This story is by David J. Brown and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Love’s Many Seasons
Daniel never cared for Fall; it was a brisk reminder of the summers he wasted.
The rain fell softly outside, a fire crackled happily in the wood stove. Daniel sat on Grandma’s couch munching a cookie. He listened to her tell a story of meeting Grandpa. .
Grandma loved this moment and marked it as a good one. Daniel listened politely. He liked Grandma’s stories, but there were better ones than this.
Years passed, and Daniel was 18. It was his spring, and love ran rampant over common sense. Girls were all around. Young and fun, beautiful and mysterious. How could a boy know?
Daniel asked Grandma about love. She probably told him what was best. She probably said what was wise, but when in love we tend to hear only the advice we want to hear.
This much Daniel did remember.
“Grandma, how did you know Grandpa was the one for you?” He asked.
“Oh I didn’t, still don’t. I have to decide he is everyday.” Oh, she was so funny sometimes.
Daniel did not make a rational decision about love. He tripped and fell in like any fool.
Make no mistake though, when love is right, love is easy. The stars align, the universe will move continents to pair young lovers with their one in a million. That is why Daniel fell in love with the neighbor girl. Not because it was convenient. It was destiny.
“Grandma! She completes me!” Daniel shook his head at the cliché comments, but no other words described how perfect their love was.
“That’s wonderful Daniel, so wonderful.” She smiled sweetly.
Romeo had no idea love could be that good.
There was a wedding, not the kind every girl dreams of, but they didn’t care, they had each other. Nothing else mattered, for a time, and a beautiful time it was if Daniel had known to soak it in.
Life moved on, children happened. Hospital bills clouded the future. For 7 years they tried. It scared and scarred Daniel to see the girl the universe had brought him, go from loving him whole heartedly to hating him. To saying evil things of him. Was all that he thought as love, fake? Had he not found it yet? Had he been fooled this whole time?
Grandpa had passed. Grandma kept her chin up.
When Daniel whined to her of his disappointed life, she listened whole heartedly.
“Life isn’t over, you still have beautiful children to love. Live for them.”
It was summertime. Daniel met another girl. She was sweet, a little crazy, in a good way most of the time. His heart beat hopefully, but Daniel was ever cautious.
‘Heart don’t fly too high, you may not survive another fall.’
“I don’t think this is going to work,” the girl said one day.
“I think you’re right.” Daniel agreed.
It was not what she expected. Her past mistakes had taught her a different game. She kept one foot out incase the ship went down. Daniel stood on the shore, he needed to trust this wholeheartedly and throw all in or not at all.
The two different approaches to love didn’t work out according to romance handbooks. It fell apart quickly.
Grandma had married again, it was to her grade school sweetheart.
“How do you know it’s love grandma?” Daniel asked.
“How can I know it isn’t?”
“I’m only 32 and I think I’ve used up all of my love.” Daniel said.
“No, you’ve just wore off the silly love. Now you can see clearer.”
Grandma and step Grandpa had 12 sweet years together before he passed on.
“I could have lived safely without him,” she said through sobs at his funeral, “but I would have missed so much.”
Years passed, she hung on. Many times he thought she was leaving, but she would rally, and live another year.
Daniel sat quietly by her bedside as her eyes fluttered open.
“Daniel!” She said as she saw him.
“Hi grandma.” He had never seen her so thin.
“Do you ever wonder about the other side?” She knew she could talk to Daniel about things most would find uncomfortable.
“I heard it’s like waking up from a dream.” He said pushing down the tears.
“Ah, that’s nice. Real nice.” She turned to the window.
“It’s so nice they gave me a window to look out of. I can’t see anything but roofs and treetops though. There is a pigeon nest there in that chimney. I think they are pigeons.” She paused as memories passed through her mind.
“Do you know what I think heaven is like Daniel?” She asked. He shook his head wordless.
“You know those perfect moments in life when you can’t think of anything that could have made it better?”
“I’m not sure I’ve experienced any.” He answered.
“Sure you have, they happen all the time, if you look for them. You can find them in your past, if you don’t let what happened next ruin it. But I think heaven is made of those moments. They are like paintings in your heavenly house, but ones we can walk into and enjoy as much as we want.”
“Tell me about one?” Asked Daniel.
“October 1951. Autumn leaves and fallen apples. Grandpa and his mom and dad, your mom and sisters and I would go pheasant hunting. The men would milk the cows extra early while my mother-in-law and I would make a picnic lunch and fill thermoses with coffee and hot chocolate. We would wake the girls, load the car and head out east to Carlton.
Grandpa and Papa would each have a shot gun resting lightly on their shoulders, they would turn to smile at us, one of the little girls at a time where allowed to accompany as one little girl was quiet, but two, you might as well bring the whole school bus. They would go out for a while, and your great grandma and I would walk down the road a piece to an apple tree and to help ourselves. It was a perfectly mixed palette of happiness. I will cherish that moment forever. When I get to heaven, I think that picture will be on my wall, and I can be in it whenever I want.”
“Thats beautiful Grandma.”
“That moment does not dull because grandpa and I argued that night on the way home. It does not fade because he passed on too early. I don’t factor that part into the picture. Only what I see right there in those moments.”
“How many of those moments do you have?” Daniel asked.
“Oh thousands I’m sure. Another favorite one. You sitting on my couch when you were so young, cringing when I told you about falling love with Grandpa. For a moment you almost couldn’t eat that cookie.” She chuckled softly.
She pulled out of it one more time. Daniel took her out for Margaritas without her walker. Then she was gone. Mid October. She walked straight into her painting of heaven. Daniel knew she couldn’t be happier.
Two years after her funeral Daniel stood in a brisk Autumn breeze by her grave.
“I went back Grandma, back through the past and mined those moments, I found that one when you told me about Grandpa. I will have it on my wall too. Maybe we can meet there once in awhile.” He fought back tears for a few moments. “And you’re right, one summer I sat with my girl in the yard, the children played in the wading pool. We lived in a nice house we couldn’t afford. But that day there was nothing I worried about. It was a beautiful moment. And yes, the storms of life were quick to follow. But in that picture, it does not matter.”
“Grandma, I met someone. I can almost feel that silly love again, which scares me a bit. But these moments we search for seem to exist in great contrast. With threat of pain. We must venture to gain them. I see now why you love the Fall. Grapes become wine, apples become pie and experience becomes wisdom.”
A lady walked through the cemetery to stand by Daniel.
“Anna,” Daniel turned to the lady, “I love you.”