A Grandmother’s Love!

June Atwood was 23 years old and working in the only café in Salina, Kansas when the army soldier came walking through the front door carrying the green duffle bag over his shoulder and sat down at a nearby table. As she shyly glanced over at him she saw the greyhound bus pass by outside the front window headed out of town. Salina, Kansas was a small town and as soon as her eyes looked at him she recognized him.

His name was Jeremy Chalfont and he had come back from Iraq. June hoped it was for good this time as she picked up a menu and walked up to his table shyly. He looked handsome and when Jeremy raised his head, she saw his tired eyes as he smiled up at her. Immediately June began to feel herself begin to blush as he said good morning June. She was shocked that he remembered her name.

She tried to compose herself as she sat the menu and glass of water down on the table and replied, “Good morning Jeremy. How long was your bus ride?” He looked down and pulled his sleeve of his shirt up as he felt himself yawn again and said, “Almost 36 hours.” as he smiled up at her. Neither one of them thought that the other person would remember their name. They hadn’t dated or even went to a school dance as a couple.

When June asked him how long he was staying in town Jeremy said, “For good I hope. I just got out of the army and I feel lucky to be one of the soldier’s coming home alive.” in a serious voice. June knew that was the truth. The headlines on TV, radio and in newspapers broke the sad news of many a soldier who came home in a casket. As Jeremy looked down and picked up the menu, June reached down and touched his arm.

“Breakfast is on the house for ya Jeremy. “Welcome home.” she said with a warm smile as she quickly turned around, smiled and hurried back to the counter to help another customer. June hadn’t been married before and Jeremy was the only boy she had a crush on when she was in school. She had been working at the Main Street café for the last three years and even though many a guy had hit on her, she politely told each one no.

It wasn’t because she didn’t want to have a man on her arm, go out and maybe one day settle down and raise a family with. It was just the opposite. She did want those things but not with just anyone. She wanted the man she gave her heart to, to be special and Jeremy was. By the time June had returned to his table three times and refilled his coffee cup the second time he asked her if she was married or had a boyfriend.

June was blushing now and she didn’t turn away when she shyly told him no. The young man took a chance at being rejected as he asked her after he got himself settled in town if maybe he could take her out to a movie or dinner sometime. One look in June’s eyes told him she’d like that very much. Jeremy’s mother’s name was Cassandra and she was a quiet, soft spoken woman. She was tall and petite and active in her church.

His parents had been married for more than 20 years but there was a dark side to Jeremy’s father. He loved to drink as much as he loved his wife, perhaps more at times. He had a violent temper and customers found it difficult to talk to Charles when he had been drinking. But there wasn’t anywhere else to go for tractor repair for folks around Salina. Charles never got rich helping others or he might have had he had a different temperament.

But he did provide for him and his wife. Jeremy didn’t send word to his parents of him getting out of the service. After he bought a beat up Dodge truck, he tossed his duffle bag in the bed and headed for their farm. He was smiling more and more as he drove down the long dusty road. When he parked near the front porch, he closed the trucks door quietly and walked up to the front door and knocked.

Cassandra was used to hearing people knock on her door and expected it to be another one of her husband’s customers. But when she opened the door she put her hand over her heart and tears filled her eyes. Her look of surprise turned to a wonderful smile as she opened her arms and hugged her son as she began to sob. She was so grateful her son had returned home. As she stepped back and looked into his bright blue eyes she asked him how long he could stay this time.

Jeremy smiled back and told her he hadn’t re-enlisted and had come back to stay. “I thought I would let pa teach me how to make a living fixing tractors if my room is still empty?” Jeremy asked as he let out a small laugh. “Son, you know your room is just the way ya left it. Your dad is gonna be so surprised when you walk through that barn door.” Cassandra said and suddenly the smile he saw in her eyes disappeared. Jeremy knew why and he asked his mother if his pa was still drinking.

Cassandra didn’t answer. She just nodded her head. Charles was an alcoholic with a bad temper. It made being married to her husband difficult to say the least. He had hit his wife more than once but she had no bruises at least none that Jeremy ever see. He hugged his mother once more and she hugged him tight before she looked up into his eyes and asked a very important question.

Seeing no wedding ring on his finger she asked him if he had a sweetheart. Jeremy shook his head no, but paused for just a moment and told his mother he had met a nice gal working down at a café next to the bus station. “I met a nice waitress named June Atwood, momma. Perhaps you know her?” he asked. But she shook her head no as she smiled. I don’t know any Atwood’s son. Does she attend the Catholic Church?” she asked curiously.

“I don’t know momma, but I asked her out on a date this Friday evening. We’ll have dinner and a movie.” he said with a mixture of excitement and insecurity. Cassandra touched her sons arm and told him if he wanted to, she’d love to meet the gal one day. Jeremy nodded as he laughed and said, “We’ll see momma, we’ll see.” That was the moment June looked down towards the barn and her eyes lit up.

“If you don’t get yerself down to that barn and let your dad see you’ve come home, he’ll be fit to be tied and throw a wrench at me for not telling him.” June said as she began to laugh. Charles had never hit her with anything but his hand or with hurtful words. Love makes someone endure a lot when their married to someone, even when it isn’t the best of marriages.

But throughout the years of being married to her husband she had learned to recognize Charles’s many different moods. She learned when to kid, when to speak, when to keep silent and when to fear his anger when he vented on her about work. But she kept herself busy volunteering at the Catholic Church and keeping the house up. It was an old two story house built in the 1930’s by Charles parents.

In spite of the countless tornados that passed close to Salina, not one had hit their farm. Most of the tornados she had seen were small ones. Some were the most fearsome F4 or F5 tornados. She counted her blessings that the usual path they followed was from north to south, not east headed for them. Jeremy kissed his mothers cheek and told her he was going to walk down to the barn and surprise his pa.

June’s eyes beamed with happiness to know that it was her son who knocked on her door, not some other serviceman bringing her news of her son’s death in Iraq. Just as Jeremy was about to head off the porch he heard a anxious bark and “Buster”, a five year old golden lab pushed his way past Cassandra and jumped up on Jeremy and frantically began yelping and wagging its tail.

Jeremy knelt down and hugged the dog as Buster licked his face again and again. Cassandra put her hands on her hip and laughed as she shook her head at how excited Buster was to see Jeremy. He stood up and patted the dogs back before saying, “Come on Buster, let’s go down to the barn.” as he waved goodbye to his mother. When Jeremy reached the barn he saw one of the two barn doors was open and he peeked inside.

Charles had his head leaned down over a John Deere tractor with a socket wrench trying to free a frozen spark plug when he lost his grip and skinned his knuckle as he cursed. “Son of a bitch!” he yelled out as he shook his hand and looked down at his skinned knuckle. When Charles heard a voice say, “Hurt yer hand bad pa?” followed by a laugh, Charles spun around with a look of disbelief on his face.

“Son!” Charles shouted out as a grin came across his face as he made his way to his son. “Boy is it good to see ya. Yer ma and me feared the worst son. With each report on the evening news or headlines in the newspaper of another soldier killed by either an Iraqi soldier or damned cell phone bomb, we worried one day someone from the army would come knocking on our door giving us bad news. I’m sure glad that soldier was you son.

You look great son. Glad to see the army put some meat on yer bones.” Charles bellowed as he shook his son’s hand. Quickly Charles broke the handshake from pain and looked over at the work bench for a towel. He wiped the blood and grease off his hands and proudly looked up at his son. “Does yer ma know your back son?” Jeremy’s dad asked. “Yes pa, I knocked on the front door before I came down her.” Jeremy said as he reached down and patted Buster’s head as he felt him nudging his hand impatiently.

“I can see Buster’s missed ya son.” Charles said with a laugh as Jeremy shook his head and grinned. “Come on up to the house son. I needed a break anyways.” he said and the two men headed for the house. But halfway to the house Charles happened to look to his left, beyond the garden and saw the tornado moving south. It wasn’t a huge one, but one that held both men’s attention for a moment.

“Son, your ma and I have been blessed to live out of the path of most of them tornados. It doesn’t mean that one won’t swirl west and come right for us though. If that happens we’ll head for that storm cellar door and hope for the best.” Charles said and Jeremy nodded. “Now come on, let’s get inside and sit down and have a drink.” he said as he put his arm on his sons shoulder. Jeremy wasn’t much of a drinker and definitely didn’t have a taste for whiskey. But his father did.