I woke up about the time the steady thrum of the highway changed to the crackle of gravel. I pressed my forehead to the car window, hoping the nausea would pass away quickly. I started to roll down my window but mom cried out in alarm.
“Close that! It’s too dusty!”
I think she saw the queasiness in my eyes though, because she smiled apologetically and said, “Welcome back to the world, David.” And to my croaking question, “How…” she replied brightly, “Almost there!”
When the car stopped and dad turned off the engine, the sudden stillness grated against the continued rumbling in my belly and I thought I really was going to throw up. I stepped out and stared at the dirt at my feet while my parents scurried and chirped around the car.
“Come get your bag, David! Look, Grandma’s coming out!”
I looked up to see the old woman lurching down the porch steps. I went to the back of the car and was glad to hide from her behind the upraised trunk lid. I stayed there as long as I reasonably could.
“David? Where’s David? Come on say hi to Grandma!”
I grabbed my bag and exaggerated the asymmetry of my stride as I rounded the car. Grandma was smiling wide and complaining bitterly at the same time.
“I don’t see why you can’t even stay for lunch! I’ve never seen such a thing, to not even come inside the house!”
“We’re late as it is, Mom!” my dad protested. “What are we going to do if we miss our flight, huh? I promise we’ll have a nice long visit on the way back!”
“Oh…!” Grandma dismissed his arguments with a wave of her arm, and then caught sight of me. “David! At least you’re staying. Come here!”
I gave her a brief, awkward hug without putting down the bag.
“Yes, at least you’re staying while your parents fly off and won’t even stay for a cup of coffee.”
Mom looked at her watch and dad said, “We really do have to go. I promise, I promise, I promise we will stay longer next time! Love you!” My parents kissed my grandma, who watched with disbelieving eyes as they climbed back in the car and pulled away with broad smiles and waves.
Grandma turned to me. “Well, how do you like that? Not even a cup of coffee!”
“Mom doesn’t drink coffee,” I challenged, surprising myself a little. “She drinks tea.”
For a moment we looked at each other apprehensively. My dad, who might have let us know what to say next to each other, had left in the car, and we were at loose ends, both of us.
“Tea?” she responded finally. “Well look who knows so much. I suppose you don’t like lemonade either?”
“I like lemonade,” I said, fearful that she really didn’t think I liked it and therefore hadn’t made any.
“Well get inside then. It’s on the table.”
I started towards the house, but grandma cleared her throat and pointed to the bag I had left on the ground. I took the bag and hurried up the porch steps. I turned around at the door and watched grandma climb the steps slowly and with labored breath. I had an impulse to go help her, but shyness held me back. When she got to the top she smiled at me as if to forgive me for not helping her.
She paused at the door. “Tea? Really? I could have sworn she drank coffee like normal people!”
[Part of a series I’m calling Grandma’s House]