He comes to me when I walk.

Last night, with Finley riding on my chest, I took a walk. Sean was putting the girls to bed as I slipped out. We walked slowly, Finley’s hands held one of mine as her mouth moved along as if playing the harmonica. A mellow breeze moved the air, cooling and chasing away the humidity of the day. I smiled at the checkerboard of perfectly manicured lawns and dandelion dotted yards, a challenge to step up our own yard work and license to slack at the same time.

A few blocks from home we came upon one of the biggest houses in town, infamous for its owners mean, mean dogs. Watching for the dogs, I was surprised to come face-to-face with a little boy. He was tearing around in the yard in a tshirt and underwear, little tighty-whities, but black. His legs were pale, his knees knobby, and the sight of him screeching to a halt as he saw me had me chuckling aloud.

We turned the corner at the end of the street, a blur of pale legs and dark underwear danced at the corner of my eye. The grass along the sidewalk was dewy, droplets of water from an afternoon watering clung to the thick blades. Turning another corner the view changed, a canopy of trees spread out before us, heavily blossomed bushes bordered the path and the porches ahead seemed to preen as the perennials coloring the ground beneath them shone in the setting sun.

I felt it a moment after breathing in the fragrance of the neighborhood, tiger lilies, lilacs and fresh cut grass. A sting in my eyes, the sudden burn of new tears, a lump in my throat threatening to engulf me and then he was there. The smell of his skin, the prick of his whiskers and the sound of his laugh.

I stopped, looking around for the specific trigger, my eyes coming to rest on an enormous fruit tree, gnarly limbs twisting out from a stocky trunk. My eyes blurred, Fin’s feet gently tapped on my sides, and I sobbed. Three more shudders came and went as tears coursed down my cheeks landing on the swirls of blonde and brunette hair on Fin’s head. Blinking and breathing in the heady scent of summer, I nodded and smiled. The passage from keeping the pain of his absence at bay to the unmistakable knowledge that he was there had hurt, but I was through. Aware.

And so, holding Fin’s bare foot, I lifted my face to the beauty before me and said with a crooked smile, “Hey Grandpa.”