I heard the cicadas loud and clear tonight on the walk home. It brought back memories of my maternal grandmother and step-grandfather when I was growing up in Iowa.

They owned a house way out in the country at the end of a dead end gravel road, up a steep bluff overlooking the Cedar River. Each summer they would entertain me and my sister and my cousins, one or two at a time, for two weeks at their house. The days would be spent fishing, swimming, wandering the timber surrounding their house, or helping them landscape their place.

They owned a small trailer set on blocks and that is where the kids slept on their visits. At night, the cicadas, frogs, owls, and whippoorwills created a racket that made it hard to fall asleep. Yet sleep we did, the sleep of the innocent who know nothing yet of life except what we have already learned from casting our gaze upon our parents.

I remember one summer when my two weeks with my grandparents were over. I was saying goodbye to them when my parents came to pick me up. I burst out crying, for I did not want to leave. I felt for the first time in my life I was returning to a scene of domestic strife that would not change or end. That was the last summer of my innocence. We all grow up enough to understand the damage adult problems cause even before we become adults ourselves.

My grandfather was a strong ox of a man and a prodigious eater. He developed heart problems and had several heart attacks. He and my grandmother were alone in their country house when he had his last heart attack. He knew he was not going to make it before the ambulance arrived. “Kiss me, woman, I am not going to make it through this one,” he said. She kissed him. Then he faded away.

As gruesome as death is, his death seems romantic compared to the way most people die. He met the woman he loved later in his life than most, devoted his life to his family, and when he died he was alone with her sharing one last kiss.

The cicadas have brought it all back home to me tonight. I see my grandparents and me sitting on a dock or snag fishing along the Cedar River after dinner. The sun is setting. The cicadas sing their song.

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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