I could feel his hands pat my head lightly. He did not speak for a while, I could only hear him breathe and whiz. The mixture of fear and comfort forbade me from speaking in case it shattered this moment where I was closer to Daddy Gramps than I had ever been in decades. then he heaved and I held my breath ,"Phoebe, remember the box in my cupboard? Read everything there. You will know everything."
"Please..." I begged.
"I have to go now, Phoebe, thank you," he whispered, "Thank you for everything." The look of resolve on his face, a peaceful final bow about him was all the assurance I needed that this was more than what it seemed. Daddy Gramps was a fighter, always had been and there was a secret. Peaches? Why now? Was he glad to go to be with her in death? What did it have to do with rain? What was the mystery in rain and why was his bed drenched?
Daddy Gramps died that Saturday morning in a wet bed with my head on his chest.
I wept like a five year old who has lost her favourite toy. His birthday was only a week away, next Friday. I had been planning a secret surprise. I had learned a new recipe and I was getting his favourite roast chicken and mushrooms and soup. Now he was gone. Just like that.
In a dripping wet bed.
When I was all spent from crying and staring blankly into space, I limply made my way to the kitchen where the old phone rested on the kitchen counter. I wanted to call his family, my family and tell them Daddy Gramps was gone.I recalled the strange ceremony when my own dear husband died. They called it a 'waiting ceremony,' that death was a waiting place for new life. No one cried, no one mourned for him.Not many people attended the burial. It was that way with the family. They were small and strangely private. That was when I left for three years until Daddy Gramps wrote to me and pleaded with me to return, he needed me and I softened because He reminded me of my late husband. He offered no explanation but simply said it was good for me to be in the family and in time I would appreciate time and its mysteries. I never did understand too riddled with grief, I chose not to.
I stared at the phone for a long time and decided against it. I needed to know certain things before anyone came. I needed to find what was in the cupboard. I locked myself in his study and went to the cupboard. Indeed all the letters where there and a dairy.
I picked it and flipped through, a paper slipped out. It was folded and it looked very old, browning with age and a bit too thin. it was addressed to me. Surprised, I opened it and the header had a date... '1948'.
"Dear Phoebe," it read, I frowned , my curiosity growing, I wasn't even born then, how did it then become mine?
"I know some day you will have to read this, and when the time comes, you will understand the secrets I kept, but it was for your own good. Where do I start to unravel the marvelous fortune that befell our family, a fortune that you too will partake of. I will start with how I met Peaches, my precious Peaches dashing in the rain that rather chilly spring afternoon. She was wet to her ankles from running off it to the pavement, I had been watching her absently until she caught my eye and a playful smile touched her eyes. She brushed past me to the bus stop and I caught a faint whiff of her perfume;dump with rain, and sucked it in deeply...peaches! She smelled amazingly of fresh ripe peaches. I turned round in spite of me. I had trained myself to never take a second glance at any woman, because I was always glanced at first, sheer arrogance kept me from looking back and becoming a mere mortal but to be one today seemed necessary for miss... 'I donno-who- who- smelled- of -peaches.'
She was laughing with her friends. The rain was bad and it got worse. We were forced to back up to the pavement as we waited for the buses. There was no use trying to go anywhere, It was complete murder. I went back to the restaurant and sat in the corner I had previously occupied. Listen very carefully Phoebe, because every detail here matters. Now my dad had told me it was cloudy and it would rain soon but I needed to go out today and meet George, my friend who was my best man later on, remember?.... and I guess it was my day to meet Peaches. She immediately took my breathe away. Her smile, her wide eyes, her flawless chocolate skin, her teeth...her peachy perfume. it's funny people say love at first sight is a dream but I was madly and deeply in love with the stranger who smelled of peaches, It is the way with us, Phoebe and that's how it was with you and Edward, think hard.
She walked in with her friends, removed her raincoat, her coiffed hair still in place , they sat three tables ahead of me, her chair faced me and our eyes locked again. This time I was prepared. she was laughing at something someone said. After thirty minutes I could not help it. I went over and paid for their tea. I told her...very ungentlemanly that I wanted to meet her if it was possible. I did not know how else to do it. She played the mouse and did not bite my bait one bit. I loved the game. but she did not turn down my offer for lunch. After lunch, it was a movie, then a walk in the park, then a ride in my new car, after that, we met every Sunday. Had lunch at each other's homes. Met the families.
We both loved it when it rained. it rained a lot that month we courted. we were married the next month. the priest screamed out the vows a midst pouring rain. our honeymoon was a blissfully cold one. We snuggled under the covers for two weeks, while it drizzled outside. rain became us, we became it. It rained when she got pregnant. I was overjoyed until the day of the miscarriage...it rained too and I hated the rain then because it represented nothing but pain. We got over that cloudy period. I supported her and we enjoyed each other for three more years then tried again.
The day she told me she was pregnant, I was a muddled mess of fear and excitement. We both where. Daddy had said the night before while we were at my parents home that the weather forecast was going to be cloudy. it had been quite warm lately. warm inside for us as well and now the bliss of a cool breeze seemed welcoming. I don't know what was with daddy and the weather. He simply said the stars had a lot to do with it. Superstitious old man I thought. The clouds gathered through the months, slight drizzles and all the while I was excited. There was an unspoken covenant we had with rainy days and I still did not understand it.
Where was I? Ah yes, I was excited but also reverently afraid, this would be a miscarriage; a heavy dark cloud hang over me. I was not sure what would happen, but month after month, Peaches blossomed and I saw our baby kick at times. By the eighth month, I relaxed, sure nothing would go wrong. The day her water broke, it was raining. the car broke down and I cursed it. I had to call George to take us to the hospital but when we got there, due to unseen complications, Peaches died but not without seeing our son Edward. His birth was a miracle. I cried like my life was over. My heart broke then and I have never recovered.
In Edward, I saw Peaches. she was everything, his smile, his eyes, his playful teasing. She lived in him. I did not think he would meet a lovely girl like Phoebe and only years later succumb to cancer and die. My Peaches and my son were dead and I am glad , you came back and stayed. You are the embodiment of my past and present. You kept me from going too soon. I wanted life and time to flow in their normal sequential order but I started to watch the stars like daddy. Maybe he had seen something I had not. Maybe the seasons were a telling of our lives. I don't know how. maybe. maybe... The fond obsession with the weather and stars were like a secret locked in me than I only knew and found my self naturally drawn to, but this secret, hard as I tried did not unlock itself to me, well not then until my own father passed. You recall that day, don't you, Phoebe? Something that changed everything and it is what I am passing on to you, Phoebe.
My father was not obsessed with stars and weather patterns for nothing.My father had, while as a child found out the secret in his lineage. Way back before his great grand father was born, his ancestors discovered an object, small and smooth like a stone. They did not know how but from the day they retrieved it, it rained. They also discovered that it glowed faintly at times. They did not know how but it seemed to affect weather and the lives of those that had it,and when it glowed, sequential events in time were were being marked and it would rain. All these were landmarks like the absolute degrees of time on a clock face, three o'clock, six o'clock, nine o'clock and twelve o'clock. These landmarks choice moments of your life that you can go back to and you could only relive these times at your death or in those seconds you are about to pass over. You could live forever in whatever time you chose and start all over again.
One of my ancestors died young only to return and say he had gone back to his child hood and it was so real. They worshiped the stone and we kept it as a family secret. When it was passed on to me, my father could not wait to go back in his own time to his youth and enjoy some wild hay days. It depended on how much you thought about that particular time of your life. that's what my father said. I would like to believe we never died but continued living in another time, relieving our past. Mama Peaches was all I could think of for years, she was always on my mind. her perfume has been with us all the time. I needed to go back. The stone started to glow a year ago and I could tell that the time was fast approaching and I started to watch the clouds, the sky, the weather update was always wrong. I knew it would rain. I knew it and I could feel it when I looked at the stone. My time has come Phoebe and now I pass this gift to you. I know you miss Edward. I do too but it's your chance for happiness. I may not be here to watch you enjoy your moment with him but I do hope that you shall leave this precious stone with a worthy person or bury it behind the house for someone to find who the stone will choose to bestow upon the gift of second chance. This secret has blest my family. May it bless you for you are and have been my only family.
Much love daddy Gramps.
p.s when you find this letter it will have rained on me. but I wrote it along time ago, at that bus stop when it rained. I wrote this at the cafe for you, right before I went to meet Peaches at her table and only seconds before I died. I hope you understand. bye bye.'
I sat there for the longest time, transfixed, oblivious of everything, of sound of life of anything. I had to let the contents of the letter sink in because I didn't understand what it meant. Weird fables? but who could explain the water drenched bed, I could not. This seemed the only plausible explanation, 'It rained on him,' I got up from the stool still shaken and stared out the window. The clouds were gathering fast. my frown deepened. The letter date was 1948, had he written it before he died, while he died...it was all too confusing. Maybe it was her time to find out for herself. Maybe it was.
With a lot on my mind I finally got up and made that telephone call. A handful of relatives and friends came. I fully understood the tradition of waiting and understood why there were no tears. Later, I joined the people filing in, friends and a few of my own family members. The doctor laboured to tell me daddy Gramps had died in his sleep but I knew better and what's more...his bed was as dry as a bone. The stone could be the only explanation. I did not know how but it had to be something with reversal of time or when it rained on him he was already in 1948 writing the letter. I don't know. like I said I shall find out. Or I already did.
Well, I did.
The day we buried Daddy Gramps, it rained , it rained so hard but i knew it rained only on me. This was like time's absolute degrees, my landmark moment. I had been waiting for it. I was back there in 1973 at my own father's funeral. The clouds were gathering fast and everyone was pulling up an umbrella. I knew then what I should have known along time ago only that there seemed to be no time in this moment I was in. Past and present seemed to have merged and lay in a puddle at my feet. I caressed the stone in my pocket, closed my eyes as the rain came down in heavy pelts. I did not want to go back. I wanted to stay here because the next day at the cafeteria was when I met Edward.