Limestone country, where the quarry growls in heat thunder over the fields: we’re driving to find the place Dad wanted his ashes interred. Tonight Mark and I bring the boys to a cabin so quiet we can hear the electric lines of the high pylons hum through the easement.
We take a creekbed for our evening walk. Limestone bears fossils and slips of gray clay, mayapples, mint and touch-me-nots alive with damselflies. I know them like old friends – comfortable even decades later because they represent the nothing-times, those stick-digging days when little needed to be said.
At nightfall, we walk back to the cabin along an access road white with crushed gravel. The kids rush through puddles made by over-payload dump trucks. Frogs hop out ahead, unafraid. None of us are afraid, somehow, out here. Quarry light brings a lingering, thick sunset and I realize how much beauty there is, in this silicosis sky I took for granted as a child. This light is also like an old friend, or, I suppose, a parent – steady, silent, illness hidden in plain sight. All this dust and now Dad is dust too, wanting only for reunification.
Lulled by the heat and novelty of the cabin loft, the kids drift into an easy sleep. On the porch, Mark and I talk over the nothings of the day and of death, which is a different kind of nothing. The heat thunder gives way to the truth of real thunder from an anvilhead flashing milky electric purple over the woods. We do not know how, or whether, to tell our children their grandfather has died. Could they already know? We do have to tell them soon, don’t we? Mark presses gently on my own grief, the denial I am still holding to my chest, then he uncaps a beer for me. The boys are still so young. Perhaps they will come to understand Granddad’s death in their own way, by discovering the absence. His name, unmentioned. His chair, empty.
The power lines buzz. We glance in periodically at the crowns of the boys’ heads to see if they stir from the approaching storm, but it seems instead to deepen their peace. And so we drink our beers and go on with our nothings, and out on the road the frogs raise a din, and a hard rain collects on the dust in the air to quiet them.
Edie Meade is a writer, artist, and mother of four in Huntington, West Virginia. Recent work can be found in Atlas & Alice; The Normal School; Feral; Still: The Journal, and elsewhere. Say hi on Twitter @ediemeade or https://ediemeade.com/.