She lay very still, the girl with no voice, waiting patiently for another chance to slip outside and play.
Impatient hands insisted on washing her first, subjugating her vernal modesty to another ritual cleansing while voices deconstructed her prospects, jabbering on as if she couldn’t possibly hear. She tried to ignore these interlopers, listening instead to the buzzing of bumblebees swirling about the hive, the chittering laughter of finely plumed finches joining the charm, murmurs of solemn critters discharging their critterly responsibilities, the lonesome echo of silence as one solo hummingbird passed by too fast to pause and ponder her own past.
One pair of those hands hurriedly brushed the girl’s hair while others clipped her nails, even as clinging morning glory vines twined her arms and legs, tickling her tummy. The intermittent chirrup of a sentinel cricket signaled the all clear, nothing extraordinary transpiring here.
Jeremy would come today, that tow headed boy who loved to take her by the hand and lead her off to explore wondrous worlds both familiar and new.
Maybe this time they would climb the ramparts of a rocky bluff castle, rising above the fog shrouded valley to survey exotic realms and watch the dissolution of misty wisps, morning sunshine kissing a new day’s warmth into their rosy cheeks.
Or he might take her for a ride on his bicycle, stopping at the town diner to sample the daily special, neighbors pausing to inquire after the girl with no voice. “She’s just dandy,” Jeremy would answer for her, the shy little boy blushing furiously from all the attention. Then he would hold her hand again as they skipped across to the little park to perch on a Flowers By Dot bench and lick those triple scooped ice cream cones that only innocent children dare believe just might possibly last forever.
Or maybe they’d hike out past the regal antebellum homestead where Jeremy had lived all ten years of his still efflorescing yet already spirited young life. She liked to spy butterflies patrolling the effusive wildflower decoupage carpeting Hendon Holler, and she always bowed in sympathy to the mournful old willow tree that weeps mayfly tears over the riffling waters of Meacham’s Creek. She would doff her slippers to wade barefoot among the slippery rocks where generations of youngsters chased turtles and frogs. The cold water always rushed across her feet, transforming her toes into scintillating minnows wriggling amid the liquid blanket of familiar security there in the only home where they’d always belonged. Like the inexorable passing of time, the stream cascaded from some unseen summit, embracing for an instant this girl with no voice, finally passing on to collect in deep pools of stillness connected to one another like jewels strung along a sparkling necklace that stretches beyond the sunset.
She wanted to follow the waters someday, to plunge in and embrace her wellspring’s fate, to lie still in the depths while gazing at the burgeoning silver clouds that dance across shimmering sky in remembrance of those we can no longer hear . . .
But not while Jeremy was so young, not when he still owned all the time in his world, not right now when he wanted so very much to play just a little more.
Then a whippoorwill’s call turned to words and shattered the reverie. “Such a shame,” said the one with rough hands. “Ain’t no good like this to nobody.”
“You hush now,” whispered the nice one who sometimes coos reassurance when the angry hornet stings an unwary wrist.
“They ought to put every one of them out of their misery, is what I think.”
“Don’t talk like that. You never know, she might can understand you.” The girl with no voice did understand, too, though she could never tell them so.
“Well, that looks good enough—not that she’ll know the difference,” huffed the rough one, her chore complete for now.
Soft breath tickled the girl’s ear as the nice one leaned close to whisper, “We fixed you up extra pretty for your visit. You sit tight now; Jeremy’ll be here soon.”
Their footsteps faded into that bumblebee buzz swirling just beyond the doorway, into the chittering laughter of finely plumed finches flitting off to greet another visitor.
Alone again, she felt that creeping trepidation, so she listened for the cricket calls that prove a heart still beats strong, at least for another day; and she concentrated on Jeremy, hoping he would arrive soon, his devotion the guiding flicker of a confident firefly twinkling through the descending cloak of fog shrouded night, the light of his young life growing so bright her fears couldn’t help but pass like shadows absorbed by the cresting sun of a new day.
With each breath, her world paused, the cricket chirruped, and morning glory straps tickled her tummy . . .
And the finches chittered with excitement, the bumblebees buzzing welcome for still more visitors . . .
And she felt that squeeze of reassurance when Jeremy’s hand finally slipped into hers.
“I’m here, Grandma,” he whispered, his sweet breath a summer breeze as he gently kissed where the timeworn grooves etched her ancient face, a picture she desperately hoped not even that cruel reflection scouring cataract of Alzheimer’s could blur.
She wanted to squeeze him back, to gather him in and hold him in her arms, to find her voice again, if only for the instant of telling him how much she would always love him, no matter what, even when the day came that she could no longer hear, especially when the night refuses to yield to another morning because she’s finally forgotten how to know. For now she did understand that Jeremy would grow up soon enough, that eventually he would move far from Hendon Holler to chase his own butterfly dreams, someday sharing her story, she hoped, with his own children’s children.
But the girl with no voice could only lie there, twined to her bed, counting on Jeremy to remember it all, cherishing this tow headed boy so determined to breathe exuberance into the last days of his beloved grandmother’s life . . .
“I’m building a treehouse, Grandma,” he announced, surely knowing that somewhere beyond the gauze of creeping dementia she would be delighted and proud. “It’s way up in that big white oak by Meacham’s Creek!”
And she felt him leading her there, one more chance for the girl to slip outside and play, morning sunshine dappling the branches as she and her favorite little boy climbed high above the riffling waters where children still chase turtles and frogs, where one generation flows into the next.
Another precious moment swirled around her before passing on to pool in the deep stillness that stretches beyond the sunset, a silent I love you, too, Jeremy giving voice to the gentle hummingbird pondering her past, even as she embraced a fading future amid the rising mists.
Copyright 2003 The Fresh Ink Group, LLC
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