Wish you were here!
Center Lovell 1957
Five years ago, Elizabeth’s summer with grandmother ended on a bad note. She tried hard to forget her clothes thrown in the trunk of a car, and her uncle’s booming voice. “Dammit, Elizabeth, you’re done with this.”
Elizabeth gripped the steering wheel and rolled down the window for air, even though a stifling hot day. The route from her uncle’s new boat marina busy with tourist traffic did not distract her. Elizabeth’s mind focused on the incident. Sweat ran down her face, and her heart pounded. On the verge of losing it, she pulled over. The haunting memory came back in flashes.
Early morning, a desolate lakefront road, grandmother driving her to work, yelling at her, slammed on the brakes, beat her, stepped on the gas, and chased her running away.
Elizabeth shook the images out of her head, and pulled back onto the blacktop. Granted she slacked off doing chores. But, how did that justify violence?
She approached the farmhouse and parked in the driveway. Not a surprise the Colonial house yellowed with age, and the adjacent barn weathered. Her grandmother fell on hard times after she sold the beachfront resort, Sunset Inn. Elizabeth wondered if her health went south too.
She stepped out of the car and breathed in fresh pine from the surrounding trees. Thankful that hadn’t changed.
When grandmother called earlier she sounded her usual old self. “Heard you’re in town for the summer before you start nursing school. Stop by, I’m home.”
She smoothed her long brown hair away from her face, set Cat-Eye sunglasses on top of her head, and walked to the front door.
Grandmother stood smiling on the top step 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 away 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. Side tables filled with knickknacks, magazines and books. A huge Hammond Organ took up the far wall.
Grandmother’s voice trailed behind her. “I just want you to know sometimes when people get old they do things they’re sorry for.”
Elizabeth paused mid-step. She took in a slow breath and held her tongue. It would not end well if she responded. Grandmother’s off-hand sorry for 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 mahogany table. “Nice to see you too grandma.”
Grandmother pulled up her flowered housedress to the knees. “Now, take a look at my swollen legs. Tell me what you think.”
Elizabeth bent down and slid her hand over grandmother’s legs. “How long have they been like this?”
“A few months.” She pointed to The 1951 Family Physician book on the table. “It’s got to do with the way my heart pumps.”
“We could ask Dad. He takes a pill for blood pressure.”
“I don’t want anyone, especially family, to know about this. You find out for me, seeing as you’re going to be a nurse.”
Elizabeth smiled, amazed she asked for help. Nothing like that ever happened before.
She put her hand on grandmother’s shoulder and rubbed it. “Okay, grandma, I’ll find out for you.”
Grandmother didn’t resist the touch. She looked up at Elizabeth. “Well, that’s done. Now I’ve got something to tell you, 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 let out a long breath, the compliment and warm welcome a first. She followed grandmother into the kitchen. “Thanks, Grandma. That’s nice you keep in touch with Dad.”
“Sit down. I’ve got to get something.” She turned on the stove to heat up the teakettle, and disappeared into a small office off the dining room.
Grandmother came back with an object folded in a piece of paper. Elizabeth’s hand flew to her mouth. “I remember that! I found it years ago in your jewelry box. You grabbed it before I looked at it.”
“Ah ha! It’s time you knew about it. I’m not going to live much longer, and I’m giving it to you. It’s your grandfather’s gold pocket watch. Don’t tell anyone in the family about this. For every one’s sake keep what youfind out a secret.” Grandmother put the piece of paper with the watch into Elizabeth’s outstretched hand.
She unfolded it. “It’s beautiful.” She ran her finger over the floral engraved case, opened it and stared at a sepia photo of a young woman. “Who is this?”
“That’s what you’re going to find out.”