My grandmother once asked me if I knew what the most important part of our body was. I told her, because I was young, “Our eyes Grandma! Our eyes let us see all the pretty colors and lollipops so that we know which ones we like and which ones we think are sour.”
“But, sweetie there are people in all the world that are blind and they still live and they are happy. Try again.”
Her compelling smile always made me feel warm. So, I said, “Our ears Grandma our ears! ‘Cause we can hear all the nice animal noises and the singing music too.”
For a moment, I thought I had gotten it right, but she just smiled again, and said, “No dearie. There are many people in the world who are deaf, and they live and are happy. But, you are getting warmer.”
I remember how her eyes lit up like she was about to tell me a big secret. “What I am about to tell you Felicity is very important, and I want you to remember it always. Okay? The most important part of our bodies, is our shoulder. Do you know why?” She looked at me with kind eyes, and tilted her head as if to show that it doesn't matter what I say.
“Cause it holds our hands in place and our hands let us feel soft things and pick up things?”
She pulled me into a hug making me think I had gotten it right again, but then said, “No, darling, it’s because we can use our shoulders to help others. When something bad has happened to someone near you, offering a warm shoulder can help them feel better. You can use your shoulder to make the burden on someone else lighter. People who are sad need a shoulder to lean on. Many people will forget the things you said and the things you did. But, they will never forget how you made them feel. Do you understand?”
I thought about it for a moment before answering. “Yes, Grandma I understand.”
She looked across the room at the minister who stood at the podium. She whispered in my ear, “There are a lot of people in this room who need a warm shoulder and many of them don't have one. Don't you think we should help them?” Her breath smelled of strong mint. I remember because I made a sour face as she spoke. But, she didn't mind. “Sometimes, your shoulder is the most important thing you can offer someone.” She lay her head on mine, and I buried my face in her shoulder. I could hear the muffled voice of the minister as he finished.
“And he will always be remembered as the loving and caring father, son and friend.”
That was thirteen years ago. I will never forget my father's funeral. Much as I try, it’s permanently etched into my brain forever.
As I walk down the easy path that leads to my house, all I can think about now is what her reaction will be. Will she be angry? Will she become depressed? All I want to do is run away. All I want to do is get it over with. These thoughts fight for control in my mind as I walk up the front porch steps. Too late to think about it. Just do it. Don't think. Just do.
“I'm home!” I try to sound normal, but I can't help feeling anxious. I walk into the kitchen and I see her sitting in one of the kitchen chairs. She’s reading the newspaper and there is a plate of ginger snaps on the table in front of her.
“Hello sweet potato, how was your morning?” She sounds so casual. I wish she would just yell at me and get it over with.
“It was good. One of the customers at the diner left a twenty in the tip jar.” I take a seat across from her, and pick up a cookie from the table. It doesn't even reach my mouth.
“Grandma, there's something I need to tell you.”
“Sure honey what is it?” She doesn't look up from the paper. The sweet smell of ginger lingers in the air persuading me to make up some dumb excuse and just forget everything. A glance at the picture of my father on the wall reminds me that I can't just leave without providing an explanation. She has done too much for me up till now. I can't take that for granted. I won't.
“You remember when I asked you a couple days ago if you thought I was mature enough to make it on my own?” As I say the words, she looks up at me.
“Yes, and I said you are more than welcome to find your own place as long as you visit back often and I would support you any way I can. Why are you bringing this up?” Her eyes looked deep inside me, searching for my deepest secrets. She knows most of them. But, her voice is so sweet, her intentions so pure, how can I stand to break her heart? Maybe I won't. Maybe she will be happy for me?
“Well, since I took that college course in Literary Techniques I’ve been sending out pieces of my screenwrites and resumes. At first I searched for positions only in Beaver Cove, but then when a few months passed, I widened my search to all of Maine. And, then to just the states around Maine. But, nothing came up. So... I took a chance and I began searching all around the U.S. and I found one. A movie actually. A director in California wants to turn one of my stories into a movie. He has the permits and everything. He's totally legit, even has a producer who is willing to make it happen. But, I couldn't be a part of it if I stayed here. I would have to move there in the next month or so. I've done all the research. I've made all the arrangements. Grandma it's at the tip of my fingers. I can feel it. I can make this happen, if you let me.”
She inhales deeply and slams her hands against the table as she gets up from her chair.
“Well, baby girl that's wonderful! This is great news! I am so proud of you! I knew you would make it, I just knew it. Didn't I know it? Didn't I tell you one day you would do wonderful things?” She reached out to hug me, but I stopped her short.
“There's a catch.” She waits, arms outstretched, face disoriented. I can't tell her. But, it would be wrong not to tell her. I have to face the consequences. I have to. I go for it. “The director that wants to turn it into a movie, it it is um... It's Arthur P-P-Polluck.” The words stutter out as if they aren't even mine. I watch her expression carefully. I can't help but notice her nonbelieving breaths. Her small arms fall to her sides and she walks backwards, blinking uncontrollably and grabs ahold of her chair for support. She sits down again and puts her hands to her head. “I'm sorry but I am not just going to pass up this opportunity. What if I don't get another one?” I move closer to the table so I can hear her answer.
“There will always be other chances! You are an amazing screenwriter. You can easily find another director to make your stories real. Why does it have to be him? It's his son Felicity, his SON.” She pronounces the last words to me like I am a small child and can't possibly understand them.
“Don't you think I know that? I know who he is, I know what his father did to us. I know. But that isn't going to stop me from following my dreams. From pursuing this. I want this. And, I am not going to let animosity between our families slow me down.” The determination in my voice startles even me, and I am proud of it. But, for some reason I feel like I shouldn't be. I shouldn't be proud that I am letting go so suddenly. Though it's not sudden. And, who said I was letting go?
“Matthew Polluck shot my son and your father. I will never forgive him. I don't care what the police say, I don't care what the Judges say. Just because they rule it an accident doesn't make it one. If you go now, to work for his son, you might as well be forgiving him. Is that what you’re doing? Forgiving him?”
She looks at me with sincere eyes. Eyes that know me better than anyone else. She knows the answer to the question. But, she doesn't know that I have already decided to leave--with or without her blessing. The thought of stranding her makes me ache.
“Of course, I'm not forgiving him! But, I don't think you understand what's at stake here. This is my chance to get noticed. And, it's not like he controls me or anything. He doesn't influence what I write or how I want it to come across to the audience. He only makes it something people come to watch. He will put my story on the big screen. Can't you see how important this is to me? All my life I've wanted to write stories. I am finally getting the chance to make one of them real.” She avoids my gaze, and finally gets up and walks into the living room.
“Grandma...” I sigh and turn to follow her. She lies on the couch with her feet up on the upholstery and her hands on her stomach. “Please don't do this. It's not like I am letting go of Dad, I'll never let go of him. But, I need to move on in my life. I need to turn the page. I am tired of working at the diner, tired of going through mail that only contains bills and notices and warnings and ads. I want something more from my life.”
“And making up stories to entertain a bunch of strangers is considered doing something with your life?” She sits up on the couch and puts her hands in her lap. “I'm sorry.” She taps the space next to her and motions for me to come. I hesitate, but eventually I join her.
“I want you to be happy, and I want you to follow your dreams. I do, Felicity, but I just want you to remember that I will never support that family, but I will always support you. And, I want you to know that wherever you go and whatever you do your father would be proud of you because your heart is pure and you always mean well.”
She takes my hand in hers. “Remember the most important part of your body?”
“I remember.” I smile and think back to that shady day in the church.
“I suppose moving on is not the same as forgetting. And, moving on and forgiving aren't either. I understand Felicity. I understand.”
“I'm not giving up Grandma and I’m not forgetting. I promise.” She puts her head on my shoulder and I lay my head on hers.