The Gift

Gram sits beside me in the stationary elephant-gray Camry that used to belong to her. It’s her 85th birthday.

“Do you know where you are and who I am?” I ask, checking in.

“Of course, we’re in a vacant parking lot. And you’re my grandson, Josh.”

Josh is my older brother. Close enough.

She grins.

“I’m going to drive.”

Trading in her grin for a look of jaw-clenched concentration, Gram then gives the car a little too much gas and we fly off about fifteen feet before she applies the brake.

“Just nudge the pedal Gram, and press more lightly than you think you should,” is my advice, and I can hear my father in my voice.

“Are you ready to try again?”

“Yes.”

This time, it’s a smooth departure. We pick up a little speed, avoiding the empty parking spaces, and the Camry remains on the cruising path. Gram’s expression softens some.

After we cruise the entirety of the parking lot a handful of times, I check in again.

“Grandma, how’s it going?”

“Fine, Josh, but would you like to go anywhere?” she queries, eyes still on the vanishing concrete in front of her.

“No sense in driving around here all day.”

“Well, we really shouldn’t leave,” I answer, avoiding eye contact.

“Nonsense. I insist, boy. Let’s go somewhere.”

I don’t have the heart to speak the word “no,” but I stay firm.

Gram slows the car to a stop. Puts it in park without glancing down at the gear shifter. She looks square at me. Her ears are glowing red.

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