The Gift of One Day

A hard frost had claimed the white Geraniums in the flower boxes on the south side of the little red farmhouse a week earlier. Then Columbus Day weekend brought bright sun and the gift of summer temperatures again.

His family brought him outside around noon and placed him carefully near the east-facing wall where the unseasonable warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze made the temperature just right for the ailing elder.

His cough, which had rattled his chest every few minutes day and night for the past several weeks, ceased in the warm afternoon air. His facial expression relaxed with the slowing of his respirations. His clear, brown eyes squinted in the bright light as his furrowed face turned toward the sun.

From where he sat he could see the tall apple tree in the front yard, the raspberry bushes by the edge of the woods, all leafless now, and the big asparagus patch in the middle of the east lawn. He knew every inch of this place; he could follow each path through the woods in his mind, even now when his legs couldn’t carry him there anymore. He loved this place, this little farm, his place on Earth.

He fell into a quiet, blissful sleep. The neighbor’s potato harvester groaned in the distance and the sound of restless geese, preparing for their autumn flight, echoed from the riverbank nearby. He nodded his head quietly without opening his eyes just as his favorite horse, a kind, gray mare, made her usual blowing sound of contentment from her sun drenched spot along the red barn wall. She stomped one hoof after the other into the hard barnyard ground to chase away flies that had returned with the warm weather.

Later, when Cheryl and Allan pulled up the long driveway in their white convertible with the top down for the last time this season, on an impromptu foliage tour from the city, he opened his eyes and squinted in the sunlight again. He leaned forward and puckered his lips, half frowning, when their border collie lapped his scraggly chin like an ice cream cone.

Whenever Cheryl and Allan came, it was always time for coffee. They offered him sips, but he didn’t drink much. He fell asleep to the tinkling of cups and chatter of voices on the lawn as the warm afternoon inched toward evening and the sun moved westward across the sky.

He woke up with a slight chill and someone pulled his blankets tighter around his shoulders. He coughed slightly and the family quickly started moving inside.

He watched with a twinge of disappointment as Cheryl and Allan piled into their little sports car and buckled the dog’s harness in the back seat. They had a long drive back to town.

By suppertime he was fast asleep in his temporary bedroom in the glassed-in front porch with the heater going and several blankets to keep him warm. This space had allowed him to still be part of all the comings and goings of farm life while confined to his sickbed.

After the supper dishes were done and the barn animas had been tucked in for the night, everyone else went upstairs to their bedrooms. The old one slept peacefully in his glass bedroom downstairs under the cold, starry night sky. Frost formed again on the lawn and rooftops.

The goats chewed their hay. The gray mare stomped her hooves now and then against the barn floor. The old one’s breathing grew labored and quick with a faint wheeze. A chevron of geese appeared in the southwestern sky. Their faint, rhythmic whooshing sound followed the breaths of the old one and grew louder as the birds’ silhouettes crossed the bright yellow harvest moon on their long, inevitable journey from this one to their other home, thousands of miles away. As the sound of their flight grew quieter again, the respirations of the old one grew fainter and further apart. He was already almost home.

(For S…)

2 Responses to “The Gift of One Day”


  1. 1 Wren October 18, 2011 at 4:55 am

    What a beautiful, evocative story, so full of compassion and love. Thank you for sharing it. I’m glad you’re back. I missed your words.


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