512 Words

A Passing on in the Night

M. Stanley Bubien

"Sit," I said, patting the porch swing, "Be patient."

"Ah Pappy," my grandson replied, "You know there's lots to do. And I heard we won't see it this time round."

I spun my ring. Though my fingers were wiry with wrinkles, below the ring, my flesh still had the softness of my youth---protected from the elements since 1910. The boy was watching me, he'd seen this habit nigh on sixteen years.

"You can walk the fields later," I told him. "Them cows ain't gonna know no different if you're a bit late."

"It's just Mom and Dad. They already say I spend too much time on the ranch as it is."

I grinned. His parents. So modern---and so afraid to follow my lead. They'd never let this land get ahold of 'em; they'd took to their heels for the city. But my grandson---he felt it. With a willingness only his grandfather could conjure, he learned from me to love this land. Just like I had from my granddad.

Was that why this tradition skipped generations?

"You can go out later. 'Sides, I'm tellin' you tonight's the night."

"The night for what?" he asked. "You still haven't said."

"Sit," I replied tapping the swing's bench, "Be patient."

With a shake of his head, he slid in next to me. He tried to hide it, but I caught his smile.

In silence we waited as the dusk faded and night crept on us. Just before the moon crawled into the heavens, I spotted it and pointed. We both stared in awe until the moon rose and blotted the comet from the sky.

"Wow," my grandson said.

I spun my ring one last time in silent agreement. After a bit, I said, "Now I'll tell you why I asked you here."

"It wasn't just to see the comet, was it?"

"That's a part. But there's more." I slapped his leg and heaved a long sigh, "In 1910, my granddad sat me on this here porch. As ol' Halley passed overhead, Grandpappy pulled off this here ring and gave it to me." To illustrate, I removed the ring and handed it to my grandson. He held it in his palm, dumbfounded.

I wondered if I'd looked the same in 1910.

Clasping his hand, I took the ring and placed it on his finger---a perfect fit.

"By God's grace, I lived near ninety years to see this night," I told my grandson. "By God's grace, I pray you'll live to see ol' Halley again. That next visit'll be your turn. You'll sit your own grandson down and give him this here ring... and this here ranch."

"The ranch?" he asked.

"Yep. All that God's blessed our family with. It's yours now---until the night that ol' comet lights the heavens again."

He leaned back in the swing and gazed out across the ranch as though it were the first time he'd ever seen it. I put my arm around my grandson and smiled---on his right hand he was spinning his new ring.

Thanks to Mary-Chapin Carpenter.

Copyright ©1996 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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August, 1996
Issue #5

512 Words