The end of my sophomore year was approach­ing. Mom called me at the dorm one muggy evening during the last week of May. My summer break would be spent with Grandma and Grandpa, helping out around their farm. The arrangement made good sense to all the family. I wasn’t fully convinced of that myself but figured it was just one summer. Next year would be my little brother’s turn.


I packed my car after my last exam and said my good-byes until the fall. My friends would keep until then. Most of them were going home for the summer anyway.


The farm was about a three-hour driver from school. My grandparents were both in their seven­ties, and I knew they really needed the help around the farm. I arrived late that after­noon. Grandma had fixed more food than the three of us could possibly eat. She doted over me entirely too much. I figured all the attention would taper off once she got used to having me around, but it didn’t. Grandpa wanted to bring me up to date on literally everything. By the time I settled in for bed that night, I’d de­cided things would be okay. After all, it was just for one summer.


The next morning, Grandpa fixed breakfast for the two of us. He told me Grandma had tired herself out yesterday and was going to rest in bed a little longer. I made a mental note to myself to not ask her to do things for me while I was there. I was there to help, not be a burden.


Grandpa surprised me that morning. Once we were out of the house, he seemed more in his own element. The farm was his domain. Despite his age, there was confidence in the way he moved about the place. He didn’t seem like the same person who had fallen asleep last night on the couch before the six o’clock news was finished.


Weeks passed. I gradually settled into a routine of daily work with Grandpa. He had a mental schedule of things that needed doing, and we worked on part of it each day. In the evenings I usually talked with Grandma. She never grew tired of hearing about college or anything I was in­volved in. she told me stories about her child­hood, family and the early years after she and Grandpa had married.


The last Saturday in June, Grandpa suggested we go fishing, since we were caught up on every­thing. We drove the pickup to the pond that day. We hadn’t expected what we saw when we got to the pond that morning: One of the swans was dead. Grandpa had given the pair of swans to grandma on their fiftieth anniver­sary.