This story is by Gigi Guan and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Grandma was sitting beside the window, looking out as if she was expecting someone.
It had been four months since she had Alzheimer’s and moved into the nursing home.
Grandpa, who passed away five years ago, told me that when grandma was young, she was a gorgeous lady. All the men were courting her, but he was the lucky one. He chuckled to himself after saying that.
I tapped lightly on grandma’s shoulder. “Grandma, how are you today?”
“Young lady, I am only 19. Don’t call me that,” She slowly turned her head. “Did you see John? Mmm… a guy with a cowboy hat.”
“No. Who’s that?”
“He’s my friend who works on my father’s farm.”
Grandma never told me about John more than just a friend.
I went to grandma’s bed and folded her blanket. Then I fluffed her pillow. A black and white photo fell out. It was her and a tall and sinewy guy; they were in front of a farm, and the guy had his arm around grandma.
I turned to the back and there were words written on it, “Wait for me. Love, John.” Is this the guy she was talking about?
I walked over to my grandma. “Grandma, is this John?”
“Oh yes. Don’t let my father see it. He’s going to be mad.”
She snatched the photo from me and put it in her pocket.
“Do you think he will come back soon?” Grandma asked.
“I don’t know where he went.”
“He went to defend our country.” Grandma then gestured for me to come close to her and whispered, “John said he’s going to marry me after he returns. Don’t let my father know, he’s going to be furious.”
John was grandma’s lover?
“Grandma, I can help you find him. Tell me his full name.”
She looked at me doubtfully.
“Trust me. I will find him.” I assured her.
She looked out the window again. Then she said, “John Ladner.”
After visiting grandma, I posted a video with the photo online. Maybe I will find him; maybe I won’t. Maybe he’s still alive; maybe he’s dead. Anyway, I will give it a try because grandma really wanted to see him.
A few days later, I got an email reply from a man. He had the same photo and said he was John and wanted to see grandma. I was so surprised. The photo was crumpled, but I could still see the faces. I sent an email back to him to meet at a cafe the next day. He replied instantly with a yes.
I was holding my coffee nervously, wondering what this man looks like now that grandma still remembered after several decades. Or I should say, for several decades. I looked at the door; a young man was holding an old man’s arm to come in. I could tell the old man was John right away because, even though he was old, his facial features were pretty much the same as the young John in the photo.
I waved at them.
“Hi, you must be John Ladner?” I asked
“Yes,” His voice was deep. “This is my son, Jack.”
“Hi, Eunice. I was the one who emailed you. One day I was browsing random videos online and saw yours. Then I clicked on it and watched. And I see this photo which my dad also has.” Jack said.
“Mr. Ladner, if I am right, you and my grandma were lovers.”
John took a deep sigh. “Yes. I was working on your great father’s farm when I was young. He didn’t like me much because I always talk to your grandma. He didn’t know we were having a relationship. One day I was conscripted for WW2, and I gave your grandma this photo. Later your great-grandfather gave my mother a decent amount of money and told her to tell your grandma I died during the war. Your grandma is gullible, so when I came back, she was married.”
“What a sad story.” I took a sip of my coffee.
“Can we go visit your grandma now?” John asked urgently.
“Before we head off, let’s go buy some oranges.”
“You still remember what my grandma likes to eat?”
“Of course.” He smiled.
“Grandma, see who’s visiting you today.”
She stared at John for a moment and shook her head.
“He’s John Ladner.” I told her, expecting thrill and surprise from her.
“John?” Grandma frowned. “No, he’s a young man. This gentleman must in his 80s.”
“I am very happy to see you, my princess Loretta.” John took a bow.
“That’s what John always says and does when he sees me.” Tears rolled down grandma’s face. “He said he and I will get married after he comes back from the war. We will name our daughter Lorraine and our son John.”
Lorraine was my mom’s name. Grandma said she named my mom Lorraine because it meant “kingdom of Lothar”. I couldn’t believe this is not actually how my mom got her name.
“Loretta, I am very sorry for taking so long to be back.” Then he handed the photo to my grandma.
“That’s alright. Did you get injured in the war? But how come you look so old now?”
“No, I didn’t get injured or anything. But I had a disease which… which made my skin aged fast.”
“Will you turn your back on me?”
“No.” Grandma grabbed his hands. “Everyday I look out the window, expecting to see you back, but I didn’t. Those days were tough. My father told me don’t wait for you, but I persisted. I know one day you will be back.”
“Days without you were tough for me too.” John said.
Then they both hugged.
“Does your mom know about this?” I asked Jack.
“I was adopted by my father.” Jack said.
John took an orange from the bag, peeled the skin and fed my grandma. A radiant smile on her face that I haven’t seen in the last five years. She was behaving like a shy girl.
“Do you still remember your promise?” Grandma asked.
“Of course. No matter how your father wants to stop us, I will fight for it. My fiancée.” John said.
“I will fight for it too. My fiancé.”
Then they snuggled together and watched the sunset.