Got the idea from a contest entry about a ten year old boy and a 75 year old man.
|He just sat there with his gray head buried in his huge work man hands; After we fought,|
after I'd begged him to tell me the truth. Grand dad just became all quiet and all
statue like as he always did when trying to avoid some painful thing, only this time, his
silence was broken by a heavy sigh.
"Sit down here, son." He said, patting a smooth patch on the great stone beside
him. I didn't feel like sitting, I felt like running. I felt like leaving the bush and
the track, racing through the fields like the devil was at my heels. I wanted to leave the
old man behind, leave him to mull over the madness of what he built out of his own
lies....I wanted to make him hurt because that is all I felt!
I knew my face was red because there came a burning through my ears that spread out and
over my cheeks, It numbed my feet like they were glued to the ground and my fists were
clenched in rage.
For the first time I answered him back, using his proper name. "No Frankie I will
"Sit now, you must calm yourself."
"Why should I?"
"Because I am your grand father, because I am all that you've got."
"You keep saying that, but I am not so sure."
"Look I told you all I know and that's the truth."
"Truth? Truth? You sent my parents away, they never died, they are somewhere and I
will never know because you disowned them."
"Look, child...You had to be guarded from the truth, you were too young then as you
are now, so sit on this damn seat, because I say so! Because I'M TOO OLD FOR
I looked down at my feet and realised he had won. "O.k Fine, I will sit but only for
a while, only if you talk."
There was an uncomfortable silence that followed. It was dark and dense and seemed to
weigh heavily upon my heart, yet nervously I asked again. More softly and controlled this
"What was that awful thing that they did that made you turn them away?"
"You won't ease up will you? Your just like Beth used to be....MY Beth, your
"The one who I never met?"
Grand dad nodded and looked up, for a moment there his eyes grew distant and a sad smile
came to his face. "She would know what to do at a time like this."
"But it's up to you now. No-one else but you! I have a right to know what
happened, don't you think? Or I'm on the next train out of this town and
you'll never see me again."
"O.K then you leave me no choice. "Your parents, they said they didn't want
you Jimmy, they never wanted you! They handed you over to me when you were just a toddler,
barely walking. They handed you over in a soggy nappy and a runny nose. They said.
"Well you love the child so much, you deal with all his crap! Then they shoved an
empty bottle in my hand and said. "It will need some milk." They didn't even
have the decency to hide their drugs away, they were so high on those little pills and
other stuff, I couldn't bare look...and when I told them to go and get help so that we
could raise you together, they laughed. They called me an old man with high hopes." So
I left with you and the empty bottle, I left with nothing but the nappy on your but, boy
and believe me after losing Beth not so long before, I was the one needing to be looked
after and still I put all that aside to take on you!"
I dared to look sideways at grand dad. "My parents never wanted me?"
"Look, I'm sure they would, had they'd been of sound mind....drugs, damn
drugs!" He said shaking his head.
"And their still alive?"
"No-one doing the sorts of things they did would be likely to want to live for
"And they never tried to call you, not after all this time?"
"No, I tried..It was always so useless, I sent letters. Set up groups for them to
attend, they never got the letters. They never attended the help groups, they were just so
unmotivated. It was driving me insane, and after a long time of trying I came to the
conclusion that there was just no helping people who didn't want to be helped and I
began to start to see you as my son. The other son was dead to me, don't you see? What
good is it to know all this now?"
I watched as his creaky body heaved itself up from the rock. "You see I believe
everything happens for a reason and I hate to think what would have become of you, if I
had not been working nearby that day. What would have happened if I just decided to drive
past their tiny house because it was always all too hard. What if I just left, assuming
you were fine. Your life hasn't been wasted son. You may not have had a good start,
but you have me."
I looked at the old man, the only father I'd ever known. "And when you die?"
"Well at least I know that I would leave behind a few things that would help you
"What's that?" I asked.
"An insight that you can make something of yourself and not end up like the crack pot
your father is."
I smiled proudly. "I don't know how someone can turn out bad having a father like
"Well, we hope as parents that when you grow you learn enough life skills to be able
to live by yourself....However people can be persuaded by so much things that abuse the
spirit these days...and oh, I just hope boy that you won't be one of those falling by
the way side."
"No grand dad, let's go. It's getting cold."
We walked over the old rocky bridge with the worn out paint and the missing slabs. We'd walked across the same creek many times before. Each time I heard Grand dad say the same old line. “Well, look here now...That bridge is about as old as I am.”
His eyes would get that glassy distant look again, before reaching for his hanky and dabbing round his face as though to bring him back to the present. Then he'd look at me with an earnest, hopeful expression the way a dog gets when waiting for a treat. I suppose your too grown up now to feed the ducks.”
I thought for a moment: I was too old last week, bored the week before and even embaressed by him before that, but none of that mattered anymore.
“Sure, I've got time.”
He pulled out of his coat pocket a small piece of bread. No matter how hungry he was, he always left some for those birds he liked to watch. I think they gave him a sense of peacefullness, or the likes.
We sat there, he and I with our feet hanging over the bridge. The rings formed over the surface of the water and three ducks appeared. A couple had their wings lit up in some striking green feathers.
“When I used to come here with Beth, even as children...She had this love of nature, a real gentle sense that everything is right with the world. She was happy on this bridge.
He rose and turned his back to the creek and the green winged ducks. It was time to let him know that he wasn't alone. “Grandad....” I started. But he broke in. “I know, it's ok. I wouldn't have it any other way. “It's you and me son and when I leave this place, I hope I leave you with enough love to pass it on”
“You still got some life in you old man and I think your gonna be around for a long time.”
“How do you figure that out?”
I shrugged. “Because I guess, there's still too much that needs to be done.”
He pulled his coat around him tighter, we'd been out for much longer then what we intended. Something he said worried me. “When I leave this place, when he dies....” I'd just have to make sure that it wouldn't happen in a hurry, at least that he knew that there was something worth hanging round for.
I walked up to him and took his hand, those huge workman hands, those rough fingers that
built our own little family, just he and I.... and I knew that I may never know the true love
of my parents but there was enough love in his hands to embrace the whole world.
Yes my parents disowned me; Abandoned me, but where they fell short in their duty of care and responsibility; I gained some life experiences which makes me the luckiest of all ten year old boys I know and probably have learnt what is really important in life. “Never take anything for granted....especially not my old man Frankie Banks.”
© Barbara Root 2008