November 18, 2017
I woke up this morning, and went to see my grandmother, I had called her yesterday and explained that I couldn’t see her, and we had agreed to try again today.
“So, when you called, you said the mystery lady had shown up?”
I nodded, I was trying to look too giddy, but I knew I was failing. If she had been nervous for me about it earlier, it wasn’t clear as her smile reflected mine.
“It was Sam.”
Her eyes lit up. “Can I meet her?”
“Yes, but she’s not staying. She’ll be here for another month she said, and then she’s heading back.”
She looked confused, I had explained that it was a one way trip for me, and so I knew this must be confused.
“Well, you see, she’s older than me. I’m the first born, but this is 55 year-old Sam, she waited until there was some method of returning before coming back. She says she can’t tell me the details, but she has a family, and a life in the future, and couldn’t abandon it.”
Her face showed all of the shock of the second time we met, when she knew I wasn’t lying.
“Are you going back with her?”
I shook my head. “I have things that I need to do here, and I can’t leave. Sam’s jumping forward to 1985, then every ten years, and if on one of her jumps I’ve finished all I need to, she can bring me forward to my time, but I have serious doubts as to whether or not that will happen.”
The truth is that, I needed to figure out a way to stop Sam, and my parents from dying in that accident. Her appearance yesterday showed me that I’m going to accomplish it, but I don’t know how, and she was very clear that she couldn’t tell me how. There were a lot of pieces of information that Dr. Troy couldn’t tell me, and that Sam can’t tell me, because if I knew them in the first place, I wouldn’t be able to think of them independently. I know that in the weeks, and months, and likely years to come, that I would stay up thinking about the lack of information that Sam had provided me with, because it was the same lack of information that Dr. Troy had let me with, that had kept me up thinking the last ten months.
“When can I meet her?” The nice thing about my experience with my grandmother, was that even though I had to hide so much from her, and she knew it, there was so much that I was able to reveal, and it seemed every curiosity that couldn’t be revealed was just a temporary setback until the next piece of the puzzle came along.
“When would you like to?”
“As soon as possible!” Her enthusiasm renewed me on many days, but today I didn’t need to be renewed. I was walking on air already.
I nodded to my car, through the window, and Sam opened the door and stood up, and walked in casually.
My grandmother slid out of the booth, and stood. I did too, and as Sam walked over, she opened her arms and wrapped my grandmother in a hug.
A couple of people looked, as there was audible crying from both of them. I imagine the onlookers must have thought it was a reunion of sisters, because they looked similar enough, and Sam was more than ten years older than our grandmother.
They both slid into the booth.
“You’re Sam?” Grandma asked. Her eyes were exploring every inch of Sam’s face, trying to capture the full mental image. She had done it to me too, but had not lingered nearly as long. “You’re beautiful!”
Sam nodded, she was a snotty mess from all of the crying, and the truth was, it was the most like herself she had looked since she arrived.
“You are too!” Sam mumbled out almost unintelligibly. She looks over at me, and rolls her eyes, and adds, “Mike’s looking good too. You know, he was quite fat the last time I saw him.”
My grandmother’s eyes take on a look of concern, but I laugh to diffuse it.
“That’s funny, because you were a crying mess last time I saw you,” I spit back with an eyebrow raised in mock anger.
She laughed abruptly, and began nodding.
My grandmother watched the back and forth in fascination.
“Mikey’s right. I cry a lot.”
“And I was pretty fat… You know, this might be the first time someone in our family has made Sam cry just by meeting her.”
We spent a while explaining how it wasn’t uncommon at family events, for Sam to cry, or me to go in another room and shout about everyone, or any of the other cousins to get upset. Sam and I, and Mom and Dad, had always been pretty open about it, and we knew that most of the time it was just the fact that some of our family members were emotional ‘bulls in a china shop,’ and so we tried to explain that, but it seemed Grandma already knew. I also admitted that we had definitely been guilty of it, and hopefully she understood that. I told Sam later, that I was worried she’d think we were shit-talking the rest of the family, when it’s just the way it is and that every division of the family likely bitched and moaned about us too.
“But you love them all?” Grandma asked, just to verify.
I nodded. “Even on the worst day, even when I’m as upset with them as I can ever get.”
“Even my least favorite cousin.”
Sam smiled, and Grandma tried not to react, knowing it was some kind of joke.
“Mikey used to tell them that he didn’t have a favorite, but he had a least favorite. Then he’d refuse to let them know who was the least favorite.”
Grandma smiled. “You’re a brat just like, Carl.”
I smiled back, “which one?”
“You’re grandfather.” She grabbed my hand and smirked. I was asking, because my mother’s brother was Carl also, and while I would gladly have accepted being compared to either in ‘brat-ness,’ I was happy she meant Grandpa. I had been compared most often to my father, and for a long-time now I’ve been happy to hear that, but it was also nice to know that I reminded people of Grandpa.
We continued to talk, and Sam told us her cryptic story, with big chunks missing, but it was still nice. She told us that she had married and had kids. She wouldn’t tell us much about them. She told us how she was spending roughly a year ‘traveling’ but that while she didn’t get to see them, she at least got to see me each time, which had made it easier. She also explained that her plan was to go back to the same day she had left, so that as far as everyone else would realize she’d only be gone a couple of hours at most; ‘a normal work day’ as she put it.
I checked the time, and we had been talking for nearly 3 hours. I had to go bring Sam back to the house, and head off to work; and I knew that Grandma would need to go wait for the kids to come home.
When we were walking out, Sam and I were heading to our car, and Grandma called to us, “I really wish your mother could have been here.”
Sam immediately became the sobbing mess she he had been hours earlier. For 26 years, I heard my mom talk about wishing her mother was there to see everything, and my mother was alive and well, just a dozen miles away, and the three of us couldn’t tell her, couldn’t share this with her.
Sam took the entire ride to calm herself off the edge of hyperventilation (this wasn’t uncommon for her in the real serious fits of crying) and I drove staring blankly at the road, unaware that I was making the correct turns, or if I was.
Watching Sam cry, thinking about my mother missing out on this, and knowing that my grandmother had said it in a moment more sweet than bitter, was more devastating to me than anything since I have come back. As I worked, I sliced the meats and took orders, and I don’t remember any of it. I remember that my father came over to say hi when he was making his delivery, and when he asked what was up, I just made up something about not sleeping well the night before, and feeling like a zombie.
When I got home after work. Sam was passed out on my couch, curled up under a blanket, with a book having fallen open on the floor. It was one of mine that I haven’t read yet.
I have to go to sleep, my brain feels as if it’s throbbing in my head, and my eyes are burning and dry. I can’t stare at this anymore.