She watched from her spot in the sun as the children ran around the yard. They played like they had not a care in the world. The boy was but 3 years old and had to use his monster roar to catch the older children. The twins were 8 and knew everything about everything. What they didn't know they made up with colors that put the brightest of rainbows to shame.
She watched their father who watched them from across the yard. He sat in the shade of the old tree that had stood proud through out his life and that of his father before him. He smiled the small smile of a man with too much weight on his shoulders but love to overcome it all.
Their mother was gone to who knows where. She left when Boy was just a few months old. What hope she had to fix what was broken ended when she figured out how much work goes into a child that needed more then a bottle and a diaper change. She thought the son would fix everything that was wrong in his father's love. She was right but didn't stick around long enough to figure out the truth.
As he watched his children now, he couldn't help but thank his father for the lessons he had taught him about duty and work and honor. He was raised watching the man work hard and steady no matter what was going on in the world. Even when he was laid off his father got them through with odd jobs and refused to sit still. He and his brother never knew true hunger because of what his father gave up. He also told his sons about honor like the old timers believed, and it stuck.
His mother had taught her own lessons of strength, love, and loyalty. His wife had tested all three when she had left, but his children had re-installed the program. He found himself using Mom's words on his kids, using her tricks to get them to go along with his plan, and finally understood how she could cry and laugh at the same time.
The twins ran up to him in their excited fashion and talked as one. They went on about how Gramma Crackers said that it was time to get the garden growing and that he should help them. They tugged him up and pulled him to the shed in the back. The children often spoke of Gramma Crackers as if she were right there with them. He figured they had heard his mother speak of her too much before she passed. He had loved the stories himself when he was young.
Gramma Crackers had lessons of her own to teach through his mother's comments and stories. There were times in his youth when he had thought her real himself. His mother would be fixing supper and without turning, she would point out that Gramma Crackers saw him kissing that girl and advised him to be careful because he wasn't her only boy. She would turn to his brother and point out that speed is dangerous and Gramma Crackers said to wear a helmet. It drove them nuts as teens.
But as young boys, dealing with the monsters that life introduces, Gramma had often been the source of comfort. Mom would tuck them in and whisper some word of comfort or wisdom that was supposed to be from Gramma. When he was about the age of the twins, his best friend had gotten lost in the woods. It was over a week before they found his body and while his mother had no words of comfort to explain this, she had told him a story of how Gramma had met his friend in the trees and helped him find the right path to his great grandma who will watch over him until his mother joined them in a while. She had told it in a quiet voice as they sat out in the garden. It helped him deal.
The twins had gathered the supplies and told him that Gramma Crackers said they should plant this over there and that by the tree and... yeah.... he left off their chatter while he thought about the gardens. He stood and looked them over. It was just a month ago that their caretaker had gone on to a better place leaving him alone to deal with life. Dad had passed on some 10 years back just after his brother was killed in a war that made no point. He had lived with his mom to help her out, so he had thought. He had learned just who had been helping who in the last month.
He got busy helping the children dig a hole here and plant one of the flowers his mother had started earlier in the spring. As far back as he could remember, she would spend hours tending to their garden which was for food as well as beauty. She would have her boys help because it taught them much more then how to get dirty. She never said what it taught them. Mothers are just like that.
The boy looked up from the mess he was making in the corner of the vegetable garden and used sign language to ask for a drink. Time for a lunch break. The crew walked in to wash up under their father's command and he set to cleaning up the yard a bit. He about dropped the armful of tools when he heard a voice tell him that the peppers needed water before he went in.
He shook off the voice, put away the tools, and saw no reason not to water the peppers before going in. Lunch was simple sandwiches and watermelon. The boy needed extra hydration so dessert was fruit pops they had made themselves. It was a fun day so far but it was time for the kids to nap a bit and while they did he would finish up some of the yard work.
He sat on his mother's bench, with a glass of the lemonade she had taught him to make, thinking about how alone he was. He looked over the work he had done and felt like he had put in a good day's labor like his dad had taught him. He thought about his long gone wife as he looked at his child's toys that littered the play area. Loneliness settled over his shoulders with a sigh.
"Your daddy didn't raise a quitter or you would have left when they said that boy was going to pass before his first birthday. Instead that ding bat you married did."
He searched for who had spoke and saw no one. He wasn't a drinker, wasn't on medication, and as far as he knew no one was nuts in his family. He was not going to believe that it was the funny little turtle that sat in one corner of the garden or the beautiful bird that sat in the tree had started talking. That meant he would pretend it was just his imagination.
"You do your brother proud the way you raise those kids to love their country, remember why men like him died, and to follow their hearts in a true and honorable way"
He sighed and closed his eyes. He thought he must be over worked and under paid. Maybe not enough sleep, or maybe he was sleeping now. No matter what, the voice needed to stop making sense.
"Boy, I have watched you toddle through the years, gain your footing, fall and skin your knees and now it's time for you to hold that chin up and walk tall again. You know you can."
He knew. He didn't know what made it click but it did. He asked the air if Gramma Crackers had finally decided to visit him. He knew this made him crazy but he was ok with that if it meant he woke up from this dream saner.
"Boy, come sit with me a spell and we'll talk before those babies wake and start causing their chaos. Over here now, by the pine tree"
He looked and saw the patio set that his mother used for her morning coffee. In the small flower garden that always seemed to have something in bloom from early spring to late fall, stood the foot high figurine that his father had bought his mom that first spring after they moved into the house. He was surprised he never made the connection before.
They sat there and talked about the old days and the kids and how to plant the tomatoes like his mother would have. It was time for the kids to stir sooner then later so he stood to go inside.
"You know you aren't alone, don't you? Those babies know who they can count on, and you can count on them to help you move forward. You have your mother's heart so she'll guide you on how to love them better then that woman could have. Your daddy and brother stand beside you, in your strength and duty. And you can always come out here with your morning coffee. The babies are waking. Tell the twins to stop trying to dig to China because they will hit lava and burn up. Give that Boy some lavender oil on his feet to help him sleep."
He often went out for coffee after that.... and so did his children when he got a bit older.