Tradition

Nan indulged him, but didn’t tell the others.  When Aidan called, and spoke a rush of mud and seeds, clovers and pots of rainbow of gold, she lied. She told him his Papa was napping after a long day hoeing the garden and pea planting.  In truth, his Papa, Doc, had planted the seeds the month before, his mind a fog of humor for his clever trickery of saints.

Today Nan wheeled Doc to the windows and cranked the panes into his study. His silence meant nothing, she’d discovered the last few weeks.  There were no signs to predict the outcome; no timeline draped in warbled words. Nan’s own lines softened. Her mouth released the sour purse she’d sported through her own years of loss and resentment.  Her brother needed care, and she was once a nurse.

On Valentine’s Day, she brought his crumpled list to the nursery.  Andre rolled his eyes at the scrawl, but loaded her trunk, confident he’d filled Doc’s requests.  She returned and found him bundled in blankets in the frosty study, flinging soil and bulbs from the window boxes.  Doc asked Nan to set up a card table near the windows. She resisted, at first, then spread faded plaid sheets across the floor and piled his supplies around the room.

The planting took three days.  She waited for him to finish it all, before she restored the room to order.  After that, he stopped writing.  Notebooks and journals sprawled over the abandoned desk, and he spent his days in silence near the windows. When he spoke, he’d take her hand and meet her eyes, and she believed everything was as it was before.  His questions were unanswerable, but he relaxed at the sound of her voice.  She would stay with him until he released her hand.

Today the breeze was warm.  Doc held his hands up to the dusty beam of sunlight before him, and reached to pick the first sweet pod.  Nan wondered at his thoughts.  He’d held trembling, aching life in one hand, and death in the other, with strength and compassion beyond her understanding.  His gift had been a life free of resentment and hatred.  She watched his movements, and wished him one more year.

 

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