Wish you were here!
Center Lovell 1957
Five years ago, Elizabeth’s summer with grandmother ended on a bad note, 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, even though a hot day. The route from her uncle’s boat marina busy with tourist traffic did not distract her. Elizabeth’s mind focused on the incident. Her heart pounded, and sweat ran down her face. On the verge of losing it, she pulled over.
The memory came back in a flash. Early morning on the way to work at the lodge, a desolate lakefront road, grandmother driving, yelled at a deafening pitch, you good for nothin’ lazy kid. She slammed on the brakes, beat her, stepped on the gas, and chased her running away. Granted she slacked off doing farmhouse chores, and tears streaming down her face, she asked why don’t you like me? But, did that justify violence?
On the road again, she shook the images out of her head, approached the farmhouse and parked in the driveway. No surprise, the Colonial house yellowed with age, and the adjacent barn weathered. Her grandmother fell on hard times after she sold Sunset Inn, the beachfront resort. Maybe her health went south too.
When grandmother called Elizabeth 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 stepped out of the car and breathed in fresh pine from the surrounding trees. Thankful that hadn’t changed. She 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 smiling, stood on the top step to greet her as if nothing had ever happened between them. “Look at you all grown up. 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 and books. A 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. If she said anything, it would not end well. 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 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 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 high 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. Nothing like that ever 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, 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’s eyes widened. The compliment and warm welcome a first. She followed grandmother into the kitchen. “Thanks. That’s 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 an object folded in a white, lace, handkerchief. . 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. For every one’s sake keep what you find out a secret.” Grandmother put the watch into Elizabeth’s outstretched hand.
She unwrapped it, and put the attached folded piece of paper on the table. “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.”