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Family Tree

Family Tree

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Published by J.-L. DeMontaron
A real Family Tree!
A real Family Tree!

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Published by: J.-L. DeMontaron on Oct 20, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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The promise of winter blew in the autumn wind. Dry leaves, snatched from the branchesoverhead, fluttered and swirled to the ground. The final days of the Indian Summer were long goneand a permanent chill was in the air. The family gathered under a steel gray sky. The grass crunchedunder their feet as they stopped and stared. A sad, somber mood floated over the assembly. Theusually boisterous and playful children were quiet and clutched at their parents. As one, they lookedup and gasped at the horror. The tree was broken in half! Its towering crown and massive boughs hadsimply disappeared. The shattered branches and trunk, lay on the ground in sickening heaps. At thetop of the remains of the once majestic tree, the jagged edges of exposed wood were white andobscene. No one spoke. A few sobs broke the silence. Most were lost in thought. They had lost alifelong friend. Grandpa thought it a herald of his own impending doom. They were, after all, the sameage.As a young man, Great-Grandpa had planted the sapling when his only son was born. When the boywas old enough, he began to tend to the young tree. He watered and nurtured it. He kept creepingparasites at bay and checked for leaf blights and other diseases. When he left for the army, the treereceived his last good-byes. Unlike many, Young Grandpa had returned unscathed and after thehearty welcomes and congratulations, he had gone down and sat in the shade of his tree. He hadstayed there a long time trying to forget the horrors he had seen. He had drawn renewed strengthfrom the mighty tree and was thankful.After Young Grandma had said yes, Young Grandpa had carved a heart and their initials in therugged bark. Young Grandpa had been careful not to nick the living wood and had apologized silentlyto his lofty friend. The wedding reception was held in the shade of the tree’s abundant foliage. A year later, the proud couple had tied a swing to a sturdy branch. Young Grandma had held on to the ricketystep ladder as Young Grandpa wobbled and rocked on the tallest step. Coming down, he had slippedand fallen, dragging Young Grandma with him. They lay laughing in the grass and Young Grandmacalmed Young Grandpa’s worries. The cries of their newborn baby boy brought them both to their feetand, hand in hand, they rushed back to the house. Before he was one year old, the boy had knownthe thrill of swinging to and fro and the tree had joyfully joined in the fun. The swing had to be loweredwhen a girl joined the family. Another swing was added when they were blessed with another boy andthen, another girl.They gathered around the tree for all the important milestones. A christening, a first birthday, the lastday of school, their tenth anniversary. Like his father before him, Grandpa’s son had bid goodbye tohis tall friend before he left to fight in the war. Four years later, he lay in its shade as his woundsslowly healed.Like Grandpa before him, he had proposed under the towering branches. They wed at its foot andsplashed a glass of champagne on its roots. Before long, the old swings were replaced with new onesand peals of childish laughter once again rose around the massive trunk. The year their eldestgraduated from high school, on a warm summer evening, disaster struck! As a bolt of lightening rentthe roiling clouds overhead, the tree had extended one of its branches over the roof and saved thehouse. The morning sun had revealed the extent of the damage. The charred and blackened remainsof the branch covered the ground. A dark, wicked gouge snaked its way down the trunk and one of the mighty roots had burst open. The best tree surgeons had been called to the patient’s side and no
11/05/2001Copyright©2001 - J.-L DeMontaro
expense was spared. Despite their best efforts, the tree had lost its leaves early and by the last daysof fall, it looked as if this would be its last winter. The evening meals were quiet and reserved. Everyday, Grandpa would walk down and place his forehead on the trunk and gingerly run his fingers alongthe poultice that now covered the wound. His eyes were always red when he came back. That winter was not as joyful as the ones before. All dreaded the coming spring.As the days warmed, Grandpa stopped going to the back yard. He could not bear to see leaves andbuds explode all around as his tree remained bare. April gave way to May and June was just aroundthe corner when his youngest grandson burst into the study where Grandpa was reading. Undeterred,the lad dragged a protesting Grandpa out of the house and to the foot of the tree. Eagerly he pointed!Grandpa shaded his eyes and squinted upwards. It was barely visible but unmistakable. A tinynewborn leaf fluttered in the breeze. Tears welled in Grandpa’s eyes as the lad rushed back to thehouse, screaming and yelling. They all gathered around Grandpa. Grandma put her arms around her husband and he hugged her so hard she could hardly breathe. Whoops of joy and glee broke theafternoon quiet and drew neighbors and friends. A special feast was held and thanks were given for the return of their friend and for nature’s glory. As if to make up for lost time, leaves covered thebranches in record time. The horrendous scars soon disappeared beneath the luxurious foliage thatgrew denser with every passing day.That fall, Great-Grandpa passed away. After the funeral, Grandpa and Grandma sprinkled some of his ashes around the trunk. As night fell, they left the two friends together and slowly walked back tothe house. Grandma took Grandpa’s arm and draped it across her shoulder. They stopped on theporch and gazed out over the yard at the bare branches outlined by the glorious sunset till the coldchased them inside. The years passed, uneventful. The family was fruitful and prospered. Grandpaand the tree grew old together. A sudden cold snap froze the land and Grandma took to her bed witha bad cough. Thanksgiving was subdued and Christmas was somber.Spring came and left. Summer brought its violent storms. The tree weathered them all, standing proudand defiant. Chilly days and early evenings replaced barefoot romps and firefly hunts. Unexpected,storm warnings had gone out. Storm crows passed overhead as they fled the coming onslaught. Thewinds had howled and clouds of debris obscured the landscape. As the storm reached its apotheosis,a great cracking sound rose briefly above the din. The morning light had revealed the magnitude of the disaster.They cleared away the debris but Grandpa would not allow them to cut the rest of the tree down.He would stand at its base and if he ignored the memories of that fateful day, he could see the treestill towering above him. As time went by he stopped going. He could no longer bear it.When the days got shorter and autumn chased away the last days of summer, Grandma left as thefirst leaves began to fall. After the funeral, Grandpa sprinkled some of her ashes around the brokentrunk. A trick of the light briefly illuminated the carved heart and initials that lay just below the greatwound. As the light died, Grandpa left his two dearest friends and walked away, alone and broken-hearted.He retreated to his study and lost the will to live. On a cold wintry day, with his children andgrandchildren at his side, he asked that the curtains be opened. He took a last look at the desolateremnants jutting into the sky and went to be with Grandma. His ashes joined hers.
11/05/2001Copyright©2004 - J.-L DeMontaro

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