In Aug. 8 IssueRussell County NewsBy Debbie Bell, Columnist
My best friend's father is in the E-town hospital fighting for his life. I not only have to be there, but I want to be there. That's what a true friend does. I cannot possibly think of anything to write about this week, so I am submitting a short story that I wrote several years ago. Until I can think again...Forward Ho.
The Tree of Life
The skies opened up and over two feet of snow fell that cold night in 1927 when the little boy was born. Snow covered branches hung from the beautiful oak tree that stood outside the small farm house.
Although sickly at first, soon the boy began to flourish and grow. A loner, he spent a lot of his time with the oak tree. He could sit under its shaded branches reading for hours. On summer nights he would camp out under the tree and watch the squirrels, birds, and other wildlife. The boy would swing so high that he swore he almost touched the sky.
When he was in the second grade he pretended he was Wilbur and Orville Wright. Instead of making a smooth landing he broke his arm in two places.
When the bot was 13 years old he kissed his girlfriend beneath the autumn leaves of the old oak tree. When the young man left for college, he would return home on weekends and sit beneath the tree to ponder life's little mysteries and what his future would hold. When the man was 25 he married his lovely wife on a beautiful summer day. It was an outdoor wedding and it seemed like the old tree beamed down with such pride.
The man and his wife moved away but returned home many times over the years for funerals, reunions, weddings and other family events. It was sad to see the town and how it had changed. Malls took place of playgrounds, homes were torn down and duplexes and condos went up and Main Street downtown was completely a thing of the past. Everything was now self-serve and fast food.
The only constant was the old oak tree whose branches welcomed them like open arms. No matter what path the man took, all roads always led back to the old tree where he found great solace and peace.
Many, many years went by. The old man felt great need to visit the tree once more. He gathered up several of his grandchildren and made the long, tiring trip home. His heart sank as he saw the old tree. Lightning had hit the tree and it looked like the old man felt completely destroyed.
He sank to his knees and wept uncontrollably for hours. All the memories came flooding back as he wept for his dear old friend.
He might have drowned in his own tears, but suddenly he heard his youngest grandchild crying. He leapt to his feet and saw her lying on the ground, several feet away. As his gnarly old hands reached down to tenderly pick her up, he saw why the child had fallen. The root of the old tree was sticking up and a new offshoot was starting to grow.
The old man's mouth started to twitch, then he smiled the most beautiful smile and then he began to laugh. He seemed young and childlike as he began to dance about the little tree. The old man spent a happy, glorious day there with the children, laughing, and playing.
I'll never forget the day as long as I live. I didn't understand what it all meant then, but I'm beginning to. My grandfather died five years ago and we buried him where the old oak tree use to stand. When I go home I sit beneath the shade of my oak tree and visit with my beloved grandfather.