I wrote this sketch for my university creative writing course in June 2005 about good memories experienced with my grandpa on the beach of Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario, and the surrounding area. I wrote in third person for the purpose of the task. Request permission to reprint through the contact page.
Two figures on the beach. A man and a child. Walking. Stopping. Bending, then standing again.
The man enjoyed walking on the shore of Lake Huron, quieted by the rhythmic swell of the waves, its eventual rush up the sand, then its receding ebb. With his granddaughter, he would carefully lead over the large, round rocks, as they slowly made their way. In silence, each would scan the ground for special stones. Stones preferred by the explorers for its combination of form, dimension, and hue. Alluring stones to adorn his prized aquariums. Her choosing had no purpose except the mere whim of a young girl.
Living far apart, they went for prolonged periods of time without seeing each other. When reunited, he would grab her for a hug, inviting, “Come to grandpa.” His hug was like a current, impelling her into his domain, infusing warmth and life. “You’ve put on weight,” he laughed as he pinched her side to demonstrate his point. She would squirm away in annoyance.
On another occasion, she excitedly ran to her grandpa to tell him about the snakes she had discovered that had miraculously grown legs. Bursting a deep hearty laugh, he traipsed after her to the decomposing stump to search for the diminutive creatures. He expeditiously snatched them in his broad calloused hands and chuckled, “They’re newts.” He stooped his large frame and extended his scooped hands for her curious view. Then he permitted her to hold one before depositing them in a glass pickle jar with a nail-holed lid. He fashioned a terrarium habitat using a glass aquarium, a variety of rocks, plants and a miniature pond. Researching their diet, he fed them properly. He took special care of them for many years until they died.
There weren’t many moment she saw him angry, but if he was she avoided the crash of the wave. One thing that incited his anger was disturbing his fish. She couldn’t resist playing with the fish in the aquarium. If he asked if she had, she always said, “No,” with as much innocence as she could muster. She marveled and puzzled over his seeming omniscience.
Near the end, lying in the hospital, his large rugged body filled the length and span of the bed. Such a contrast to his army service photo: His broad shoulders stood above the rest of his company. His present weakness, so unlike his rigour of life, even at eighty. Tube in nose. Needle in arm. The hug a gentle ebb. “You’ve put on weight,” he stated softly with a weak smile, which she returned. He was in ICU as a result of a routine knee surgery. Was it really necessary at eighty years old to get a knee fixed? It seemed so wrong now. This strong current that guided his family through life, now feeble – tranquil water on the shore. Became still.
Alone in the funeral home, she touched his cheek and recoiled at the cold hardness, her throat tight. Out of her pocket she took a small stone that she found on the beach that morning. It was oval, somewhat flat, and speckled greyish blue and white like a wave. Swiftly and smoothly, she slipped the small cherished stone into the left breast pocket of his suit. Today, in tranquil moments, the memories of his life undulate in her mind, continuing to smooth and gently mold a stone.