by Patrece ~
I went through my dusty attic for the Roots & Wings Contest. This is what I found there.
|"I'm so sorry, Grampy!" Tears fell from my little eyes, as though running from a stream hidden behind the dark hazel orbs.
Remorse and fear ripped through me. Salty liquid dripped from my cheeks, a few drops splattering on my grandfathers shiny, almost hairless scalp.
"Grampy? Did I hurt you?" I asked, wiping stray tears from the top of his smooth head.
"Stop. Now child, grampy is just fine. I think it hurt you worse than it did me." He brushed my tears away, with a gentle, loving hand. "Now, why don't we see bout getting each other up off this hard floor?" He graced me with one of his all too rare smiles.
Jumping to my feet in a flash, I offered my hand to help him up. He accepted my outreached hand and together we righted him again. Of course it was an accident, but I still felt awful that the silly little game, which I played often with him, had resulted in this.
He had been standing at his usual game day perch, listening to the Indians on the ancient portable radio. Legs slightly parted, leaning forward to rest his rough elbows on the worn edge of the kitchen counter, staring out the window. His 'game stance' we called it. A cold Stroh's beer always at hand as he listened to the game unfold. Cheering one moment, cursing the next. It was during this time, our game commenced. I was young, maybe six years old. Dropping to my hands and knees, I would crawl in a figure eight around his legs. He would challenge me to go faster, but I couldn't make contact with his legs, and had to complete ten full figure eights. If I succeeded, I won the game. My prize? I would pour his next beer and be allowed to drink the foam from the top of his glass. He even taught me how to make it get super foamy, to the chagrin of my grandmother.
"How many times have I told you to stop that horseplay, Tilda? I knew this would happen!" My grandmother only called me Tilda when she was angry or upset with me. I don't know where that name had come from, but when she bellowed it, I knew I was in big trouble.
"Leave the girl, Mary! This is between me and her." My grandfather boomed. When Grampy boomed, everyone listened. Period. Grandma left the room without another word, face red with indignation and anger. My grandfather was your typical Italian man. He loved his family fiercely, but ruled with an iron hand. My grandmother, being the typical subservient wife of that era, would never dream of challenging him. No one in their right mind would, in fact. I never had reason to. The exception to this was my mother. She was the youngest of the five children. She never allowed herself to become particularly close (emotionally) to anyone. Defiance was not a difficulty for her, and she seemed to know no fear of him. She was much like her father, in her stubborn ways and probably the most difficult of the five.
Most of my family had been gathered at the dining room table, a hush had fallen over the group. As I glanced over at them, each face registered an expression of shock and disbelief. It wasn't because of what he had spoken to my grandmother, rather, it was the gentle and understanding way in which my grandfather had dealt with me. This was something completely alien to them. They gradually returned to their various conversations. Some whispering under their breath, discussing the scene that had just unfolded. I overheard an aunt mention how ridiculous it was that I should be his one soft spot. But I was, that much was true. I was the light of his life, and he of mine.
My grandfather was clearly in fine shape following the spill he had taken, and I was tremendously relieved.
"I'm glad you're okay. I was really scared."
"What about you?" he asked, "Are you okay sweetie?"
"I am, as long as you are Grampy. But ya know what I just thought of?"
"What's that my lovey girl?"
"I never lost our game before, and I don't think we better play it again, cuz I don't want to hurt you next time. That makes me kinda sad, ya know?"
He looked into my pouting little face, trying hard not to laugh at me, "Well then, you must have forgotten what happens when you lose."
I thought hard and couldn't recall us ever discussing it. I shared this fact with him.
"Well, when you lose little lady, it means I have to put my legs a little farther apart the next time. But, there is one other little thing, it's in the rules you know." Smiling now, I looked up at him.
"What's that, Grampy?"
"I get to knock you down!" He smiled again, this time with a hint of playfulness.
"Noooooooo..." I screeched with pleasure, running as fast as I could out of the back door. I heard the screen door slam shut behind me, the squeaking of the old hinges as it opened again, then another slam. He was chasing after me, laughing as I had never heard him laugh before. I slowed down a bit so he could catch up. He dove at me, wrapping his hands around my little ankles, sending my sprawling on the lawn. He hugged me and we laughed together, as did the rest of our family, who had come outside to witness the second unbelievable event of the day.
~ ~ ~ ~
My Grandfather passed away on October 27th, 1977, which, was my eleventh birthday. With his passing went my best friend in the world and the one person in my life who had always been my "safe place".