My bare feet pressed into stone slate floor as I stepped closer to the sliding glass door. Cool night air blew through an aged screen as the outside world grew in shades of darkness.
I paused, listening as my siblings crawled into their beds. My parents murmured goodnight and dimmed the lamps. Before me the open world waited.
Wrapping an afghan tight around my body I lifted my hand to the screen latch and pulled. Aged plastic wheels rolled and bumped over pebbles and dust in it’s tracks. Wind came pouring in coursing around me.
A voice spoke in the twilight. “Michael Donis is that you?”
I felt both feet leave the floor at my grandfather’s voice.
“Grampa! I didn’t know you were out here!” I hissed, seeing his glasses flash with the last rays of daylight.
We stood there for a moment, staring one another. Grandpa smiled and looked up into the night sky, “Well boy, come sit down and look at the stars with me.”
“Yes sir.” I said, closing the door and stepping over to the porch swing. Before me the porch rail melted into shadow, merging into a vast stretch of black earth. Miles away the lights of a small city glowed, outlining the edge of mountains that ranged around us. As a seven year old I already felt small next to many of the adults in my life. But comparing that to the vast stretches of darkened rock I felt as a spec of dust on the wind. I sat down next to grandpa, wrapped in his favorite woven blanket.
Above us the sky filled with a thousand pin-pricks of light. My eyes open wider, trying to take in all the dancing stars
Grandpa leaned over, his voice quiet in my ear, “Makes you feel small, don’t it?”
I nodded, not taking my eyes from the sky. “Uh huh.”
He put an arm around me, tucking me into his side. Being a small child had it’s advantages, and I snuggled in close. His arm was warm and comforting there in the darkness. It was a solid presence in the shifting evening. Part of me wanted to be afraid, but the thump of his heart and even breathing calmed my nerves.
“There’s so many of them up there, Grampa.” I whispered, stretching my arm skyward, reaching for the heavens.
“Mmm-hmm.” Thrummed grandpa. He was a man of few words, and I loved it. Every word spoken by him was what he felt and meant.
Curiosity gripped my young mind and looked up at the outline of his face. “Grampa, do you ever feel small?”
He thought for a moment, staring up into the wheeling arm of the milky way. His arm squeezed me. For a moment we sat there with each other, looking on as the cosmos passed into infinity.
His voice fell on my ears with a gentleness that could only come from an understanding heart.