Even on cold winter days, I walked to the hilltop with grandpa Eli and sat between two oak trees he had named Peace and Wrath. Cold, foggy air chilled our earlobes and fingertips, made our noses run. We sat on a tattered quilt, some of its patches ripped, frayed, all of them faded, smelling of mold. He plopped down onto the edge, letting me sprawl out on the rest of the quilt, playing silent games with myself, the people and creatures I imagined. I ran my hands across blades of grass, collected Chickweed, looked for beetles that had toppled over, rescuing them from critters lurking in the shadows.
This wasn’t a time for conversation, just the opposite. At most, grandpa Eli tolerated a soft whisper when I got carried away, but maybe that was because he didn’t hear me. With his legs outstretched and crossed at the ankles, he stared at the mountain, the milky sky, listened to animals scurry, and got lost in his thoughts, which, based on the deep lines in his brow, were all-consuming.
Sometimes, after I had exhausted my imagination, I stared up at the naked branches, thick and thin limbs intertwined, locked in an embrace, wondering if they had grown together on purpose. When grandpa Eli found what he was looking for, we walked back down the hill and into the house where he made us both a cup of hot chocolate. We never talked about why he ventured up the hill everyday, why we couldn’t talk, but later I understood that while we sat there on the unforgiving ground, chilled to the bone, he had a conversation with wrath, let it boil over uncontained, let it slow to a simmer, then cool and shrink back to size, becoming again the part of him he could embrace, maybe even love.