“Ugh,” Rose groaned. “Why do I have to visit grandpa during my summer break? Going there will be so boring.”
“Rose, I don’t want to hear it. You’re going to visit
your grandfather for the summer and that’s final. The two of you will find
something to do. Besides, it’s only for two weeks. I will pick you up in two
weeks.” Her mother said before she paused to quickly glance at her child. Rose
pouted while she started out of the car’s window. Her mother was driving her to
her grandfather’s house. “You know you’re blessed to still have your grandfather
around. Not many people can visit a grandfather.” Rose rolled her eyes, making
sure that her mother did not see her do so.
“I know mama. I know how lucky I am.” Rose sighed heavily again. “I just thought you and I would do something fun together for the summer. With the virus and being stuck at home for two months, I thought our first outing would be something fun like camping.” Rose continued to complained. Her mother turned the car onto a dirt road that led to Rose’s grandfather’s house. “We will, I promise, as soon as I’m finished with work in two weeks and you’ve finished visiting your grandfather. It’s important that you visit him now.” Her mother’s voice changed in tone slightly.
“And why is it important for me to visit him now?” Rose mumbled. Her arms were folded across her chest and she was slumped down in the car’s seat.
“You will see” her mother whispered as the car pulled to
a stop in front of Rose’s grandfather’s the old house.
Rose slowly exited the car as her mother greeted her
“Hey granddad” Rose muttered as she gave her grandfather a weak hug.
“Well, look how grown you are. How old are you now?”
“The perfect age to understand” her grandfather replied
as he stared at Rose’s mother. “It was the same age with you and your brother”
“Yes pop it was” her mother replied. “We were 11 and 13
when you taught us.”
“Think we should have started younger?” Rose’s
grandfather questioned her mother. Her mother took a moment to think. She
stared sturdily at her daughter. “Yeah we should have, but it’s better late
than never.” Her mom gave her grandfather one last hug. “I’m off now pop. You
two enjoy yourself” Rose watched as her mother hurried off.
“How about we get your bags inside” Rose followed her
grandfather inside the old farm house. She knew her grandfather use to be a
police officer in their country. He was retired now; he retired as a farmer the
year her grandmother died.
When the two were inside, Rose had to question him about
his conversation with her mother. “Granddad?” She began, “what were you and
mama talking about?” Rose drugged her suitcase along the house’s wooden floors
that were now covered with an old shaggy, mixed colored rug.
“In due time, you will know in due time.”
“When will that be?”
“When the time is right. Until then, how about we get you
some blankets for your bed.” Her grandfather said as he wobbled to the back door.
Rose knew where he was going and followed. Every time she visited, her
grandfather had to borrow blankets and sheets from his neighbor, Ms. Peach.
Well, Ms. Peach’s name was not Ms. Peach. But the lady always smelled like
peaches due to the fact she was a peach farmer. As strange as it was, Ms. Peach
had been her grandfather’s neighbor for years and Rose never knew her real
The two walked to the peach farm in silence. The farm was
half a mile up the road; her grandfather liked to get the sheets from Ms. Peach
when Rose was with him. It was polite to visit an old friend or neighbor, in their
country, with your loved ones.
Ms. Peach was home, gardening when the two arrived.
“Rose, darling, look at you” Ms. Peach said as she stood
to give the young child a hug. Her arms were stretched out wide as she
approached the young child. The two hugged and Ms. Peach kissed Rose’s
forehead. “You’re almost as tall as me now” the old woman giggled. “Run up
stairs and fetch a blanket for tonight” Rose obeyed. She entered the farm house
and went up the stairs to the spear bedroom. The room use to belong to Ms.
Peach’s daughter. But the young girl was a woman with her own family now. So
the room did not get much use other than slowly becoming a crochet room.
Rose grabbed a small, purple and blue blanket from the
room’s closet. It was the blanket she always used when she visited. It was
always washed and ready for her each and every time, smelling of roses and lavender.
When Rose returned to her grandfather, the two adults
quickly changed the subject. Rose knew what the topic was. “Are y’all talking
about that secret again?” She asked impatiently.
“Now Rose, you know it’s not polite to ease drop...”
“Now now, she’s just a curious young child. In due time
she will know,” Ms. Peach said as she touched Rose’s grandfather’s shoulder
gently. “Go easy on her...and make sure you go easy on yourself too.” He gave
Ms. Peach a loving, friendly smile. “Okay Rose, all ready to go?” Rose and her
grandfather said their goodbyes to Ms. Peach and went home.
That night, Rose could not sleep. Her grandfather told
her that tomorrow was the big day to reveal the secret.
“We have to go for a drive into town.” He had told her.
“What for, We don’t need anything.” Rose was curious.
“I have something that I do every year around this time.”
“It’s the thing that you’re old enough to know about now . . . it’s the family’s generational secret.” Her grandfather finished.
Of course, Rose asked more questions, but her grandfather did not say another word. He finished his dinner and then sent Rose to bed. He told her to get a good night’s rest because they would leave early that next morning.
And they did. That next morning, Rose’s grandfather woke
her up at six.
“Why?” She whined.
“I told you to sleep well” her grandfather chuckled. Rose
groaned as she got out of bed to get ready for the day.
The drive to town was long, about
thirty minutes to an hour, depending on how far into town one would go. Her
grandfather assured her that they would not go far into town, just visiting a
house close on the outskirts.
Her grandfather slowly pulled up to a small one bedroom
house that was over another small two bedroom house. It was one of those houses
that had a private house on top that could be rented out.
Rose followed her grandfather up the narrow, metal stairs
that led to the top house’s front door. Her grandfather knocked. Rose waited in
silence as the door slowly opened.
“Hello?” a young woman asked in a different language.
Rose did not understand her, but her grandfather did. He greeted the young
woman in her language. The young woman smiled and greeted them both in their
“Do you understand our language?” Her grandfather asked
in their native tongue. The young woman stood in silence.
“Granddad, I don’t think she understands.” Rose
whispered. Her grandfather pulled out his phone and opened a translator app. He
typed in a message to the young girl and then gave it to her.
“Oh yes” the young woman typed in a message on her phone
for Rose’s grandfather to read. The two communicated like that until the
conversation was over and then Rose and her grandfather left.
In the car, the Rose and her grandfather sat quietly for
a moment before her grandfather was comfortable to speak.
He started the car and began to drive as he told Rose a
“You know your grandfather use to be a police officer?”
Rose nodded her head. “The year I was retiring, a young woman, who lived in
that exact house as the young woman we just met today, came to our country as
an English teacher. She was going to teach English at the elementary school
here. I heard through some of the other native teachers that she was a very
good and kind teacher. The young woman during this time was named Rose.” Rose
“She’s named after me!” Her grandfather chuckled. He turned the car onto a unfamiliar dirt road. Rose did not know where they were.
“You’re named after her, my child” her grandfather said
as he gently touched his granddaughter’s face. “Rose was 26 during this time.
She left her country, home and family to come here and work. One day, she came
to the police station asking for help. She wanted to know how to get her
driving permit here. We didn’t know much about that. But she assured us that we
could help her. Someone told her that the police station could help her get her
permit. Of course, we didn’t know anything about that and I didn’t take her
seriously. I brushed off what she was saying and sent her on her way. I told
her that the police station could not help her with getting a permit and she
would have to leave.” Rose’s grandfather stopped the car, turned off the engine
and finished his story. “A day later, Rose tried to find the DMV Or another police
station that would help her on her own and ended up getting lost. From the
evidence we had gathered, we found out that she had walked to this random house
in the middle of nowhere asking for help.” Rose stared at her grandfather who
stared straight into the woods. He never took his eyes off of the woods. “We
don’t know what happened next. But Somehow that young girl ended up dead on
this back road,, her body dumped over there.” Rose turned to look where her
grandfather had nodded in the direction of. She saw dying roses planted near a
small white cross. Her eyes widen. Was she old enough for this?
“What we do know was that the young girl was killed
because she was black. When we questioned the men who lived at the house she
wondered to, the men confessed.” Her grandfather sighed. “The men, of course,
changed their story later on, crying that the young woman attacked them and
they killed her out of self-defense. The worst part was that the court system
believed that crazy story and filed the case as a self-defense. That poor
woman’s family never received justice. It kills me that I could have prevented
this young woman’s death. If only I had found out how to help her instead of
just shooing her away because I didn’t know what to do.” Rose’s grandfather
turned towards her. “Don’t ever dislike someone because of the color of their
skin, do you hear me?” He grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. “People are
people no matter their skin tone. A person is defined by their character, not
by how they look. I don’t care what one person of that race does to you, you
judge everyone by their character and character only. Do you hear me?!” Rose
nodded her head silently. Her grandfather calmed down and then got out of the
car, Rose copied. The two walked over to the white cross and planted more,
prettier roses for the dead Rose.
“This is the third year that another black woman has
taken the English teacher job here and every time when it’s a black woman, I
made a promise to protect her and to help her as much as I can.”
“Is that what you told that woman we met today?” Rose
asked. Her grandfather nodded.
The two stood in silence as they watched the white cross.
Rose began to understand her grandfather’s secret. Through all these years, he
felt guilty about a young black woman’s death. He used her death to teach his
children and his children’s children about racial injustice. Rose stared at her
grandfather. She was proud of him. He was a good man and she couldn’t wait to
share this family’s secret with her children one day.