by John Nation
|When I was four years old, I spent the summer days with my grandmother while my parents worked. Grandma did not have a television. This was in 1958 and it was not that unusual. She told me that she did not want to waste her time watching other people's lives when she had her own to live. Instead of TV, we took walks in the park and went to the library. That summer, she helped me fly my first kite. We went into TG&Y and purchased a kite with a fierce dragon pictured on it. She helped me put it together after we returned to her home. She had a large backyard with plenty of room for kite flying.
She handed the kite to me and told me to run into the wind and slowly let the string play out as the kite pulled on it. I ran back and forth several times with no success. The kite would go up about ten feet and then spiral into the ground. I was ready to give up, but Grandma would not let me. She explained as well as she could to a young boy of four that the easiest accomplishments did not bring as much satisfaction as those you must strive to attain.
I tried several more times with no success. I was ready to surrender again when nature took pity on me. The wind began to pick up speed. The leaves of the trees began swaying in the breeze. This time when I ran, the kite rose thirty feet up into the sky. Grandma clapped and patted me on my shoulder. The kite was in the air for over a minute before falling once more to the Earth. I was ready give up, but Grandma urged me to keep going.
I rewound the string and once more ran into the wind with the kite trailing behind me. This time I felt the kite pulling harder against me as I let the string roll from the wooden holder it was wound around. The kite was captured by the air and took off. It was almost a hundred feet up when it started to sink again. My spirits fell as it did. Grandma called to me that I was letting the string out too fast. I tightened my grip and slowed the string. When the pressure was increased, the kite started back up into the sky.
I let the string out until it was almost to the end. I looked at the bare string holder and saw there was only two or three more loops of string around it. To me, the kite seemed like it was a mile into the sky, almost touching the clouds. For over an hour I stood there, gazing in boyish wonder at the dragon staring down at me.
I wanted to stay there forever, but Grandma told me I had to reel the kite in because we had other things we had to do before my parents came to get me. She promised me we would fly it again another day. I spent the summer at Grandmas. Each day brought new adventures.
That fall I started preschool and no longer went to Grandma's each weekday. School was fun in its own way. I learned about letters and numbers there. The things school taught me was how to make it in life. Grandma taught me about life.
The next summer when school was over, I started going to Grandma's again. I was delighted to be seeing her everyday. She showed me many more things. All of them were about making the most of my life.
I was with her for about a month when she started feeling ill. She went into the hospital for tests. My parents had to leave me home alone while she was in the hospital. They could not afford a baby sitter and daycare facilities were not as common then as they are today. They made me promise to stay inside. That was easy for me to do. I had my games to play and books to read.
It was on the third day I was by myself when the telephone rang. I answered it and it was Mom, calling to check on me as she did each day. I told her everything was okay and when she finished speaking, started for the refrigerator to get the lunch she had made for me. I was not to the kitchen door when the phone rang once more. I hurried back to it, thinking mom had forgotten to tell me something.
Instead, it was a nurse from the hospital. She told me her name, but I cannot remember it. Then she told me that Sadie Nation had died. She said she was sorry for my loss and hung up.
I don't know how long I stood there, the phone receiver dangling in my hand. I only came out of my trance when the telephone started emitting the loud buzz it does when the receiver is off the hook. I hung it up and moved to the couch where I lay down and cried.
That afternoon when my parents came home, they could tell at once something was wrong. All afternoon I had worried about what I could say to my dad to tell him his mother had died. I thought that he might hate me for delivering such bad news.
They asked me what wrong. At five years old, I did not know how to give comforting words, all I could say was that Grandma had died. Of course, Dad was shaken up. He picked me up and hugged me tightly as we cried together.
Later, after the funeral, we went to Grandma's house to sort through her things. I don't remember a lot of what went on at that time. I helped Dad and Mom carry things to the truck, but spent most of my time remembering Grandma and trying not to cry. It was a long summer without Grandma, but as young boys do, I was able to move on.
It was twelve years later when I started going through our attic. I don't really know what I was looking for, I just wanted to see what was up there. I pulled a box to me and wiped the spider webs away. I tore into it to find what treasures it hid. There were old dishes and some tattered books. I was almost to the bottom when a flash of green caught my eye. I moved aside the rest of the items in the box and rested on my knees as I stared at a kite. I pulled it out and recognized it as the one I had flown as a young boy with Grandma. I stopped my searching then and climbed back down the attic steps. I had found my treasure.
I waited a week until a windy day came along. I would have liked to return to Grandma's house, but another family owned it by then. Instead I went to a field outside the city and made the kite again.
The dragon gazed into my eyes. His colors had faded over the years, but I could still feel his ferocious spirit. This time when I tried to fly him, he soared into the air on the first attempt. I let him out the three hundred feet the spool of string had and watched him fly with the clouds once again. When it was time for me to leave, instead of pulling him back in, I took my pocketknife and cut the string.
I watched him for about five more minutes, drifting higher into the sky. Soon he disappeared as he flew out of sight. I have always prayed that he flew high enough to reach Grandma.