James stared out the window as the train rushed by fields of corn.
It was a couple of days ago he found out his grandma passed away. She had just turned ninety when she died in her sleep.
“Is that you James?” the voice asked on the other end of the phone.
“Yes,” he replied, recognizing the voice, but couldn't put a face to it. “And this is who?”
“It's your cousin, Tina.”
“Hello. I haven't spoken to you in a while.”
“Probably going on a couple of years now,” she said. “Now, I wish I could be calling you just to chat, but that is not the case.”
James knew it had to do with his grandma. Just last night he had a dream of her lying in bed. He stood looking down upon her as she lay on her back with her eyes closed. Then she slowly opened her eyes and looked up at James with her bright blue eyes. She grinned and reached out for him, which he took her hand and bent down closer to her, seeing she was about to speak.
“Take care my loved one,” she whispered.
She closed her eyes and her arm became limp. James let go of her hand and stepped back as the spirit of his grandma rose from her body and floated away, slowly dissipating.
The next moment, he was awake and he had a feeling his grandma had passed away in real life.
“Should I call her?” he thought.
As he cleaned himself up he started to have doubts about the dream. By the time he was dressed and relaxing on the couch he decided to wait and see if he received a call.
Three hours passed when he received the call from Tina.
“It's grandma you are calling about,” James said.
There was a moment of hesitation before she spoke. “Yes. She passed away sometime last night.”
“I'll book a train today,” he said.
“You don't have too.”
“It would be wrong if I didn't come. I was very close to her.”
“Then I will see you in a couple of days,” she said. “I wish I could be seeing you during better times.”
“I'm sure grandma would say it's a good time for her,” said James knowing his grandma wanted to move on years ago.
Two of her sons, one of them being James's father, died a few years ago. His father died of a heart attack and the other son, Mike, died in a car accident. Both deaths crushed my grandma, sapping the happiness from her soul. James and the rest of the family did their best to cheer her up and keep her occupied.
James went onto the internet to check out the Amtrak schedule. It looked like he had to wait until two forty-five tomorrow to catch a train arriving at his destination two days later, early in the morning.
“Let's go for it,” James said, setting up a ticket.
Next, he called his workplace and let them know his situation, and he would be out for a week, hopefully. Luckily, he had a job that was very understanding so it wouldn't be a problem. Not a problem except for the people who had to cover his workload.
Once he was done setting up his ticket he went about his chores he did for the day plus the week or so that he would be gone. He also went out and took care of business, and had his mail stopped.
As he was driving back home his mother called him.
“Hello?” he greeted her wondering what she would say about her mother-in-law.
His mother and grandma didn't get along when they were together. His mother was the type who took charge during family events and his grandma was the same way. When they got together they would butt heads every time. James's father would jump in the middle and tell the two of them to take turns, which they would, but the other not in charge always threw in their two cents on how much better they would be organizing the event.
During his last days on Earth, James's father gave up on the two and just went into another room, away from the bickering. When his father died the two rarely ever spoke to each other and if they did it was a quick conversation.
“I'm sure you heard,” her monotone voice said on the other end.
“Yes,” replied James.
“When do you plan on heading over?”
“I leave tomorrow afternoon,” he replied, then he asked her a question he already knew the answer to, but he figured he better ask. “Are you going?”
“My schedule is too hectic,” she replied. “And you know that neither one of us got along.”
“No excuse not to go to her funeral,” James wanted to say but didn't want to get into an argument with her. “I'll tell everyone you give them your condolences.”
“Thank you,” she said with little emotion.
There was a moment of silence. James cleared his throat wanting to end the call.
“I better go,” he said. “I have a lot to do. Take care.”
“You too,” his mother said.
James drove into the driveway of his house and parked. He just sat there for a few minutes thinking about his mother. He loved her dearly but had a hard time talking to her. As he grew-up it seemed like it was his father that brought him up with his mother busy trying to advance her career. There were many occasions their vacations or day events were canceled because his mother had to attend an important meeting or get a report done. She would tell them to go on without her, which a couple of times they did, but for the most part they stayed home. Many times he was disappointed in another summer going by with the family not getting together to have fun or to relax. Instead, his mother would bring him gifts and tell him she was sorry she couldn't be with him more often.
Now he only talked to her once a month, if that. Once her husband died she even got more involved in her work. James didn't think it would be possible, but now she worked all day coming home enough to get a few hours of sleep.
“I don't want to be like her,” James would say to himself numerous times.
James got out of his vehicle and went into the house and relaxed.
Now, he was sitting on the train recalling all of the memories he had of his grandma.
He remembered the delicious hamburgers she would make practically every day. Also, the scrumptious pies she would bake to have after dinner. He would have every kind of pie you can think of. Even though he was a picky eater when he was young and didn't like the contents in the pies when they were by themselves, he would gobble it up and want seconds.
“Your grandma is going to turn you into a large blimp,” his father would joke around.
He recalled the times they would all go for walks and his grandma would be chatting away about the current times and how they were far different from when she was a kid.
“Like to see how society will be when you are my age,” she would tell James. “Probably will be like those science fiction books with people flying all over space, and vehicles that can float.”
“That would be cool,” James would reply, which would make her chuckle.
When James went into the military he would receive a letter every week from his grandma seeing how the military life was going, and tell him about her daily life. Many times she would talk about the days when she was a little girl during the days of World War II. How her father worked in the factories building supplies for the military. James always liked getting her letters and would read them over and over.
“Would you like something to drink?” a woman's voice asked James as he looked outside.
“Sure,” he replied, turning to the lady and seeing the face of his grandma when she was quite young.
“Is everything all right?” she asked seeing the shocked look on his face.
James rubbed his eyes and looked at the woman again seeing the differences from the pictures of his grandma.
“I'm okay,” he replied. “I'll take a coke.”
She walked off and James went back to looking outside.
“Lack of sleep,” he thought, trying to explain away seeing his grandma. “She did look like my grandma.”
The day progressed and James did what he could to sleep. He would fall asleep for a half an hour, wake-up for about an hour, then doze again.
He always liked riding on trains, but when it came to overnight trips, he didn't enjoy it much.
Soon he entered the state his grandma lived in most of her life. Another couple of hours and he would be at the station, then he would catch a taxi and go for a half an hour ride to the small town his grandma lived in.
It’s a small town that as a kid he never liked to visit because it never had anything exciting in it. It wasn't until he was close to hitting his teenage years that they put in a public swimming pool, which he would practically spend every day there swimming. Even on days that were cloudy and sprinkling he would go there and just stand under the showerhead for an hour, feeling the warm water run down his body.
At one time his father thought about moving to the town, but he was promoted at his job so he stayed put, which was fine with James.
“I don't mind visiting for a week or two,” James told his dad. “But I'm not interested in living here.”
His dad just chuckled.
The train came to the station and soon James was on a taxi heading to his grandma's place.
It had been almost a year ago he visited his grandma at his aunt’s house, knowing her days on Earth were numbered. As each month went by her health gradually declined. He was hoping to see her one more time, but that was not to be.
The taxi drove up to his grandma's house where he got out and grabbed his luggage. He looked at the front porch recalling the many times his grandma would be standing there ready to greet him.
“It's so nice to see you,” she would say, giving him a big hug.
“Always good to see you,” he would reply and they would go inside.
Now he stood there knowing his grandma wouldn't be coming out to greet him. Instead, it was Tina coming out to see him.
“You made it,” she said as James walked up to the porch.
“Made it and quite tired.”
“Then come on in and get yourself some rest.”
James wasn't going to argue with her. He went inside and fifteen minutes later was lying on one of the spare beds, and quickly falling asleep.
He woke-up later that day and slowly walked through the house recalling the many memories of the place. He came to the kitchen and saw that Tina was sitting outside reading a book.
“How long do you plan on staying here?” he asked standing by the back door.
“Probably a couple of days after the funeral,” she replied, putting down her book. “Get the house ready to put it up for sale.”
“I thought you might want to move in,” he said knowing she liked the place. Currently, she lives in an apartment. She lived there for the last four years after divorcing her second husband.
“I thought about it, but decided to stay where I am.”
“Too many memories,” James said walking over and sitting down in a chair next to Tina.
“Every minute I'm in this house memories pop up and soon I'm in tears.”
The two sat there and conversed for the next few hours about times of the past.
They decided to go out for dinner then they watched television until it was time to go to bed.
The next day they walked through town wondering if they would ever see this town again.
“Tomorrow is the funeral,” Tina said. “I knew this day would come, but it still shocks me.”
“I know what you mean. Do you know if a lot of people are showing up?”
“My mother should show up and my brothers and sisters,” she replied. “Probably many of grandma's friends.”
“She had a lot of friends,” said James
“I'm sure it will be a packed house.”
They continued on their walk and the day quickly went by.
The next day, James got up and readied himself for the funeral. He sat in his bedroom and wrote some notes for he was going to speak about his grandma. He knew exactly what he was going to say, but being one who didn't like to speak in front of crowds there is a possibility all his thoughts would vacate his head.
Tina made breakfast for the two of them and the most part they ate in silence.
They cleaned up and soon were on their way to the funeral home.
There were already a few people there when they showed up. They went and talked to the people, and as time ticked by and it became closer to the pastor speaking more and more people showed up.
“Packed house,” Tina commented.
Tina's family showed up near the hour, and soon they were all seated.
James sat there as the pastor spoke with his mind somewhere else.
“James,” his cousin Mike nudged him.
“Yes?” asked James, coming back to reality.
“Time to speak.”
James took in a deep breath, slowly let it out, got up, and walked over to the podium.
“My name is James Norgin,” he said quickly scanning the room. “Grandson to Margaret Norgin. I just wanted to say a few words about my grandma. She was a very caring woman who always welcomed me with open arms.” James looked down at one of his cards forgetting for a moment what else to say. “When I was in the military I would receive letters weekly from her that would ease the stress of the military life.” He looked at another card. “I have to say she made the best hamburgers around,” he said, making people chuckle. “She will be missed, but I know she is now with her husband and two sons.”
James looked up and thought he saw his grandma standing at the back of the room, but with a blink of an eye, she was gone.
He went back to his chair and sat down.
The rest of the service went by and the burial and reception went by with everyone reminiscing about their times with Margaret Norgin.
James and Tina eventually went back to grandma's house and relaxed until bedtime.
James stayed for another couple of days before he decided to head back. As he left the house he looked at the place one last time before he got into the cab.
Time will continue on, but the memories of his grandma will always stay fresh in his mind. Her beautiful smile will always be in his vision to help him make it through the difficulties of life.
“I love you grandma.”