She’d never intended to wait tables and tend bar for more than a few months, maybe a year. Ten years later, Lilac had seen it all and done it all, starting sentences to fresh-faced newcomers with words like “Back a while ago” and “Before everything changed” as though she were her grandfather, talking about the Great Depression. She wanted to smack herself each time.
Still, like most of what she did, Lilac Flowers Summers excelled with very little effort and liked it. Why be better when you’re already okay? The world needed more people like her, who were driven just enough to barely succeed, despite everything going in her favor. It gave people hope that when they were speaking to Lilac, maybe they were talking to a future CEO and could tell people that they knew her when. It was the glint in everyone’s eye that kept her from trying too hard.
She was glad that she did, especially now that Grandpa Alan slipped farther from reality each day, the throes of Alzheimer’s Disease robbing his memories unfairly. She was his primary caretaker, and loved it every moment of it. Alan looked at her with a twinkle in his eye, occasionally calling her Gertrude (his wife of fifty-two years he lost ten years ago to the cancer) instead of Lil’ Lila, the name only he could call her. They had a routine: Wake up at 6:30 (despite Lila not getting off work most nights until 3am) breakfast at 7:15 after a short walk around the apple orchard in the back. Breakfast was porridge that Lila stirred and Alan ate with gusto. Alan would read until 10am, though he forgot most of the words as soon as he read them, and often times read the same paragraph a hundred times. Lunch was 12:30, and Lila would often sleep until 3, since Alan liked to watch soap operas, since Gertrude liked them, he wanted to tell her what happened in Quarry Town when he saw her again in heaven.
At 3, it was another walk, where Alan would hold Lilac’s hand and point at things. Before, he would speak, telling stories she’d heard hundreds of times before. Now, he moved his mouth, but forgot how to speak frustrating himself to the point of tears. Lila would put an arm around him and tell the story for him, as though she were his ventriloquist puppet. Most days, his mind would be sharp enough to squeeze a hand for a correction when Lila would make a mistake, purposely. He smiled at her, knowing what she was doing.
And then, her favorite time of the day: supper time. The menus stayed the same, and the result did too. They would at at 4:30, have dishes done by 5, and then sit and watch TV with each other, holding hands. It was then that his mind was the most clear, the most vivid, when he remembered things he’d forgotten and actually formed words without much frustration. His wit was as sharp as ever, despite his mind betraying him now at the age of 87.
At 6, when Steven and Doreen came home, Lilac would kiss her grandfather on his forehead, tell him she loved him and cry all the way to work. She’d emerge from the car with perfect make-up, and a practiced bounce in her step, shoving the days hardships to the side, in order to make a few dollars that she didn’t need anyway.
Her parents were rich, filthy stinking rich, having pioneered the Lower Wisconsin Green Initiative back before anyone knew that green meant something more than a color in 1983, just before Lila’s birth. They’d promised her, their only child by design the business someday, though she regarded it more as a burden than a birthright. In return, all she asked is that she have enough time to take care of Alan so that he didn’t have to die in some sterile, clandestine nursing home. Once he passed away, she would get involved in the business. But, not yet. Not now.
Everything changed on August fifteenth of Lilac Flower Summers twenty-eighth year. It was a Saturday morning, the family sitting in their spacious kitchen. Alan, who’s mind had been more vapid than ever, stood and turned to each of them. “I would like to go to Roanoke. One more time. Pack light. It will be a short trip. Take my car. You’ll leave it there with my cousin, Norman.”
Roanoke, is where Gertrude went, and it’s where members of her family before her went to die. Lilac burst into tears immediately and Alan rushed to her side and held her. “It’s okay, Lil’ Lila. We need to go now. Be strong for me.”
Three hours later, they were on their way, Steven driving, Doreen asleep in the passenger’s seat, and Lilac and Alan in the back seat, Lila’s hair in her eyes to hide the streaks of mascara and eyeliner smeared on her face. Alan knew it, and a tear dropped from his eye as well.
It was time to go home.
I can’t tell you how stoked I am for this story. I tried for an hour or two to write a synopsis of the story, and couldn’t. There’s so much I want to tell, so much I think people should see, that I don’t think a synopsis would do it justice. I am very excited for a the four main characters, that they’ve been in my head for so long, I feel I know them as though they were friends.
This story (once finished, of course) I think could become one of the Great American Novels, and I’m stoked to share bits and pieces with each of you.