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A Grave Must Have A Stone by VIRGINIA CASEY TURNER My Darling, This is the letter I promised. There is time now. Grandfather was buried today and suddenly all the commotion is at an end. Tonight, I expected to be too tired, too sad to write. Strangely, I feel not tired at all but strong and whole. Sad? Yes. But only mildly so. I have at last acknowledged the Tightness of death and am ready to forget it in the lovely intensities of living. Darling, forgive me for sounding stilted. I have such faith in your patient listening that I attempt a profundity beyond my reach, perhaps. Love made Mrs. Browning feel "out of sight for ends of being and ideal grace." Likewise me. The story I am to tell you is of my grandparents and so concerns you as part of the background of your own future sons and daughters. Where shall I begin when the theme of my story is that there is no beginning, no end? Where in time's procession shall I set up my parenthesis and say "This much. No more." My grandparents were chief magicians to the court of my childhood; my instructors in wonder and imagination. They found a way to soften hard facts; to ease the grimness as my parents so engrossed in making a living never did. Their visits to us were magic circles in time. Our visits to them were respites in heaven. Their home was a place of music, good food, fun, freedom and faith. The attic smelled of winesaps; the smokehouse bulged with hams; the cellar wore its canned food like jewels. The coffee pot was kept hot year 'round and water from the deep well under the grape vines was the coldest and best in the world. Grandfather played the violin. Grandmother knew and sang many ballads. They had a gramaphone with a blue morning glory horn that sent "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" all over the place. I thought if Kathleen were here she'd not be wanting to go home again ever. They wanted a child to have fun. Though Grandfather was a Baptist deacon, they took me to see the show boat. And once they "went in-a-washing" in the pond behind the bam with me. After dark, of course and after exacting my promise not to tell even my parents. Grandmother was fey. She could find silver with a forked peach branch. We had a game we called hide-the-dime. She always found it. How she did it puzzled her as much as me. Grandfather bought one of the first Fords in the county. While the neighbors prophesied he'd kill them both, he went careening around Wolf Trail scattering livestock and people, Grandmother serene and happy beside him. They must have been well into sixty then, but I never thought of them in terms of age. And so absorbed were they in company-coming and church-going and fox-hunting and getting ready for Christmas , or Easter or Thanksgiving, I am sure they were taken wholly by surprise when they found themselves ill and old. Then last summer they called me home. When I drove into the buggy yard, I knew 16 my grandmother would not be at the door to greet me. I laiew that tonight she awaited that strangest of strangers, and I felt that even for this one shunned of others she would have a kind word ready. In the dim room she lay, dying. People acknowledged me with their eyes, some took my hand and made me room but nobody spoke. Only the clock spoke, harsh and fast in its ticking. I remember thinking of the custom of stopping a clock at the moment of death. The house was full of people but my grandfather was not among them. Out in the purple-black of the summer night, under the grapevines, I found him, leaning his weary head to the moss-covered shed of the well house. He did not turn at my coming and I sat in silence beside him. The winey smell of ungathered grapes enveloped us. Fingers of light from the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5081
Print ISSN
0363-2318
Pages
pp. 16-20
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
N

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