Today was our long awaited visit to my grandparent’s house. Not all them, mind you as my Mom’s parents lived farther away than we could manage in one day, but Dads.
I never really thought much about visiting them, other than it bored me to tears. They never seemed to have the TV on, and they didn’t have anything to occupy my time with. Oh, there was a few wooden blocks, and a broken Slinky, but that was about it, unless you were versed in the fine art of conversation.
I used to sit there with my parents, in my Grandmother’s living room, looking around at all the picture frames and such. “Why aren’t there any photos in the frames?” I asked her from time to time. “Dead people are not fun to look at”, she used to say. “I’d rather look at you and your parents, or your dog, if you had one that is. Happy things and happy people.” My parents looked at each other, as if they spent all of their waking moments together, instead of my father hiding out in the garage, until my mother left for the store, or something. “Don’t worry mom”, which sounded funny coming from my dad, “I’ll be sure to develop the film from our last camping trip in the forest. You’ll be so proud of your grandson and his fine grasp of outdoor living!” which made it sound like we had been out hunting grizzly bears, then had skinned them, and eaten the meat, using their furs as carpeting in our newly completed log cabin! My mother looked uncomfortable at the mention of camping, as she knew, we probably hadn’t slept in our tent, which was the same as inviting trouble, from marauding bands of thugs and Canadians.
“Uh, what is Grandpa doing?” I asked, changing the subject rather quickly.
“Oh, you know him. Puttering around in the garage, fixing things and the like.”
My mother didn’t seem to see the connection between what grandpa did, and what his son, my father, also seemed to spend a lot of time doing. I wondered if my grandmother, sweet though she was, did a lot of harping on my grandfather, forcing him to seek refuge out in the garage, probably until the cows came home? I tried to find other things to talk about, but adult topics and me were pretty much non-existent, and I didn’t want to casually bring up something that my parents didn’t know anything about, like the Girl next door, or her many crazy ideas!
“Uh, I think I’ll go outside and look for grandpa, if it is all right with the rest of you?” The adults looked briefly at each other, and started nodding in unison, with my mother probably being a bit more at ease, knowing that I would not be getting into trouble, rummaging about the house, or breaking the odd vase or so.
The backyard looked the same as the front with flower beds and such, and the most well-kept lawn in the neighborhood. I guess, being retired and everything gave my grandparents more time to do the things they liked the most, like fine-tuning their garden, or spending time away from each other as much as possible. I always thought that people who loved each other would want to be together every minute of the day, but I guess there are a lot of things about relationships that I don’t understand as yet?
There wasn’t any noise whatsoever coming from the garage. You’d think that the hum of the radio, or some grinding machine would be spinning somewhere, but such was not the case. I peeked in the door and cautiously called out to my grandfather, “Hello, Anyone home?”.
I peeked around another corner, half expecting to find my grandfather’s body with a knife sticking out of his back, precisely in the spot where my grandmother had stabbed him with her kitchen knife. “There, now I’ve done it!” she would cry, and would be dancing around his prone form, throwing her grey hair back like she was in ecstasy at having done so. “Now you’ve gotten your just deserts – all those years that you’d tormented me with your garage tinkerings, and whatnot else. Now, I’ve been vindicated!” The police would have dragged her toward the paddy wagon, while she screamed and shouted in delight, stabbing at the air as if my grandfather was still alive, then dead, then alive again, then finally dead!
My parents would be shocked and aghast that my grandmother could have done such a thing. If they hadn’t been so blind to their situation, then someone, or something could have been done to save the day. I would have tried to warn them of impending danger, by running signal flags up the flag pole, or climbing up the to the top of the gold dome of the temple, and blowing my bugle just like Sam Jaffee did in Gunga Din. I would have been killed of course, and not having gotten the heroine like Cary Grant, but it would have been worth it, all the same!
A sudden noise was heard from behind me. Lo and behold there was my grandfather, still alive, and bending over a squarish metal can of sorts, then tucking it away once again. “Oh, I didn’t hear you come in. Come over here, and have a seat next to the old man!”
My grandfather was always glad to see me. It didn’t matter if my parents were mad at me, or if my grandmother thought that I should be helping her in the kitchen doing useful things like emptying the trash or wiping off the counter. My grandfather didn’t make any demands of me, he just wanted to hear about my life and thoughts.
Today was no different. He smiled and asked me,”How is your love life going these days?” That was funny. He never mentioned that before. It was always about school and my hobbies, or what interesting books, I had read, but never about girls before.
“Oh, you know?”, I said trying not to think about the girl next door and her kissing me and all.
“Is there a special someone in your life these days? Someone who makes you crazy and makes you mad, and makes you want to kiss her, but then she turns your world upside-down and makes you want to chuck it all away, and go back to more boring, but certain things?”
That man has been reading my thoughts! I don’t know how, but it seems like all of those things in my head as of late, have been let out of their box, just like Pandora and the things that escaped from her. I tried to collect my thoughts and tell him about what had been going on in my life, but I found it hard to put it into words. The fact of the matter is that she had been driving me crazy since the beginning of the summer, and it didn’t seem like it was getting better at all. Better would also be a word to use, if I knew just what I was expecting to happen. She really confused me. I wanted her to kiss me, but she did it so quick that I almost missed it entirely. She gets me into trouble, lies and does illegal things, but do I stop her from doing so? Do I tell her that I’ve had enough? Do I tell her that good friends don’t treat each other in that way? The answers, I’m afraid are no, no and no.
“I can see that you have a lot to think about. I guess you’ve been discovering how crazy women make you feel, and how helpless you feel about them doing so. Is it someone who lives close to you?”
I wanted to tell him so many things, because he seemed to know, what I was going through! I knew he’d keep it under his hat, and wouldn’t burden the rest of the family with my thoughts, or troubles which was reassuring to me, knowing how my mother would react to my story.
“Are you really sure, she is not from Canada? When I was growing up we didn’t have the troubles with foreigners like we have today. My father used to tell me, how Canadians liked our way of life so much that they would sneak over the border every night, in order to learn about the pure and wholesome way that Americans lived and worked. If my father told me something, then it was law! Always listen to your parents because they have been on this planet a lot longer than you, and have a wealth of information all ready to bestow upon you.”
Mom was right about a lot of things, but she didn’t know everything! My grandfather on the other hand knew a lot of things, but never told me that he was right all the time, or that I should do exactly like he said. He excused himself for a minute and seemed to be looking around for that metal can once again. He pulled out a new one, a bit farther away from the firs,t and proceeded to take a sip from it. “Ah, the elixir of the Gods”, which made me wonder what the Gods had put into those metal cans, that seemed to make my grandfather even happier than before! I guess, he really knew how to live out here in the garage!
“Try not to think about it, too much”, he said after a while. “If it comes, if comes.” You are young with the rest of your life ahead of you. You’ll get to know a lot of girls in your life. Some will make you happy, and some sad. The “make you crazy” part will fade in some ways, but grow stronger in others. Don’t try to tell yourself that you understand women, because suddenly, they will do an about face, and change the equation before you know what hit you! If you’ve got a good thing going for yourself, then by all means continue with it, regardless of what your parents say. That is the exciting thing with life – the unknown!”
When I left the garage once again, I felt like a new person once again. I know the Girl next door made me crazy from time to time, but it was exciting all the same. Part of the excitement came from deceiving my mother, said as if she could read my very thoughts right now, and give me a whooping. I hesitated a moment, half expecting her to fly out of the house in my direction, brandishing a belt, or a stick blocking my way and threatening me with corporal punishment for my thoughts.
When I looked again, there was no one there. It was just my vivid imagination going amuck once again. My parents were still inside, getting ready to leave, when my grandmother asked me, “How was your talk with your grandfather?” said with a twinkle in her eye, as if she too could read my thoughts about the Girl next door and such.
“Oh. Okay I guess. We just killed some time and talked about screws and nails and such,” which was not entirely true and worried me a bit, as I had become better at stretching the truth, since I started hanging out with the Girl next door.
She wished us well, and said how she looked forward to getting some pictures of our camping trip, when she said goodbye at the screen door.
I just sat on the backseat, lost in my own thoughts on the way home. “What are you wasting your time with, thinking about this time?” came my mother’s resounding voice from the front seat. My father just kept his eyes on the road and hummed a tune, while the miles rolled on by.
“Just things, mom. Just things……”