How many different ways could she fail to summon her grandfather’s face?
He wouldn’t have forgotten all the different ways with which to call on her. “Lemon Meringue,” he’d say, “bring me a smile the next time you come. Inspire me to wear my dentures.”
Or: “Lemon Drop, don’t forget your umbrella. They say there’s going to be a 30% chance of rain. You know there’s more to come, don’t you?”
“Grandpa,” I would say, “the umbrella just takes up room in my bag. I can’t make space for 30% today. Too much to do.”
“Lemonade, keep that umbrella with you. A possibility might catch you by surprise,” he’d say, before turning back to his favorite pastime: watching the townspeople scatter across the street—slipping down the sidewalk as they walked, cutting through the peace as they drove.
Watching for strangers who might come to harm him or his kin.
For rain that might never come.
For God if He ever showed his face down there in the midst of things.
Then, he’d turn back around to catch the tail-end of a second weather report. Mentally update his findings so he’d have an accurate analysis for the kids and grandkids and the rare great-grandkid when they called him. Everyone he talked to would have a possibility-catcher by mid-afternoon. Everyone would leave their homes armed for the day.
And he, The Day Watcher, could resume his post, held steady by faith. And love.
He was a man of love, first and foremost. To the last.
Maybe that was why Lemon was the last person he saw alive.
He left his speed-dial unset for all that he hated arranging favorites, but Lemon loved him most, and he knew it.
So, it wasn’t when the herb gardens returned to flourishing in the spring, or when Grandma Angie’s birthday passed and she wasn’t around for her surprise this year. Nor was it after Elia was born, the second great-grandkid.
No, George Kincaid’s passing eased the day Lemon told him she was moving out of her parents’ house.
“That’s good.” His smile wrinkled his cheeks. Narrowed his eyes. She wished she’d noticed how they must have dimmed. “Life’s over sooner than you think, Lemon Tart. Grab your first chance at it by the throat, wring it for all it’s worth. Don’t waste… a… second…”
It was seventy-two of those seconds later when his chest stopped rising.
She hadn’t meant to count.
But Grandpa George died under the bill of his logo-less baseball cap in the valley behind his home at age eighty-seven.
He lived long enough to call his eldest grandchild to action.
It wasn’t just instruction, advice, or well-meaning. It was a challenge issued, with the expectation it would not just be met. But triumphed.
Holding his still hand then was like holding onto the edge of a cliff. She had felt him slipping from her grasp, and no matter how desperately she’d clutched, she had been destined to lose him.
And now, she could barely remember how his scruffy eyebrows morphed his face when he was concerned or confused. How his hands looked sticking out like a flag of red flannel when he was accusing someone of injustice. She was losing bits of him every day—gold pieces being swindled by time.
Lemon stared out at the bluffs kissing the edge of her new home, and promised herself she would continue weaving the threads of her new life. And she would spin them with the gold she had left of the man she’d loved more than anyone, and rebuild with decadence.
She would have it all.
She would grab life by the throat. And she’d get all she could out of it.
Only, she would make one small amendment:
She’d let go. And give back all she could.
She hoped she’d be worth her grandfather’s weight in gold someday.