There is something about a tree that makes me think
of him - sitting wedged between two limbs, pulling the saw back
and forth, his denim jacket catching heedlessly on tiny stray branches,
a short billed cap bobbing and sliding back and forth, matching
the movement of the saw. And my grandmother watching from the kitchen
window, twisting her dishtowel in her hands, a forehead lined above
concerned eyes. "Please be careful Reuben" she whispers
to the empty room."
At 70 years old my grandfather still climbed trees. His mind was
a jumbled swirl of the past with various swatches of boyhood moving
in and out of his vision. But he still remembered where the blue
denim jacket hung. And in putting it on became the farmer of his
youth, searching out his saw to trim a sickened tree, or build another
rick of wood to add to the some 50 piles already surrounding the
My grandmother stayed inside close by the window - watching the
square of blue dinim move soundlessly. Even thought she could only
see the back of his gray capped head, she knew he was smiling. She
wanted to put on her coat and go out to stand beneath the tree.
Just maybe to call to him to come down to safety. But the image
of that smile stopped her, leaving her with nothing but new lines
in her face and a twisted piece of cloth in her hands.
She saw the limb fall and watched as he slowly climbed down. Only
when he reached the earth did she lay the towel on the counter and
move away. She put the plates on the table and sliced the too-done
meat, a product of her worry at the window.
He came in saying nothing, hanging his coat and cap on the hook
by he door. As she set the silver beside the plates, he pulled a
piece of wood from the box and added it to the stove, then turned
and gently smiled. "We'll have enough wood from that limb to
last a while," he said.
"You take such good care of us, Reuben," she said, and
sat down at the table and took his hand to say grace as they had
done all of their married life.