My grandmother taps her fingers on the leather steering wheel cover, her wedding ring set softly clinking in rhythm to an overplayed 60s music soundtrack. I smile. I don’t mind we listen to the same songs every time we take a three-hour road trip to Asheville. It’s like a ritual now, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Her thin, gray-white hair is softly teased, a sort of halo around her head, moving with the wind coming through the open sunroof. She sings a note or two behind the beat. I smile again and turn to gaze out the window.
The road stretches and twists ahead, winding up the mountain with concrete barriers separating our climbing lanes of traffic from those coasting down. On our right is a sprawling wall whose exposed layers of sedimentary rock look as if they were intricately painted by only the finest of artists. On our left is a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountain belt with a hazy fog lingering along its treetops.
The volume increases, and I peer over at my grandmother wiggling her eyebrows at me. “I like this one,” she smiles with her signature red lipstick and oversized pink sunglasses resting on the bridge of her nose. Marvin Gaye’s light, soulful voice and the tinkling of piano keys fill the cab before escaping through the windows and into the forests above and below.
How sweet it is to be loved by you! Yes; it is!
She sings each word just after he does, still keeping a beat or two behind. She knows the lyrics; she just can’t get them out fast enough.
Close my eyes at night,
And wonder what would I be without you in my life.
Everything was just a bore.
All the things I did, seems I’ve done ’em before,
But you brightened up all of my days
With a love so sweet in so many ways.
Something deep inside me churns, and the strings in my heart tighten, reminding me of this moment’s value. I urge myself to study her and remember everything I can before this precious lingering moment becomes a fleeting one.
I notice liver spots, wrinkles, thin skin, and broken blood vessels. I notice my grandmother’s overall frailty, and I remember the feebleness of time.
Time has a healing nature, yet it’s tragic.
My grandmother is a travel veteran, once taking me across the Mediterranean with her for a couple of weeks. Today should be an ordinary road trip to one of our favorite places in the world, but this time feels different. It’s delicate and rich. It’s freeing and infinite. There was always the chance that a moment like this would come on our weekly run to the grocery store, the smallest of adventures. But it came now. And now is the perfect place and time.
I take a deep breath of the dewy mountain air and continue to reflect on these sentimental wonders. My grandmother hasn’t a clue. And she doesn’t need to.
I want to stop and thank you, baby.
“Grandma?”, I ask, my heart about to burst.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, baby.”