june 1K

1991

Ray was sixty-five and pinning his daughter’s bed sheets to a clothesline – the bed sheets of his daughter who died last night.  Sobering, he thought, was this year, in which he retired from the paper company and lost his only child.  She was forty, his daughter.

He met his daughter at her work every day for lunch, and one day she said, “I’m pregnant.”

“But you’re thirty-nine,” he said.

“I already decided,” she said, “to keep it.”

She did.  And they continued to have lunch every day.  And he went to child-birthing classes with her.  He rubbed her sore back and shopped for a car seat.  He assembled the baby’s crib, and that’s when they decided she should move back home.

Home was over a hundred and fifty years old, on ten acres, and big.  Ray lived there alone, until his daughter got pregnant, and then she moved back in with him.  They painted the nursery yellow.  On the way home from the sonogram, they stopped at the hardware store and picked out a pale pink for the nursery’s trim.

When it was “time,” she was forty, and he drove her to the hospital and held her hand for eight hours.  When she named the baby Samantha, he leaned over and kissed both of their foreheads one at a time and cried a little.

“That’s the second time I’ve seen you cry,” she said.

The other time was when she got married, he thought.

The nurse took Samantha away, and his daughter slept, and the nurse and a doctor came back to tell him that there were potential complications with his daughter’s recovery.

He brought his daughter home, and she tried to nurse the baby for a couple of days, and then she hemorrhaged one night, and Samantha became Ray’s baby.

Ray thought about all of this while he pinned his daughter’s washed and bleached bed sheets to the clothesline, and he knew he couldn’t linger much longer because he wanted to be there when Samantha woke, and he vowed to always be there.

1994

Ray was sixty-eight and pinning his three-year-old granddaughter, Sam’s bed sheets to the clothesline.  Last night she wet the bed again, but he had had his fill of diapers.  Three decades operating the corrugating machine had rendered his fingers taught.  The clothespins were fidgety little alligator mouths that snapped when they slipped from his fingers.

The job done, Ray scanned the front pasture for Sam, who he’d last seen chasing a butterfly.  Butterflies know no boundaries, he thought, and Sam was trotting toward the railroad tracks that trace the eastern property line.  Panic struck his chest, and he ran east.  The uneven ground was not friendly to his knees, and if he fell, he thought, Sam may never be found.
He remembered his vow to always be there for her, and that day he was.

Butterflies loved the weedy goldenrod that grew wild along the railroad, and Ray scooped Sam up and took her home for a snack and wondered who would take care of her if not he.

2003

Ray was seventy-seven and pinning Sam’s washed and bleached bed sheets to the clothesline.  Though he tried, he couldn’t recall how his ex-wife had handled this day with their own daughter.  Sam had showered and eaten and ran out for the bus quickly this morning, and long after she’d left he discovered the spotted bed.

Sobering, he thought, as memories of his daughter’s death knocked around his heart.  A clothespin slipped from his fingers and snapped the air like a startled alligator.

2007

Ray was eighty-one and draping Sam’s sheets over the clothesline.  She was sixteen, and before last night, he hadn’t seen her for two weeks.  Last night she stumbled into the house, banging around, startling him.  He opened her door and found her passed out in a puddle of vomit.  He leaned his cane against her dresser, then himself against her dresser, and he cried.  He cried because he was tired but even more because she was home.

It was a long night but nothing a bucket and a glass of water couldn’t fix.
The next morning he stiffly awoke in a chair by her bed, which was empty again.

2009

Ray was eighty-three and laying awake in bed.  The front door closed.  Footsteps scaled the old staircase and creaked into Sam’s room.  He couldn’t remember the last time she was home.  He didn’t blame her and was here for her, even if he couldn’t get out of bed and tell her.

God had given him a healthy, sturdy body that had got him where he needed to go, until tonight.  I think it’s done, he thought.  It didn’t seem fair that he didn’t have the strength to say goodbye and say that he would most likely die tonight and to please not leave him lying there another month or two.  And then he cried, not because he was dying but because of the thought of Sam finding him after months of nature’s cruelty.

And then his door creaked, and his heart skipped.  That girl of his came into his room quietly and quietly knelt at his bedside.  She slid her hands around one of his and looked into his eyes.

“Grandpa you’re crying,” she said, and she cried too.  “That’s the second time I’ve seen you cry.”

You must remember that night when you were sixteen, he thought.

“I remember,” she said and leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.  She laid down next to him and put her arm around him and said, “Thank you.”

Sam was eighteen and pinning Ray’s washed and bleached sheets to the clothesline.  She vowed to keep the land and the house and fill it up with people she loved.

She strolled along the eastern property line, along the railroad, until she came to a patch of goldenrod.  She knelt among the butterflies and picked the wild, yellow flowers for the funeral that afternoon.
june1K

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25 Responses to “june 1K”


  1. 1 Tara Thayer 06/10/2009 at 8:52 am

    This is so heartbreaking and beautiful. I’ve been waiting since May 10th for your next one, and now I’ll have to wait until July 10th.
    I don’t know what else to say.
    Thanks, I guess. Now I have to dry my eyes and get back to my life.

  2. 2 carolyn (girlreaction) 06/10/2009 at 9:08 am

    woah. brought tears to my eyes!

  3. 3 Brian 06/10/2009 at 9:10 am

    goosebumps. stunning.

  4. 4 Wanda 06/10/2009 at 10:33 am

    I am loving these posts. And yes, I, too, anticipate each one.

    Powerful.

  5. 5 leslie 06/10/2009 at 12:45 pm

    Beautiful + sad. My fave by far. . .

    Are you guys planning on publishing this series as a book? Oh how I would love to purchase a copy! (hint hint!) 🙂

  6. 6 pricklypearbloom 06/10/2009 at 12:51 pm

    Wow.

    I just had to take a moment to collect myself, because that made me cry. Not just a tear to my eye, but cry. It’s beautiful, and this collaboration is wonderful. I look forward to it every month.

  7. 7 Jessie 06/10/2009 at 12:51 pm

    I think this is my favorite one yet. Maybe because my Dad’s name is Ray and he lives and loves with the same tenderness as the Ray in your story.

    Thank you for writing.

  8. 8 wendy 06/10/2009 at 1:51 pm

    amazing you two – stunning and amazing.

  9. 9 claire 06/10/2009 at 2:52 pm

    here you have just written a thousand, and i can barely string together a few… this one is my favourite so far.

  10. 10 sarah 06/10/2009 at 4:56 pm

    goosebumps.

  11. 11 Stephanie 06/10/2009 at 7:23 pm

    Hannah, that photo…

    The only awful thing about this project is waiting a whole month for the next one. Also, the best part. love love love to you both.

  12. 12 cat 06/10/2009 at 7:51 pm

    thank you david and hannah. thank you so very much.

  13. 13 erin 06/10/2009 at 8:17 pm

    this is beautiful. thanks for sharing it, hannah and david.

  14. 14 Stacey 06/11/2009 at 2:28 am

    speechless….than you for sharing again.

  15. 15 billy 06/11/2009 at 7:31 am

    There are not enough complimentary adjectives for me to keep commenting each month.

    I’ll go with stellar. Totally Stellar.

  16. 16 A. Jarrett 06/11/2009 at 1:20 pm

    I am absolutely floored by this story. ~ Love ♥

    The characters definitely come alive – thank you so much for sharing!

  17. 17 6riddles 06/14/2009 at 10:32 am

    I will no longer be able to hang my sheets on the line without this story in my mind. I happened across it randomly today. It will be with me for a long time.

  18. 18 Carrie K 06/23/2009 at 1:08 pm

    wow…simply wow!

    every month these never fail to rock my world.

  19. 19 Jer Collins 06/23/2009 at 7:27 pm

    butterflies, and alligators, and tears oh my. Love it. back to the drawering board.

  20. 20 Lin 06/24/2009 at 4:06 am

    Wonderful. Very touching.

  21. 21 steve 06/26/2009 at 3:53 am

    no offense, but this wasn’t that great. The imagery was trite and despite the character’s obvious emotions, they were distant. The best I can say: “sadness porn”

  22. 22 Jannie Funster 07/03/2009 at 9:51 am

    God, that’s good. Made my cry.

  23. 23 Polly R 07/06/2009 at 3:22 pm

    Amazing story.

    We love your blog and have decided to give you some awards here:

    http://prettypollysprettythings.blogspot.com/2009/07/thank-you.html

    Love Polly and Polly

  24. 24 charlotte 10/28/2009 at 4:48 am

    catching up, i only just read this one… wow. it gave me shivers. it’s so, so beautiful. you two rock.

  25. 25 Anna 11/01/2009 at 1:36 am

    I have read this twice and it brought tears to my eyes both times. This is absolutely amazing.


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