss the top of my brother's head every time it breaks the surface. 

Quint turns earnest green eyes in my direction and asks in a voice thick with emotion, "Aggie, do you think we should show this to Mom and Dad?"

I'd asked myself the same question ever since I discovered the 'proof' of Grandpa's spirit. We're a close family that doesn't keep secrets from one another. But it seems right for me to say, "No, Quint. This is Grandpa's gift to you. I'm just blessed to be the messenger." 

"Hey, Aggie, you realize this changes nothing," Quintin says in reply. "You're still a know-it-all."

My brother blocks my move to punch him in the arm, and we laugh like we haven't in years. Leaning back against the bench, the vibrato of chimes from a nearby tree and sounds of nieces squealing in delight attest to a world bigger than we ever dreamed.




Hospice: End-of-Life
Many thanks to Angelheart for the splendid artwork.
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