Close your eyes, he said, and go back to a place where you felt comfortable, at ease and totally secure.
Nothing came at first, but as I concentrated, or rather, stepped away from concentration into just being, an image began to appear that felt right. I settled into the image and let it form. It took on corners - the corners of a kitchen, and I was sitting in it, not on a chair, but in the corner of the room itself, looking out into the room.As I looked into it, the room became more distinct.
There were cupboards to my right, and a coal stove rumbling to the right of that. The walls had wallpaper, and a bare light hung over a kitchen table. Across the room my grandfather sat in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth. I could hear the floor creaking as he rocked. He was looking out the window onto the porch through a latticework of potted plants. The sun was going down, and everything was very peaceful. I could hear the low rumble of the stove and could almost hear the sun and the window glass as the image became more clear and Grandpa more present from a moment that might have been, from a time that must have been imprinted.
He said, why don't you talk to your grandfather for awhile, so I talked to him and told him all the things I never told him when I was too young to know what to say. He listened carefully to all I felt and all I feared about the world and didn't understand, and then, buoyed up by my openness, Grandpa began to speak.
He told me how he felt and what he wanted and why he was so sad. He told me how he missed my grandma, and how every night when the sun went down and he came in from the chores, the evening light reminded him of her and the day she went away, a winter day, when at the end of the lawn by the bridge she turned and waved before walking to the road to catch her ride to Salt Lake.
He told me how much he missed little Charles, of the nights before he died when out of the darkness the loud rasping of his breathing filled the air and how helpless it made him feel. He told me about my mother and about the boys and about the pain of loneliness and confusion in the wake of death, and of striking out at pain and of being numb and not knowing whether you want to live or die.
And he held my head against his chest, against the soft brown shirt where I could smell the scent of cows and barnyard, and I could feel him crying. And without thinking, without holding back, I cried too, and my tears made spots on his shirt but it didn't matter.
And then suddenly I was a teenager sitting with him on the back step of the house he bought in American Fork after selling the farm, and I cradled his head in my hands and held him against me like a mother would and told him that I understood the pain now and that it was OK, that he didn't have to hold it in the way a stone would hold a sword.
And the sword cut deep, and the pain gushed out - whole torrents - to be swallowed in its own recognition. And I didn't have to be confused anymore. I didn't have to be responsible, to be inside the pain; I could step away from it if I wanted. The pain was no longer a mystery.
Then after I said everything I wanted to and after Grandpa had said everything he wanted, I started to let the image of Grandpa's kitchen go. But I couldn't, and he asked me why. And I said, Mudge. And he said, who's Mudge? And I said, Zell's pit bull in the crawl space under the coal shed by Grandpa's back door.
And so he had me picture Mudge and a gun, and I killed Mudge and dug a deep hole and buried her out by the pear tree south of Grandpa's house.
And he told me he wanted me to visit Grandpa for 10 minutes a day for the next week even though he's been gone for several years, and to tell Grandpa how I felt and to listen to him tell me how he felt.
And I did, and I started to understand why everything was so confused for so long, so long that it wasn't thought of as confusion anymore, but as just the way things are.
It's amazing how the simplest of impressions form the context of our life, coloring the way we see the world as distinctly as if we were wearing colored lenses and didn't even know it.