Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)
TITLE: Brown Eyes and Candles
By Rachel Phelps
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He still loves to tinker, and the grandkids know where to turn to fix a broken bike chain or toy car. His daughters still call him instead of a mechanic for car trouble, although arthritis makes it difficult for him to get his tall frame to bend to look at an engine and the Texas heat affects him more than it used to.
They are still faithful at Mass. The girls have drifted away, but they come on holidays and the occasional Sunday to please their mother. The grandkids know when they are visiting that church is not optional. As it should be, he says.
She's been lighting a candle for 21 years now. The kids have quit asking about it because her only answer is that it is for a special child. He knows, and so do their daughters. The middle girl, now in her early 40s, looks the other way when her mother goes up to light the candle. Some years at Christmas, she might let a tear fall, but her children are watching and she dare not let them or her husband see. It was so many years ago. Remembering hardly seems worth it.
Her parents remember, though they never speak of it to her. They were still in their prime when it happened. Young enough to have helped, had they been asked. Young enough to take the responsibility she had shirked. But they had not been asked and the opportunity, like their hearty years, had irrevocably passed. Every year brings it to their minds more frequently.
Sometimes, on nights when they are alone and the TV provides little entertainment, one of them will mention her. She has no name, no face except what they imagine. Perhaps she looks like their daughter, perhaps more like the man her mother had been too drunk to remember but vaguely. She has brown eyes. The one thing their daughter told them when she came home from the hospital. Brown eyes.
"She's 10 this year," they might say, or, "Must be about time for her to graduate, don't you think?"
Her knees do not bend so readily to kneel in prayer these days, but she does it for every one of her grandkids and all three daughters. His back does not easily support a child's weight, but he will continue piggyback rides till it breaks him. They know to treasure what they have.
"Do you think she ever thinks of us?" The question, seldom voiced, is full of a grandparent's longing. "Do you think she might try to find us before... before we're not around anymore?"
They do these things. I know they do, though we have never met. I know, and I know I will see for myself someday - before it's too late. I know, because I am the brown-eyed girl.
Author's Note: I was adopted at the age of six weeks. I do not know anything about my biological family except what a packet of papers from the hospital can tell me - no names and no way to contact them. Most of the details in this little piece are from that. I hope that I will one day find them - before their twilight is too deep.
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