When I was a child, I remember sitting on my grandpa's lap. He would read me the comics from the Sunday morning paper while he sipped his coffee. The smell of coffee, cigarettes, and the newspaper still infest my nose today. In my young eyes, he was an amazing man. He was smart, funny, strong, and everything I wanted to be.
I remember finding out later in life that he was as quirky and full of flaws as the rest of us. However, I recall one very interesting conversation that resonates as strongly for me now as it did then. One hot, July afternoon, he and I were working on one of the farm tractors. I was probably ten years old. We had decided to take a break because the old Farmall H was not cooperating. We stood under the shade tree near the shop, leaned up against the wall, and drank our iced tea. A nice breeze kicked up and my grandpa lit a cigarette. The smoke from is Kool's cigarette tickled and burned my nose. He was quiet and stared off in the front yard. He had grown solemn. I asked, "What you looking at papaw?" He knelt down beside me, shifted the cigarette to the other side of his mouth with his tongue, and said, "You see that old swing? It's just swinging in the breeze. It's so lonely. It's begging for someone to come sit in it." I helpfully said, "You wanna go sit in the swing papaw?" He laughed, "No son, that was your grandmother's swing. I can't hardly sit in it without her. I just hate seeing a lonely swing when it's a swinging." I nodded like I understood what he meant. My grandpa went on, "Ya know, I get up late at night, in the middle of winter to feed the stove and I'll look out at that old swing. Most of the time it's a swinging; just a little. Breaks my heart sometimes."
I asked, "How come you and I can't swing in that lonely old swing, papaw?" He patted me on the head and smiled as a tear welled up in his eye. He replied, "Cause when I last talked to your grandma, I promised her I wasn't going to swing in that old swing until she came home to swing with me. Saying that made her smile. She closed her eyes for good right after that." I sadly said, "Oh. I miss grandma too." I gave him a hug and he patted my back. Then he quickly stood up like nothing was wrong and said, "Well, this old tractor ain't gonna get fixed with us lallygagging. C'mon boy!"
Whenever I drive by someone's house and see a front porch swing or a yard swing and it is swinging in the breeze, I get a very lonely feeling deep inside me. I admired my grandpa for keeping his promise to my grandma. After he told me the story, I stopped swinging in the swing too. Every year he painted the swing, oiled the chains, and kept the flowers around the swing watered...just like grandma did. It was a fine tribute to her, but a painful memory for him.