Center Lovell 1957
The summer of 1952 with grandmother ended on a bad note. Elizabeth’s clothes thrown in the trunk of a car, and her uncle’s booming voice. “Dammit to hell, you’re coming with me.”
Elizabeth gripped the steering wheel. Driving two-miles from her uncle’s marina to grandmother’s farmhouse brought back unsettling memories. Sweat rolled down her face, she pulled over, and closed her eyes.
Early morning on the gravel lakefront road, grandmother had driven me to my cleaning job at Aunt Dot and Uncle Gus’s lodge. She had fumed about me slacking off on farmyard chores. “You’re nothin’ but a lazy good-for-nothin’ kid.” Not her favorite 13-year-old grandchild, and she had been in a vile mood, but…I had asked,“Gee whiz, grandma, why don’t you like me?” Grandmother reacted. She slammed on the brakes, and slapped me, repeatedly. I cringed away from the blows. My heart pounding, I flung the car door open, jumped out and ran. Grandmother stepped on the gas and chased after me, coming closer. I didn’t look back, I ran faster and made it to the lodge. Uncle Gus found me sobbing, crouched on the kitchen floor. After a string of swear words, he yelled, “What in god’s name happened to you?”
Elizabeth shook the images out of her head, and wiped her face. She drove the last mile and parked in the driveway. The Colonial house and the adjacent two-story hen house had weathered. Her grandmother fell on hard times after she sold the beachfront resort, Sunset Inn. Elizabeth rubbed a hand across her forehead. Uppermost in her mind, if grandmother’s mood took a dive too, she’d have to deal with her, alone.
Earlier, when she called Elizabeth, she sounded her straight to the point, old self. “Heard you’re here for the summer before nursing school. Stop by, I’m home.” Elizabeth managed a brief, “Sure, grandma.” Not asking why after so many years?
She stepped out of the car, thankful the scent of pine trees hadn’t changed. She straightened up, smoothed long brown hair away from her face, set Cat-Eye sunglasses on top of her head, and walked to the front door.
Gray-haired, plump, grandmother greeted her as if nothing had ever happened between them. “Look at you all grown up. It’s been a long time.”
No hug or hand shake, she turned and walked through the living room. Elizabeth followed. A stark contrast to the sun-filled day, dark, overstuffed Victorian furniture and embroidered pillows cluttered the room. Knickknacks and books filled the side tables. A Hammond organ took up the far wall.
Grandmother’s voice trailed behind her. “I want you to know sometimes when people get old they do things they’re sorry for.”
Elizabeth paused mid-step. She held her tongue. If she made a remark the visit would not end well. Grandmother’s off-hand sorry (for scaring the living daylights out of me) had to be enough.
She made her way to the dining room and stood in front of grandmother seated on a velvet-cushioned chair at the oak table. She cleared her throat, “Nice to see you too.”
Grandmother pulled up her flowered housedress to the knees. “Now, take a look at my legs. Tell me what you think.”
Elizabeth bent down and slid a hand over her swollen legs. “How long have they been like this?”
“A few months.” She pointed to The 1951 Family Physicianbook on the table. “That says it’s the way my heart pumps.”
“We could ask Dad. He takes a water pill for blood pressure.”
“I don’t want anyone, especially family, to know. You find out for me, seeing as you’re going to be a nurse.”
Elizabeth smiled, amazed she asked for help, which never happened before.
She put her hand on grandmother’s shoulder. “Okay, I’ll find out for you.”
Grandmother didn’t resist the touch. She looked up at Elizabeth. “Well, good! Now, I’ve got more to say, Elizabeth. First, I’ll make some tea, and I baked those brownies you liked so much. Never know though, maybe you don’t eat them anymore since you’re a model. Karl sent me the picture of you on a billboard. You were always a pretty girl.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened. The compliment and warm welcome a first. She followed grandmother into the kitchen. “Thanks. Nice you and Dad keep in touch.”
“Sit down. I’ve got to get something.” She turned on the stove burner under the teakettle, and disappeared into a small office off the dining room.
Grandmother came back with a folded white lace handkerchief in her hand.
“I remember that in your jewelry box years ago. You grabbed it from me.”
Sunset Inn is a historical fiction book based on real events
The first page hooks the reader
Would you turn the page?