Courage at Twilight: A Box of Peaches

Three sons and their wives and children and a brother and sisters converged for the holiday weekend on “Grandma and Grandpa’s house” where I live. They slept on sofas and air mattresses and foam pads and emptied the closets of sheets and blankets and towels.  They devoured Dad’s supply of sliced ham and Swiss, which pleased him immensely.  John had called to tell me he and Alleigh were bringing peaches from Pettingill’s Fruit Farm, and how many did I want, a whole box-full or a half.  I opted for the whole box (a half bushel) because one can never have too many fresh ripe peaches in one’s home on a holiday weekend with family.  I would give him the $30 when they arrived, I said.  But they would not let me pay, announcing the peaches as their gift for the weekend.  We enjoyed peaches and cream, peaches and almond milk, peaches on cold cereal, peaches in oatmeal, peaches blended in fruit smoothies, and peaches plain.  Mom and Dad were good sports to have their quietude disrupted with happy energy and noise.  And they joyed to be with three great-grandchildren.  Lila carried around a big sunflower from the vase.  Gabe ran through the sprinkler in 102 degrees F.  And Henry, teething and drooling, always chewing on some toy or other, and babbling and gurgling like babies do, with occasional excited squeals.  And my sons laughing and tossing corn-hole beanbags—how happy I am they are friends.  Living with Mom and Dad, I think of myself as a son, not a grandfather—Dad is “Grandpa,” not me.  But this grandpa worked hard to coax smiles out of the seven-month-old cherub.  Helping Dad down the stairs, keeping a mortal fall at bay with a taught sling around his chest from behind, we heard Henry jabbering from downstairs.  “Is that little Henry?” Dad chuckled.  “It’s just so fun to hear his little voice.”  Here was this old man straining to step down the stairs, and this little boy just beginning to figure out the world, each on the move.  Dad pointed and fell into his recliner, and we brought him Henry, who as if on cue lighted up in a big smile for great-grandpa.  When people are grown up and gone and I think of Labor Day weekend 2022, I will remember Dad’s tenuous stair descent, and the sounds of Henry’s brain growing and mouth teething and grinning and voice babbling and gurgling, and Dad’s rueful chuckle across four generations, and the box-full of gift peaches, juicy and aromatic.

(Pictured above: four generations of Bakers.)

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