I took a creative writing class for a couple of my first semesters in college. While I disagree with the idea of having someone teach you to be creative, I couldn’t argue with the results. During this time I completed a 40+ page short story titled ‘Ice Cream World,’ and any number of smaller writing assignments. This particular assignment, titled ‘The Unreliable Narrator,’ was supposed to help us convey information and truth through exposition and writing (as opposed to dialogue.) At the time I had fun with it, and felt it would be worth reposting here.
Of my four grandkids Joey is, and always has been my favorite — just don’t tell that to the others. A lot of grandparents always tell me that they can’t choose a favorite, they love each one equally and in a different way than the next. That is true, but you love a woman in a much different way than you would love a dog and forced to choose between the two it’s not a tough decision. My girls are beautiful, wonderful and the sweetest angels on God’s green Earth; and Joey’s little brother, Thomas… my daughter tells me he’s getting his degree in June.
But Joey, he’s like me at that age the way that he doesn’t have a lot going for him. He isn’t the smartest kid in the class, and he’s still a few years away from growing into that nose of his… he makes mistakes, and every day I’m thankful for him. The others are resentful of a helping hand from their Grandpa; I stop by the house every few days to check in on them and they treat me like a second-hand citizen. That’s just the way they act these days; everyone is in such a hurry to grow up and be mature, Joey was the only kid in the whole bunch.
He was getting a little too old for me to spend time with him the way we used to; fishing or watching a baseball game or taking him to the park. He didn’t care for those things anymore, it wouldn’t be too long before he had kids of his own to do those things with. Still, with the way their father had treated them I felt more like a parent than a grandparent on occasion, and the four of them loved me for that. Almost a century of living, and I was still taking care of my family. It’s what I love to do, and for an old man like me it felt good to have a part to play in their lives. I see far too many of my friends getting left behind their children who are always in too much of a hurry to take care of family. What I had was a blessing.
I asked the cleaning lady for help in getting the place in order. It wasn’t often that I had company, and even more uncommon when I had a party. With my wife out of town, the place had come to be a mess, and I didn’t want to embarrass my grandchildren when they came over; if the misses was around right now there wouldn’t be a single piece of trash in the whole complex.
Today was my birthday, “87 years young”, as they keep reminding me in those damn cards. Joey, Thomas and the girls came over to visit me today in the apartment; my wife Lucy was away visiting her ailing sister in Sioux City this was the first birthday in a long time that I can remember being without her. We were sitting around my table, enjoying some of the cake that they had brought for me and catching up on everyone when Joey noticed that my car keys were sitting on the table in front of him.
“Ready to finally hand over the Cadillac, Grandpa?” Joey asked in an antagonizing tone of voice, slowly pulling my silver bass key chain closer and closer.
“Not just yet, Joey.” I joked, “I haven’t even started taking that beauty around town.”
One of the girls stepped in, “You shouldn’t be driving around so much at your age, who’s going to take care of the house?”
“Your Grandmother’s a tough woman,” I replied, “Lord knows she never had a problem housekeeping while I was working for 45 years.”
There was a brief silence, the girls looked upset at what I had said. It was just like them; lately it seems like whenever I try to say anything they get frustrated.
“I’m sorry, darlins’. You know I don’t mean to raise my voice like that in front of the both of you.”
“…” Thomas always spoke softly, I had to ask him to repeat himself whenever he opened his mouth, “I want you to move in with me, Grandpa. Let me take care of you in my house.”
“Your new house isn’t even ready yet, Thomas,” I answered coldly, “And your wife isn’t gonna want your Grandmother and me parading around that small house all the time. We’re happy where we are.”
Joey stared me in the eyes, as if he were shocked, “Don’t you remember Grandpa?”
I shrugged it off at first, “If you are just going to insult an old man on his birthday you can leave. Don’t worry about the plates, I’ll get the cleaning lady to take care of it in the afternoon.”
“Are you talking about the Nurse?” Thomas asked loudly, for the first time I could recall he didn’t have to repeat himself.
“Oh my God,” The girls looked at the other nervously. Seeing them like that made even a veteran like me nervous.
“This isn’t your apartment in Laguna Hills.” Joey sighed, “This is an assisted living home. We moved you out of your apartment after Grandma died.”