"Observe your surroundings," Grandpa whispered, his left hand resting gently upon my right shoulder, while his right hand gestured expansively before us. "This is my daily view now."
I gazed out upon undulating emerald hills, majestic snow-capped mountains looming in the distance, and the iridescent, frothy waves crashing onto the sandy shoreline. Never before had I beheld such an abundance of natural beauty in a single panorama. The impulse to capture this moment with a photograph briefly crossed my mind, but I hesitated, fearing that any movement might shatter the enchantment.
A balmy breeze tousled my hair, and the faint chirping sounds drew nearer. I glanced at Grandpa, watching his countenance as he undoubtedly cataloged the precise species of the approaching birds—an activity he cherished. Fleetingly, I recalled the diminutive Birdwatching Book that used to reside on the end table next to his recliner in Grandma and Grandpa's living room. On occasion, I would leaf through its pages, marveling at the colorful and exotic avian creatures, wondering how Grandpa could commit them all to memory.
"What type of bird is that?" I inquired softly, observing a solitary bird alighting in a nearby tree. Its feathers rustled, and it emitted a few more melodious chirps before becoming still, gazing out over the landscape.
"A Blue Dacnis. Isn't it magnificent?" Grandpa responded, withdrawing his hand from my shoulder and leading me toward the tree with a hushed, deliberate pace. We halted just short of the tree, savoring the moment, embracing the natural world and the connection between us, which had been absent for far too long.
I cast my gaze upward into the tree, admiring a bird I had never before encountered: resplendent in deep black and vivid blue, its plumage appeared as velvety as fur. It journeyed alone, yet seemed tranquil in its solitude.
"Where does it originate from?" I inquired further, pondering the rarity of our discovery.
"From various places," Grandpa replied, "Primarily Argentina."
The peculiarity of an Argentinian bird in this locale briefly crossed my mind, yet I reminded myself that I was uncertain about the exact location of "here." I contemplated posing the question but was overwhelmed by the dread of the potential answer.
I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and was enveloped by the amalgamation of fresh air and Grandpa's cologne—a scent whose absence I hadn't truly noticed until this very moment. Time seemed to dissolve, and I struggled to discern how long it had been since our last encounter, but I was certain it had been too lengthy.
"So, this is where you've been," I commented, reaching out for Grandpa's hand.
"Yes," he responded simply. "I've been preparing it."
He articulated these words as if their import should be self-evident: that he had been present all this while, that he was readying something, and that the purpose of this preparation should be obvious. Yet, I remained baffled.
"Preparing?" I queried.
He smiled and nodded. "Someday, when the timing is right, you will join me here. So will Grandma, your Mom, your aunt, and your cousins. Someday, we will all reunite in this place."
Suddenly, comprehension dawned upon me. This was our personal semblance of paradise.
"But I miss you," I confessed, and for the first time since arriving here, I knew I was wearing a frown. My heart ached as if it were being wrenched from my chest, realizing that someday wouldn't arrive soon—there was a long life ahead without Grandpa. He wouldn't be present at my birthdays, my wedding, he wouldn't witness me becoming a mother or watch my children grow. His absence would persist, eternal.
"I miss you too," he replied serenely. "But I am always with you. Observing. Preparing. Waiting."
A brief silence ensued as I grappled with this reality. It was a blessing to see him, hear him, and feel his presence, yet it was a cruelty to acknowledge that this experience was ephemeral, and I couldn't have him with me every day. I sought desperately for a solution, a way to bring him home with me, but I understood it was impossible. I had no choice but to savor each moment remaining with him.
"I am proud of you," he beamed, and I knew it was sincere. He enveloped me in a warm embrace and squeezed me tightly. "I am immensely proud of you. And one day, we will celebrate your accomplishments and victories together, here."
Tears welled up in my eyes, realizing this was the beginning of our farewell.
I clung to him, whispering softly, "I love you, Grandpa."
"I love you too, sweetie."
His words provided solace, but the truth persisted: this moment was transient, and sooner rather than later, I would return to Earth while he remained here. The idea prompted me to hold onto him even tighter, as if my embrace could indefinitely prolong our encounter.
Then, it felt as though he dissipated from the air around me. I floated downward, descending through the plains and into the earth, through the clouds, until I gently landed on my pillow.
I hesitated to open my eyes, inhaling deeply, yearning for Grandpa's cologne to linger in the air. Instead, the scent of cooking bacon wafted from a distant room. When I finally opened my eyes, I could feel the tears on my cheeks.
There are dreams that elicit tears of sorrow, fear, joy, and love. Earth would never be the same without Grandpa, but I was eternally grateful for that fleeting touch of heaven.