The January sun was slowly fading behind the distant horizon as I made my way up the long, familiar driveway.

I wanted to see Papa, my grandfather, one more time before setting out again. My flight was the next day, and I wouldn’t be back for months.

As I pulled up in his front yard, however, it dawned on me that I might be too late. It was already 6:00 pm, and he always turned in early. I’m told that most farmers do.

I let myself in and could immediately see that all the lights were off. The house was quiet, save the whimpering of a terrier and the incoherent mutterings of a parrot.  

When I walked back toward his room, I heard the easy rhythm of an old man snoring. I was, indeed, too late.

The January sun was slowly brightening the distant horizon as I once again drove up the long, familiar driveway.

It was 6:00 am the next morning. He’d definitely be awake now, and probably had been up for quite a while.

This time, the lights were on. As I walked in, he suddenly appeared in the laundry room door, a look of bewilderment on his face.

And then he laughed.

We went in the kitchen, and he fixed me some breakfast: raisin bran and coffee. We talked about my travels, the pictures I had brought him, family… a wonderful visit.

Eventually, it was time to go. Him to feed up, me to finish packing up. A tight embrace, and we were both on our way.

When I walked into his house the next time, three months later, everything was basically as it had been. The terrier and parrot were still there. The photo album I had brought him was still on the kitchen table.

But the house was empty. And to me, it always will be.

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