Before His Last Smile

Summer 2016, Uncategorized

by Catherine Tersoni


Underwood Archives  UIG / Rights Managed

Underwood Archives UIG / Rights Managed

I walk up the stairs and take a quick left to get to the time clock. I punch in my employee numbers two-five-eight-two-nine-eight just like I do after I clock out of every other shift. I walk back down the stairs to the sales floor. I walk out the automatic door faster than it can open, helping it along with the tip of my shoe. The cold air hits my face as I walk quickly to my car. I get a hold of the icy metal handle to the driver’s side door. My breathing is heavier now that I’m sitting still in my unstarted Nissan Rogue. I push the key in the ignition and hear the engine roar after sitting in the cold all day. I sit and press my toes lightly on the gas for a quick second at a time, in hopes it will warm up faster. I begin to get impatient and put the car into reverse to leave the parking lot.


Robert Frederick Page, Jr, was born on June 26th, 1923. He was the middle son of Robert and Julia Page. He grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where he attended parochial school. Leter, his family moved to Norwell, where he played baseball for the varsity team, achieving a record RBI. After graduation, he enlisted in the army and was assigned to the 416 Night Fighter Squadron. He was involved in multiple combat zones as an Air Operations Specialist. In 1945, he was discharged and soon became a sales representative for the National Lead Company, where stayed for 38 years. Then he worked for the Gillette Corporation, retiring 1985 at age sixty-two.

But that really doesn’t tell you who he is.


I drive the same roads home from work every day. Some days I stop on the way home at my grandparents, which is just a couple miles from home. I have watched the red stop signs in their neighborhood fade with time. I see the same sidewalks that lead right to the pathway to their front door. I walk up that path and open the door to the warm draft coming from their home. It’s always warm in there.


It was crowded on the dance floor, and young Marjorie stared at almost every gentleman in the vicinity, but didn’t see anyone special. Her friends had spent an hour bribing and convincing their younger friend to come. It wasn’t going great.

Robert walked into the room, flashed his smile, and headed toward Marjorie.

She saw him coming. He was certainly handsome.

He tried a joke. “I would take you home tonight, but my wife and kids are sleeping,” he said.

She wasn’t amused. Robert saw his mistake, took back what he’d said, and asked her to dance. She accepted the dance and fell for his smile. She liked his smile.                    


I always say hi to Grammy first. She is always the one to greet me at the door. The hardwood floors are bare; rugs get caught in Pa’s walker. I round the corner into the sunroom to see Pa sitting in his chair, watching “Wheel of Fortune,” an everyday routine. As soon as he notices me, he smiles and says, “Who are you?” He still has a beautiful smile.

I reply, “Who am I? Who are you? And since when do you live here?”

It was our little joke.


I take the first left onto Route 9, the same road I have traveled all my short life. The radio is playing an overplayed Justin Bieber song. I press the off button to the power of the radio, but it’s too silent for me. I turn it back on but adjust the volume to a softer notch. Before noticing what song is playing, it hits me. I am driving the same roads at the same time as always. This time was different though. My destination is the same place as usual, but for a different reason. I drive for 20  minutes, numb. My heart starts to race. Five minutes before I arrive, tears start forming in my eyes. I rub them out of the sockets of my eyes and hope my face hasn’t turned beet red from the tears. I can’t look like I’ve been crying.

I pull into the driveway of my grandparent’s home and put my car into park. I open the door to my now warmed car, step out,  and shut it hard behind me. I approach the door to the house and take a deep breath. The cold isn’t bothering me. The only thing on my mind is what words will be the last words my grandfather hears come out of my mouth. I open the door to the house, walk down the hall towards the hospital bed that seems so out of place in the living room, and sit next to my grandfather to say hello and see his smile one last time. 


Catherine Tersoni of Massachusetts studies English with a creative writing focus at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire.

Photo credit: New York, New York: 1941 .Couples dancing to the Dolly Dawn band at the Roseland Ballroom.. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 10 Jun 2016.

One thought on “Before His Last Smile

  1. I found "Before His Last Smile" to be crafted in both a touching and compelling way. In chronicling the feelings that tumble around inside of her, Ms. Tersoni, employs a unique writing style that is so personal and so very "human" in its offering. Her words amplify the unbreakable bond of family love across generations. Her copy reached out and drew me in, as in a few lines, she captured the spirit and essence of a man who was not only her grandfather, but who was also a part of the World War II generation; a vanishing breed that has now slipped away into the mists of history. The tenderness in her article copy gives one pause to remember and appreciate those people, like her grandfather, and how we can never fully repay them for the sacrifices that they made for all of us…..those who followed after them. A beautifully written article!
    Paul CollinsSouthborough, MA

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