After we waved good-bye to the last of the guests, Janet turned to me and asked, “Where’s Evan?”
“I think he’s downstairs. I got the feeling he wanted to be alone for a while. First the funeral and now the reception, I think it all got a little overwhelming.”
“Why don’t you go check on him? I’ll fix us some supper.”
We were feeling the weight of the loss of our only child, Jenny, who was also our ten year old grandson’s mother. We’d be taking care of him for the foreseeable future while his father recovered in the hospital from the deadly car accident that had changed our lives forever. This wasn’t going to be easy for any of us.
We gave each other a hug followed by a quick kiss. “Okay. I’ll go see how he’s doing,” I told her and went downstairs.
Evan was at my work bench looking at a jar of agates. He turned to me, “These are really neat Grandpa.”
I walked up next to him and said, “They really are, aren’t they? I polished them in my rock tumbler a long time ago, way before you were born.”
I watched as he continued to study them. He seemed interested so it gave me an idea. “Come with me, I want to show you something.” We went to my office and I reached up to a shelf above my desk. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as Evan followed my every move. “Here, have a look at this,” I said, handing him a clear glass jar.
“He peered closely at its contents. What is that, Grandpa?”
“Check it out. Open it.”
He did and reached in to pull out a walnut sized stone and began to admire it in the palm of his hand. His eyes grew wide open, “Wow. This is really cool. What is it?”
“It’s a Lake Superior agate.”
He studied it carefully. “It’s really pretty.”
I smiled, “Yeah it is. It’s a favorite of mine.”
“Where’d you get it?”
“I found this when I was about your age on a gravel road in northern Minnesota. It was my first agate. Feel how smooth it is.”
He rubbed the stone between his hands like he was warming it up. Then he held it close and gazed with wonder at the rusty red hues enfolding swirls of white crystals. I didn’t blame him. It was a beautiful specimen.
I said, “To me, it’s like holding a piece of magic. It was formed from volcanic fires and lava flows millions of years ago where Lake Superior is now located.”
“But that’s way up north. How’d it get to where you found it on that gravel road?”
I smiled, seeing he was momentarily distracted from his mother’s death. “Can you imagine that it somehow made its journey to that road by the long, slow movement of the glaciers? I prefer to think of it as part glaciation, part mystery.” He continued studying the agate as I continued, “It’s hard to find them these days. They’re very unique, and their value is in their rarity.” I loved talking about rocks, much to the consternation of my wife. It was nice to have a captive audience.
He laughed, “You’re talking weird, Grandpa. Like poetry or something.”
“Well, to me there’s something special about them,” I chuckled along with him. “Call it poetry or magic or whatever, but I’m glad that you like it as much as I do.” I paused for a moment, enjoying how happy the stone was making him feel. Then I made a quick decision, “I’ll tell you what, you can keep it. It’s yours.”
He visibly gasped and his eyes lit up, “No way! Really?”
“Yep. It’s a cool agate. Enjoy it.”
“Oh, Grandpa, thank you so much. It’s beautiful. I love it.”
He was happy for the first time since the tragic car accident that had killed his mother. Then he threw his arms around my neck and gave me a big hug. I hugged him right back. Tight.
After a minute I led him back to the work bench and we sat down on a couple of stools. I told him a little bit more about agates and their history as he gently caressed the singular stone he held in his small hands, his thoughts for a moment taken away from this sad day.
When I was finished he was quiet. I was, too. What would each of our lives be like now, now that someone we both loved so dearly was no longer with us? My Jenny. Evan’s mother.
After a minute he looked at me hopefully and asked, “Grandpa? Do you think we could maybe go searching for more agates sometime? It would be so fun. I’d really like to do that.”
His innocence and quiet voice almost broke my heart. We were both suffering and grieving our loss. Evan picked up the jar of polished agates he’d first been looking at and held it up, reverently turning it back and forth to catch the light and show the colors of the stones inside, gazing at them entranced, as if in another world.
It would be so easy to say, ‘Sure, let’s do that. Let’s go hunting agates.’ And I almost did, but then I was held back by a sudden, horrible thought. What if I said ‘Yes’ and we went up north and didn’t find any? Agates were hard to find nowadays. The disappointment might crush him.
“Maybe we should wait awhile,” I suggested.
“Aw…” He set the jar down and turned away, but not before I could see tears forming in his sad eyes. “Okay,” he sighed.
I mentally pinched myself. What a jerk I was being for refusing to take my grandson on a trip we could both use just because I was afraid of a little disappointment. We’d just buried a person we both loved dearly for Pete’s sake. Not find any agates? I’m sure I could deal with that. Same with Evan. I had to give us both a little credit.
“Wait a minute,” I told him, putting my hand on his shoulder. “I take that back.” He turned to me and his eyes became wide with anticipation. “Sure,” I said, “let’s do it. Let’s go find ourselves some agates.”
“Are you sure, Grandpa? Really?” The way his face lit up and the happiness that shone in his eyes made me realize I’d made the right decision.
“Absolutely,” I said, instantly planning a driving trip north and picturing him cradling a handful of newly found agates in his cupped palms. “Let’s go tomorrow.”
“Yea!” he shouted and started dancing around the room.
Just then Janet called from upstairs. “You two all right down there?”
I looked at Evan and he looked back at me. We were both grinning, “Yeah,” I said. “We’re just fine.”
“Okay, then. Supper’s ready. Come on.”
“Goody, I famished,” Evan said. He ran ahead and hurried up the steps, clutching the agate I’d given him and yelling, “Grandma, look what Grandpa gave me.”
I smiled at my departing grandson. “I’ll be up in a minute,” I called after him, but I doubt he heard me.
I went to the work bench to turn off the light and saw the jar of agates with the top open. What the heck, I thought to myself. I grabbed a few before putting the lid back on. It wouldn’t hurt to have some on hand to scatter on the ground up north for us to find. Just in case. Evan didn’t need any more disappoints in his young life. Not now. At least not if I could help it.
DECEMBER 2019 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords, The Drabble and World of Myth Magazine, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2, The Best of CafeLit8, Nativity Anthology by Bridge House Publishing and Gold Dust Magazine. You can also check out his blog to see more: THE VIEW FROM LONG LAKE.