The Greatest Generation
My grandfather was a crook. That's what my mom said one day when I was a kid. "What kind of crook?" I asked. "A bank robber?" I see him standing in front of a teller, a college girl with red hair and freckles. She stares at him in horror.
"The money," growls my grandfather. "You deaf? Your cash drawer. Empty it. Here." He pushes a paper sack under the slot in the window that is supposed to protect the teller from viruses and bank robbers.
"No, not that kind of crook," my mom said. "He didn't kill people. But he did rob them. He took their money, promised to make more for them. Then he used it for himself."
I had never heard this. I never met him, although I had seen a picture, when he was young and my mom was a little girl. "Was he caught?" I asked.
"He was. Went to prison."
"Is he still there?"
"I don't know. He might have died there."
"Wait, you don't know? But he's your dad."
"Not something I'm proud of," my mom said.
I think about this because now, years later, I'm rummaging in the attic, looking for one of my old suitcases, and I come across a dusty cardboard box. I open it and see a framed photo, faded, lost to time, and a dried flower. I recognize my grandfather. He's in a military uniform.
Downstairs, I ask my mom the obvious question. "Yes," she answers. "When he was young. World War II. Wounded on D-Day."
I want to know more, but I say, "So sorry, Mom, but I have to head for the airport."
"Right," she says, brushing some attic dust off my khakis. Her eyes are wet. "I know you're due back at the base tomorrow."
(Word count: 299)