He is tall, and handsome, walking across the platform to receive his high school diploma. He is the ninth of our grandsons to graduate from high school, and there is a wrench of the heart every time. It is an emotional moment, and it is hard to keep the tears from flowing. Just yesterday he was a little boy.
Reuben Titus Bragg was born ten years after his older siblings. I was there when he drew his first breath. He was a plump, pink baby with big hands that he waved at the world. He had inherited the Bragg hands from his father, Kevin. I fell in love with him at first sight.
He was so much younger than the other cousins that there was no one near his age for a playmate. He lived right across the driveway, and we soon were best pals. I wrote a column in October of 1992 that describes one of our days together.
“Pilot Knob is wreathed in a misty white cloak early in the morning, but the warming rays of the sun, like a benediction, burns away the fog to reveal another incomparable October day. The sky is a startling blue, and high above the mountain tops a pair of hawks sail lazily. The air is warm, with an undertone of coolness like a Winesap apple that has lain in the sun until the outside is warm to the touch, but the first bite is cool and crisp. Winesap apple days—I love them.
“It is hard to stay in the house on days like this, and my two-year old grandson, Reuben, is always ready for an outdoor excursion. He follows me to feed the chickens, and helps throw cracked corn to the ducks, chattering all the while. The sun shines warm on our backs, counteracting the slight chill that seems to emanate from the shady nooks and sheltered places. We walk below the pond to gather wild peppermint, and admire the wild blue asters that crouch in low mounds along ditch line, their yellow eyes turned toward us.
“Tall goldenrod and purple ironweed flowers tower above Reuben’s head, as he ‘helps’ gather the peppermint. He is an ideal companion for such an expedition, as the older grandchildren are too busy with school and their own projects to explore the woods with Grandma.
“We thoroughly enjoy this day, Reuben and I. In a couple of weeks the leaves will have turned in earnest, and the beauty will be such that our souls seem too small to contain it all. Even now, the greenbrier trails its chain of scarlet leaves up the road bank, and on the dogwood tiny, red berries glisten. It is a joy to be alive, and living in the hills of West Virginia in the fall.”
I wrote another column four years later, when Reuben was starting kindergarten. My heart was full that morning, just as it is now.
August 30, 1996—“August is leaving us, fading away in the early morning mists. Summer is dwindling away, leaving behind ragged, tattered gardens and fading lawns. The bright flowers of fall preside, with yellow goldenrod beaming in the hot sunshine, and the Joe-Pye weed has been blooming for several weeks now. The deep purple of the ironweed contrasts with the tall, golden, wild sunflowers, and the paler yellow of the evening primrose.
“With the ending of summer, and the beginning of autumn, the big, yellow school buses begin their appointed rounds. I lost my sidekick, grandson Reuben, when he started his first day of kindergarten this morning. He was a bundle of excitement, all wrapped up in his new school clothes, and sporting his brand-new backpack on his back. He came over to kiss me good-bye, his eyes shining behind his eyeglasses. He was much more joyful than I felt.
“He has been my shadow ever since he was big enough to toddle between our houses. He shared my interest in wildflowers, mushrooms and wild herbs. Just last week, he found two fresh, firm puffball mushrooms that he presented with pride. (I fried them and we shared them.) He brought me a wild carrot root to chew, and asked, ‘Did you know that Queen Anne’s lace is on the other end?’
“His curiosity and quest for knowledge knows no bounds. His mother found a blacksnake skin in their basement recently, and he informed his Aunt Jennifer, ‘There’s a naked snake running around here somewhere!’
“Yesterday’s playthings lie scattered around the yard and on the porch, like an outgrown cocoon that has been shed. His bicycle is sprawled in the driveway, the green tractor and wagon are abandoned in the yard and his coloring book and crayons are waiting for the little boy who left them on the table. Even his kitten, Rascal, looks sad and forlorn as he waits on the front step. I know that he will return and play with these things again, but he has taken an irrevocable step of babyhood.
“This has been his world, his parent’s and grandparent’s home. He has been my faithful companion in wild herb hunts, scouting for mushrooms, and doing everyday tasks. Now his borders have enlarged, there are exciting new things to learn, and new friendships to be made. I wish he could keep his innocent and childlike faith in people. Yet I know, as he grows and matures, with increased knowledge will come disillusionment and disappointment. It is the inevitable process of growing up—yet it gives us growing pains as we see our little ones approach each landmark.
“We turn them loose with trembling hands and heart pangs. As they take each step, we pray that God will keep and protect them, and ever lead them in the way of truth. We can’t keep them little, and we must let them go no matter how our hearts hurt. A good beginning is so important, and sets the steps for future generations. This is life; one generation moves on, and the next generation takes their place. We can’t stop the tread of time.
“But I miss Reuben.”
by Vivian M. Meyer
Behind the sofa, under the chair,
Little Seth looked everywhere,
A moment before, all shining bright,
Reflecting a rainbow of pretty light,
Caught in an updraft, floating few,
Elusive as ever a thing could be.
Round, like his big brown eyes that searched,
That bubble had lingered before it burst:
With his youthful heart enchanted so,
He said, “Nana, Nana, where did it go?”
“Little grandson, sweet and dear,
I wish I could have kept it here.
As the bubble went, so the moments flee,
(When you are older, you will see.)
I look at the smile on your little face,
And see your father in your place.
Time is a bubble. I’d like to know,
“Grandson, grandson, where did it go?”