by DeKalb Daddy
A grandson remembers his grandfather.
I Remember Papa
I remember standing in the doorway of my grandparents' bedroom, watching my grandfather sift through the top drawer of his dresser.
"Papa, we need to leave soon," I said gently, hoping that he wouldn't shout. He always shouted, it was his way.
"What? I'm hurrying; I'm hurrying," he answered in that voice. "Miriam!" he yelled. Then, having waited a respectable second; "Miriam! Where are my black socks?"
"They're in your top drawer where they always are!" came a loud reply from somewhere downstairs. My grandmother, during fifty-eight years of marriage had learned to match her husband's tone.
"I don't see them," he replied in a loud, sing-song manner; another of his voices.
"I got it," I called behind me, and walked over to where my grandfather was standing. I removed a pair of black socks from the drawer, that I found underneath some shorts. "Here papa," I said.
He shook the socks in my face. "She hides things from me, Simon; always has," he said.
After Papa had finished dressing, we both headed downstairs for breakfast. I always walked in front of him, in case he were to trip. Papa thought that it was because I was young and had no manners; I know this because he told me so on more than one occasion. We walked into the kitchen, where grandma had Papa's breakfast ready for him, as she had since the day they married; two eggs, over easy; two strips of bacon, crisp; and two pieces of toast, lightly buttered. As he took his place at the table, my grandmother began applying the preserves to his toast.
"What is that?" Papa snorted.
"It's raspberry preserves," grandmother replied matter-of-factly.
"It's got seeds in it," Papa complained "I don't like seeds, never have. You know that Miriam."
"You told me to buy them, Henry. You said, 'Next time you're at the store Miriam, get me some raspberry preserves', so I did."
"Well, I'm not eating it." he sulked, folding his arms in front of him.
"Fine. Don't eat it, but I'm not making you any more." she insisted, and then, after thirty seconds, during which time she folded her arms and tapped her right foot, she walked toward the toaster.
I mediated the rest of the breakfast debacle the best I could, then ushered my grandparents out the front door toward my car, which was parked at the end of the sidewalk. The drive to the doctor's office was fairly uneventful. Papa reminded me that I drove too fast, the car was too hot, the car was too cold and everyone on the road was an idiot who had no idea how to drive. Oh, and there was the time at the stoplight when Papa was going to get out of the car and beat the hell out of the guy in the car behind us because he honked at me. Luckily for me, Papa couldn't get the door open. He demanded to know when was I going to get this damned car fixed. Yup, pretty much smooth sailing.
I was sitting on the edge of one of the chairs in the doctor's waiting room, thumbing through a two-year old copy of 'Boy's Life', when my grandparents emerged from one of the exam rooms. My grandmother's eyes were red and I knew that she'd been crying. Papa was stone-faced. Neither of them spoke, and the ride home was uncharacteristically quiet.
When we arrived at their house, I hung both of their coats and walked around the house looking for papa. I found him outside, sitting on the cement bench at the edge of their garden, staring at some birds that were flying overhead. I had already spoken to my grandmother, so I knew that the news wasn't good. The cancer in his colon and lungs had progressed too far to be treatable, especially at his age.
I took my place next to him as I had done so many times before. "It's going to be alright, Papa." I said, trying to reassure him.
"Those doctors don't know anything!" he said defiantly. "Damned pill pushers, that's all they are, a bunch of damned kids who think they know everything just because they have a piece of paper on a wall." He fell silent and gritted his teeth. "Damned pill pushers," he repeated. He was silent for a few minutes. Then, tears began to stream down his cheeks. He turned and looked deep into my eyes, as if searching for something. "I'm scared, Simon," he said slowly and quietly, then he put his hand on my knee. "I'm so scared."
I put my hand on his shoulder. "I know Papa. I know."
He raised his head and looked sternly into my eyes. "I need you to take care of your grandmother!" he commanded. I smiled gently. "I mean it Simon, you have to take care of her! Promise me son."
"I will Papa; I will," I said, hugging him. "I'll take good care of her, I promise."
Three months later, he died at home, in his sleep, just as we prayed he would. After the funeral, we invited family and friends back to my grandparents' house for brunch. I stood once more in front of the dresser in his room and stared at the picture of Papa in his uniform, which hung on the wall in front of me. Tears ran down my face. I could still hear his voice in my head: 'Miriam, did you take my wallet? It's not on the dresser.' Then, as I wiped my eyes with one of his handkerchiefs, I smelled the 'Old Spice' and cried even harder. It took a while for me to finally compose myself. I turned and went downstairs to join our family and friends. Even with the house full of people, it was strangely quiet. My mother and sister were sitting on the couch with grandma; dad was standing in the corner by the front door, with a group of men from the VFW, listening to stories of how things used to be, but no one was shouting. I wished someone would shout, something, anything, but no one did.
Days became weeks, and weeks turned into months. I kept my promise to papa and visited my grandmother every day on my way home from work, which I would have done anyway. She became a shell of the woman she had been; rarely talking and seldom leaving the house. Each day, when I arrived, I would find her sitting on her chair in the living room, staring at the wedding picture in her lap. Four months to the day after Papa passed, the picture slipped from her hands onto the floor, and she was gone. When I found her, I felt strangely peaceful and yes, even happy. They were together again. I knew Papa would be waiting for her; and God help everyone in heaven if things weren't just right when she got there!
Word Count: 1183