I remember it was a cold day, is all. My teacher came to take me from the class, said I had to go and see my granddaddy on account that he was leaving real soon.
To be honest, he hadn’t said nothing to me, and I was his best pal. He said that I had a head on my shoulders that was ninety years beyond my age – which makes me a hundred in anyone’s money.
Anyways – as I’m reaching my granddaddy’s house, I can see my aunts and uncle looking real, real sad on the steps.
Maybe it’s on account of his going – but if I’m being honest, he usually don’t go fishing until around September.
“He wants to see you. You’d better be quick. There ain’t much time.” Is what my aunt Mamie said to me, before licking her handkerchief and wiping my face. I gotta tell you, I ain’t a fan of aunts licking their handkerchiefs.
So I get to the bedroom door and my ma is coming out. Her eyes look real dark, and there’s black stuff running from her face. She wipes the tears away hoping I won’t notice – but I do – then she puts on that smile, that I know is fake. She gives me the biggest of hugs – bigger than when my little brother didn’t ever come home again, and then she pushes me through the door.
My granddaddy ain’t getting ready for his vacation. No sir, he’s just lying in bed like a no good critter (that’s what he usual calls me).
He tells me to come over close and sit beside him on the bed. I gotta tell you that he don’t look well, but sometimes that happens to folks.
Then he tells me this little story. I’m telling you it exactly as he told me.
“Here boy, look at that photo. Know what it is?” I shake my head, ‘cause I really don’t know what it is.
“Well that is one of those space aliens from outer space. I took his photo with my Kodak Brownie. The little creature didn’t seem to mind. Told me he had broken down in the next valley and was waiting on some of his own kind to get him back to the stars.”
Well I tell you, I had never heard my granddaddy talk like that before.
“So this little critter got to talking to me in real good English and we was talking about this and that, and how the New York Mets hadn’t been doing so well. Then I told him about your grandma and how her passing had been the most painful thing in the whole of my days. And do you know what the little critter said to me?”
I shook my little spellbound head.
“He said, not to mind about her going, that we had all been here and would always be here. I had to tell you I wasn’t sure what he meant. So he explained further. He said that all the atoms and stuff that made us up, were all from the beginning of the universe. Over the billions of years they would change into stars and planets, and animals and space dust, and then disintegrate and become other things. And just the once they all came together and made you.”
I said, “me granddaddy?” and he nodded his head.
“So when your grandma went away – and when I go too, all that will happen is, I’ll turn to dust and go back to the universe and float about for the rest of time. Once in a while, a bit of me might come together in another human being and when you look at a new-born baby, there could be a bit of your old granddaddy there.”
Then granddaddy said he was real tired and could I go and get my ma again. He said he’d tell me about what happened to the starman another time.
He never got the chance. By the time my ma got back he was gone – and not fishing.
I gotta tell you, I still look at new-born babies and wonder.
bobby stevenson 2016