Hope was when my Grandmother Suzie used to take me fishing at my Grandfather’s cabin down by Medicine Lodge. He, my Uncle Bud, and my father had spent a summer building it in front of two spring-fed ponds of which they had dug by hand. A small cedar lodge with a stone foundation, they had built it into the side of one of the red hills. There was a screened-in bedroom upstairs, and a small living room with a wood-burning stove. The room was carpeted with a patchwork of rug samples Grandmother had sewn together. There was a small kitchen and bathroom downstairs, and another screened-in area below the bedroom where we all dined on a folding aluminum table.
It was here, Grandmother used to take me fishing, and turn a simple summer day into an adventure. I would sit in the kitchen and watch her pack a small lunch of bologna sandwiches and fresh-picked fruit. We would then gather out poles from the back porch, and walk down the crooked steps to the pond. I would follow her around the pond until she found some familiar shade beneath one of the fruit trees, and there she would set up a spot to fish. She would spread a small quilt out over the prairie grass, and sitting down in shade of a peach tree, bait my fishing pole for me. After casting the poles out into the pond, she would begin unpacking the lunch and tell me stories of her and my Grandfather.
I would lie back on the quilt, and leaning on one elbow, listen in silence to these tales. Grandmother’s voice was endeared with gentleness, and every once in a while she would glance down at me to see if I my imagination was thoroughly employed. The red and white floats of the fishing lines bobbed silently on the water as the images of her stories filled my head with fascination. Upon seeing that I was duly captivated, she would smile and continue softly. The imagery of her stories was detailed and mesmerizing, and it was easy to picture her and Grandfather in their youths. Being his namesake, more often than not, I would let my mind wander and imagine myself in his place.
On December 25th, 1968, Grandmother Susie died. She had been hospitalized with bone cancer, and on Christmas Eve our parents took all us grandchildren up to see her. She urged all the grandchildren into bed with her. Despite that she was in pain and appeared so frail, she kept hugging us and telling us of all the things Santa was going to bring because we had been such wonderful grandchildren. When we returned on Christmas Day with presents, the nurse informed us that she had passed in the night. To this day, I will always believe that Grandmother Susie knew she was going to die that night, and when I think of hope—I think of Grandmother Susie and when she always used to take me fishing.
"Hope" by Charles Simpson
Published in The Mile Marker Review, Volume 2, Issue 1, December 2011