“Dear God, Great Grandma, and Great Grandpa. I hope all of you are listening. I think Mommy and Daddy are getting so angry with each other that they might split up. I don’t want that to happen. I hope one of you are listening, because, we need help. Amen.”
That was Ashley’s prayer before she fell asleep.
Betty heard Ashley’s prayer. In response, Betty chose to speak to Ashley in her dream world.
As Ashley dreamed, she found herself running through a forest. The forest was full of dangers and unknowns. Everything in the vast surrounding frightened her. There were objects flying, trying to grab her. Her dream was void of color. It had only shapes, forms and sounds. The color was absent from her dreams, because Ashley was born blind. She had never seen color. She found herself on the ground crawling. She could feel the dirt against her palms. The small stones with jagged edges cut painfully into her hands and knees. Groping with her hands, she came upon a pair of feet. Not just ordinary feet. These feet had been clothed in a soft cloth. As Ashley reached higher, she felt a form. To her surprise a pair of hands reached out and took her by her shoulders and helped her to stand. These were loving, gentle hands. The hands were not much larger than her own.
As Ashley was helped to her feet, she asked, “Who are you?”
She felt no fear of the cloth covered person. She did not jerk away when she felt the gentle hands rubbing the dirt off her face. Her surprise came when the entity spoke.
“I am your Great Grandmother, Betty Marie Jackson. You prayed for help and God heard your prayer. I was allowed to come to you and help.
Feeling a sense of relief and protection, Ashley wrapped her small arms around her Great Grandmother. She knew now, she was safe, and had no reason to be afraid. Betty knowing the relief Ashley felt, embraced her Great Granddaughter. Then, for only a second, Betty wished it was not a dream. She would love to be able to hold and protect Ashley, as well as her other children.
As she held Ashley and waited for her to talk, The Almighty gave her a thought she had not considered. She could hold all the children in the world. She could hold them in their dreams. She knew at that moment, she would be able to comfort anyone that would allow her. Accepting the knowledge she had just received, gave her even more joy. All around her, she could hear the singing of angels. Betty was the only one who could hear the singing.
Still embracing her Great Grand Mother, Ashley asked, “Grandma Betty?”
If I can touch you, and talk to you, does that mean I am dead?”
Unable to hold the laughter, Betty let out a loud and joyful laugh. The sound of her laughter was heard far and wide. To Ashley’s ears, the sound of her Grand Mother’s laughter was the best music she had ever heard.
“No, baby, you are not dead. I came to you in your dream because I did not want to frighten you.”
“But, it is not fair, I can’t see you. I can’t see anyone or anything. I wish I could see you, just once.
That’s all, just once.”
Betty, feeling the pain of her granddaughter, knew she had to prepare Ashley for what was about to happen.
“Now is the time I must tell you some things I hope you will understand.”
Ashley could hear the seriousness in her Grandmother’s voice.
“Grandma, did I do something wrong? If I did I’m sorry.”
“No baby, you did nothing wrong.”
Betty continued. “This is your dream world. This is the place you can come to when you are asleep. In this place you can change, simply by wanting the change. Here is where you make most of the rules.
I am going to give you something to wear while I am here. This way, you will be able to see me. What I am giving you will help you change your sleeping dream world, to something full of joy.”
Without another word, Betty slipped her bifocal eyeglasses onto Ashley’s face. Betty then stepped an arms length back. Ashley gasped as her eyes focused on the beautiful, glowing lady in front of her. She gasps again and began shouting. “I can see, Grandma. I can see! Grandma Betty, I can see you and you are so beautiful. You are more beautiful than I was told. More beautiful than I imagined.”
“While I am here, when you want to see me, simply put the glasses on. For now, I want you to rest. Rest my child, for tomorrow will be a busy day.”
“But, Grandma, you just gave me sight and now you are leaving.”
“No Ashley, I am not leaving. You do need rest without dreams, and no. I did not give you your sight. You can see only me, when you wear the glasses. I will try and help you to understand your world a little better. Now, no more discussion, you will see me tomorrow.
“But…you can’t leave now. I have so many questions.”
Betty replied in a soft soothing voice, God has all the answers.” Then there was silence. As quickly as Betty appeared in Ashley’s dream, she disappeared. Ashley’s pleas to her Grandma Betty had been to no avail.
Ashley slept in a peaceful sleep, unlike any she had ever known.
The following morning, Ashley was awakened by the sound of her parents, arguing in the kitchen. Ashley sprang out of bed, putting on her robe as she made her way to the kitchen. Before going to the kitchen, she darned her dark glasses to hide her eyes from others.
Having spent her entire life in this house, she could negotiate the floor plan almost as well as a sighted person. She faced problems only when something was moved or left out of place.
Ashley hurried as quickly as she safely could toward the kitchen, shouting every step of the way, “Mama, Daddy
Grandma is here. Over and over she repeated the same. Each time she would yell it louder. “Mama, Daddy, Grandma is here.” She continued shouting until she reached the kitchen. Upon her arrival, the kitchen fell silent. Vicky, Ashley’s mother, and James her father, and her older brother, Amos turned and starred at her. Ashley became silent as well. Ashley’s parents and brother noticed she was not wearing the dark glasses she usually wore. Instead, she was wearing reading glasses. Bifocals!
Being sensitive to Ashleys’ feelings, no body said anything about her glasses. Ashley became silent after entering the kitchen, because she saw Grandma Betty, leaning on what Ashley recognized as the kitchen counter. The expression on Betty’s face told Ashley, her Grandmother was not the least bit happy with what she was hearing here.
Amos could no longer refrain from asking, “Ashley, where did you get those pop bottles? They look like old folks glasses.” Of course the question earned him a dissatisfied look from his parents. For his own safety, Amos closed his mouth.
Ashley began to smile. “I’m looking at Grandma Betty. She is looking at you. Now, she is making a funny face at you, but you can’t see her.”
Betty had heard more than enough. She already knew what the problem was and clearly understood both Vicky and James both were at fault. She also knew if they were not set straight, this marriage was sunk.
Betty knew Ashley was the only one that could see her. She also knew, Ashley was the only one that could hear her. Betty had listened to the argument coming from both sides. Vicky was frustrated with James’ long hours as a store manager. Sometimes the hours were as many as eighty to ninety per week. With James working those long hours, most all the child rearing fell on Vicky. With a teenage son, and a visually disabled daughter, Vicky was worn. She had reached her wits end. In addition to the demands of her family, her time with James was like two ships passing in the night. Vicky was beginning to think there was another woman. She began to believe the worse, from their accusations had started.
James looking forward to opportunities for advancement was doing all he could to move up the corporate ladder. To accomplish this advancement, he knew he would have to sacrifice some of the time spent with his family. Seeing the possible advance being helpful for his families needs, he was doing his best to achieve that goal. However, Vicky’s accusations; accusing him of infidelity had struck a nerve. He was not going to take those accusations quietly. The arguments had gotten more frequent in the last two weeks.
Betty knew her intervention was necessary. She had to cool both sides and help return peace to this home, before disaster struck. Standing in the corner of the kitchen with her arms crossed, she spoke again to Ashley.
“Ashley, whisper to your mother. Tell her that Amos should go see his friend Martin for awhile. But, you need to remain here.”
“Yes Grandma,” Ashley answered.
With deliberate and careful steps, Ashley walked around the kitchen table to her mother. Ashley pulled slightly on her mothers sleeve to indicate a secret. Vicky bent to hear the whisper then responded.
“Who told you that?”
Ashley not liking the idea of being stuck in the middle said nervously, “Um…..Grandma Betty.”
Betty said to Ashley. “Relax and remain calm Ashley. Tell your mother, in a whisper, that she put her coupon pouch in the freezer. It is between the first two packs of hamburger. She will find it on top, in the right rear corner.
Ashley did as she was instructed.
Vicky listened to Ashley’s whispered message. As if she had been slapped in the face, Vicky glanced first at James, and then at Amos. Saying nothing, she straightened her back and stood to her feet. She thought to herself, making her way to the freezer; that no one was here when she brought groceries yesterday. No one ever goes in the freezer, if they don’t have to, so how does Ashley know what is in there.
She opened the lid of the apartment sized freezer. Immediately she spotted the two packs of meat. Without hesitation, she reached in and picked up the top package. Underneath, wrapped carefully, lay the second package. Frowning, Vicky reached in to put the top package back in it place. Her hand lost grip on the meat. The package slipped and tumbled back into place, face down. Vicky’s coupon pouch was clearly visible. It had frozen to the bottom of the package.
Vicky did not say a word. With a shaking hand, she removed the frozen pouch from the package of meat.
Ashley had remained silent as she watched Grandma Betty move to the corner to the open freezer. She watched Betty move her hand, and then heard a tumbling sound, as if something was falling into the freezer.
Betty looked at Ashley and smiled. Ashley returned the smile. Ashley knew her mother believed her now.
Vicky closed the freezer lid softly. While still looking down at the closed lid, she said, “Amos, I think you need to go see your friend Martin for a while. I will call you when you need to come home.”
Amos, happy to be told to go visit his friend, did not delay his exit. Before he got through the door James said, “Stay out of trouble while you are over there.”
Vicky turned and gave James a hard look. She said nothing until Amos had left.
Speaking as if Ashley was not in the room, Vicky turned on James.
“He is fourteen years old, and all you have to say to him is “stay out of trouble?” “You are never around here enough to know if he is in trouble or not.”
Betty then spoke directly to Ashley. “Give your father a hug. Then put my glasses on him. Don’t worry, you will get them back.”
Ashley carefully walked to the end of the table where she knew her Daddy always sat. She captured his attention with a gentle touch to his face. “I love you Daddy.” She then wrapped her small arms around his neck.
James was angry, but not with his daughter. He returned the hug he received from Ashley. To his surprise, when Ashley released him from the hug, she quickly and smoothly slipped off the glasses and placed them on his face. They fit perfect. He then turned his head and saw the glowing lady in the corner of the kitchen.
“What ‘” in ‘” the – world?” James said, drawing out each word.
He saw Betty clearly. He had never seen a spirit or an angel. The anger he had with Vicky, now took a back seat. He stared at Betty. It took him a few seconds to recognize her.
“Hello James. I see you and Vicky are having a little problem. That is not unusual for the living.
The reason I am here is, my Great Granddaughter prayed for help, and I was allowed to come to your rescue. Now, if you want to save your marriage, get up and walk over to your wife. Wrap your arms around her and share with her the glasses you are wearing. Believing his eyes and his heart, James left his chair and stepped over to his wife.
Amos, a half block from his home, felt he should return. Ashley was acting very unusual this morning. Even though his mother had told him she would call him when it was time to come home, he felt an urgency to go now. He turned and headed back to his house.
James, standing in front of his wife, took her by the shoulders and physically turned her around until she faced the corner of the kitchen. Her protest and objections were ignored, James stepped behind Vicky. Removing the glasses from his face, and holding the bifocals by the frame, he held them up to eye level so Vicky could see through the lenses.
“Grandma!” Vicky exclaimed, at sight.
“Yes, I’m here. Ashley prayed for help, and I was allowed to come. Now, don’t get excited, I am here to help, and then I will be leaving. Share the glasses with your husband. You use one lens, while he uses the other. I want to talk to both of you at the same time.
Vicky instructed James, who was still standing behind her, to place his head on her shoulder. This would allow them to share the glasses and have one lens each. James, being in love with his wife, took advantage of the opportunity to wrap his arms around her. Vicky was too surprised with Betty’s visit to notice his affection.
“Now that I have your attention….” Betty was interrupted by Amos entering through the back door. No one noticed him except Betty and Ashley.
Judging him by his foot steps, Ashley knew it was Amos. She said, “sh-hhh”… to him. Amos, unaware of what was taking place, froze in his tracks.
Betty continued. “It is real clear to me, that you two are having a serious communication problem. Vicky, you speak, but you don’t say anything. It’s just one big continuous complaint. James, when you are home, you are too preoccupied with your career to listen to what is being said. She is telling you that the life of this family is dying. Vicky, you have complained so much that he is no longer listening.”
Vicky opened her mouth to protest, but was silenced by Betty. Holding her hand in a halt position she said, “Don’t, just listen.” Vicky closed her mouth. She remembered as a child, when Grandma said, “Don’t”, it meant just that, Don’t! Betty was far from being finished.
“You two have two children to raise. You act like you are in this world all by yourselves. You are not teaching your children that marriage is a sacred, union of a man and a woman, or two people becoming as one. What you are teaching them is selfishness on your part. This wrong was not taught to either of you when you were children. If you want to stay married, it would be wise for you to start dating again.
Vicky, if you think it is so bad and awful now, how do you think it would be if James were not here. You would have everything on your back, including the cooking, the cleaning, getting the kids where they need to go, and plus, all the bills.
James, if you trade your family for your job, will the job ever produce grand children for you. Does that job care if you are alive or dead? If you have no family, what then will you be working for, other than advancement? You will, without family advance into rich – poverty. And there is such a thing, I might add. Those who have a lot of money and power, but no one to love them, are suffering rich poverty. They try to fill their lives with things that only rank as second best to the loved ones they let slip away. Is that what you want?”
James remorsefully answered, “No.”
“Good. Now, I want you to kiss and make up. Do it not because I tell you to, but because your children are all the treasure you can make on this earth. When your time is done, you will have to answer for everything, and I do mean everything. I suggest very strongly, you get it right now. The Master gives very few second chances, so don’t expect it. Now give my glasses to Amos. He and I need to talk.”
James and Vicky knew they had just had an attitude adjustment, like none they had ever had before.
James stepped over to his son. Holding the glasses out to Amos, he told him to put them on; someone wanted to talk to him.
Looking first at his father, then at his mother, Amos was not sure if putting the glasses on was a wise thing to do. Everyone in the family was acting kind of strange. Vicky seeing her son’s apprehension said,
“It’s safe, put them on.”
Trusting his mother’s word, Amos put the glasses on. James stepped to the side and Amos saw the beautiful, shining lady. He instantly recognized her. She was his Great Grandmother “Grandma Betty, you are beautiful.”
Ashley not wanting to be left out, said. “I told you Grandma, you are beautiful.”
Betty was not being swayed by the compliments. She said, “I am not as beautiful as heaven”
“Now young man, it’s your turn. You can choose your own friends. However, they will affect you for the rest of your life. You are becoming a man. But, you are not a man yet. Hear me, and hear me well. If being smart can make you one of the best; then ignorance can make you one of the worst. You can do much better in school than what you are doing. Your grades are a poor reflection on your abilities, yourself, and your family. I know you are afraid of being looked down on by your friends if you study and get good grades. Keep in mind also, the people that have the most to say are usually the ones that are going to do the least amount of good for anyone, including themselves.
Amos stood still and starring. He was too shocked to speak.
“Don;t think everything you are doing is a secret,” Betty continued. “We know your secrets. Sooner or later you will have to join us, and then you will know how much you don’t know. What you now know is nothing compared to what you have yet to learn. Don’t ever say again, I know, because, you don’t know. Now, give my glasses to your sister.”
Amos walked over to Ashley and placed the glasses on her face. When he removed his hands, Ashley had a clear view of her Grandma.
“Ashley lets go to your room and have a talk.”
“Ok Grandma. Grandma Betty and I are going to my room to have a talk.” She announced to everyone present in the kitchen. With ease and familiarity, Ashley then turned and left the room.
In her bedroom, Betty told Ashley to sit on her bed. “Ashley, I know you are lonely and afraid. I am going to spend the rest of the day talking with you, if that is alright?”
“Yes, Grandma Betty that would be to cool.” Ashley responded with a large smile.
Amos went to his room. He told his mother and father he had some heavy thinking to do. When asked what Grandma Betty had said, he responded. “She said I have a lot of work to do.”
Once in his room, Amos wiped the tears from his eyes. He looked in the mirror and spoke to his mirrored image. “Do you want Grandma Betty on your case again? If not then you better get real smart, real fast.” Without the pleading from his mother, or the threats from his father, Amos had made his decision. He picked up his book bag from the floor, and sat it on his desk. He knew he had a lot of work to do. He was now ready to get started.
James poured Vicky a cup of coffee and one for himself. Turning to face Vicky, with a cup in each hand he said, “I’ve been needing to talk to my best friend for quiet awhile. Would you join me on the patio for a cup of coffee and some conversation?”
Vicky surprised by the kind gesture, was quick to accept. They consumed two pots of coffee by noon. They also shed a good portion of tears. Both had missed their best friend; each other.
Ashley was totally satisfied spending the rest of the day with Grandma Betty. When she was called to dinner later, Grandma Betty instructed her to leave the glasses on her night stand. Betty promised Ashley she would be there waiting for her to return.
After dinner, Amos returned to his studies. James and Vicky opened a bottle of wine and sat on the sofa. They were talking and laughing. Ashley returned to her room.
Ashley and Betty enjoyed each others company late into the night. When Ashley began to yawn, she was encouraged by Betty to sleep
“But Grandma, if I go to sleep, you will leave.”
“Yes, I will have to leave, but you can say goodbye to me in your dreams, I will be there with you.”
In minutes Ashley was asleep.
In Ashley’s dream, she again saw her Great Grandmother. They enjoyed each others company and conversation. As the time for Betty’s departure drew near, Ashley asked her Grandmother.
“Grandma Betty, how will I know when I am right or wrong? If you are gone, and Mom is not with me, How will I know?”
“Listen for the soft, yet firm and gentle voice, you will know.”
In Ashley’s dream it became harder and harder for her to see Betty. Knowing, she was about to lose her Grandmother, in her dream Ashley began to cry.
“Dry your eyes,
Calm your fears,
I will be with you always,
Down thru your years.
No matter where you go,
No matter where you are,
I will be with you,
Near or far.
“Goodnight baby Ashley. You’ll be fine.” That was her final words as she disappeared into the ether of dreamland.
Ashley knowing she would never gain her sight spoke out in her sleep.
“Why can’t they see what I see?”
Originally published under Larone Mckinley aka Larry O’Neal Bifocal Series Short Stories:
Bifocal 1 Keeper of the Glasses at;