THE SECRET AGENDA OF GRANDPA
My dad was always just dad until my son was born, then I started thinking about him as Grandpa. Mine wasn’t even his first grandkid. Technically, he has eight of them, but, since those other ones belong to my brothers and sister, and since I have never given up on sibling rivalry, I’m going to assume that my son is his favorite.
So anyway, the picture above I like to call “The Wisdom of Grandpa.” There he is, imparting his knowledge of life and the universe to two of his grandchildren over pancakes on a Sunday morning. Actually, grandpa made the pancakes himself and he’s standing there trying to find out how much his grandkids are enjoying them. Why is he questioning them on their love for his food preparation skills?
Grandfathers are show-offs. That’s right, I said it. Show-offs. Never mind their calm, outward demeanor that says “I have attained the wisdom of a thousand Buddhist monks over my lifetime. I require neither food nor drink nor any other Earthly entrapment to survive. I live on the harmonious flow of the energy of the universe.” That’s just a smokescreen that Grandpa puts on to mask his real intentions – to show off his amazing, Gandalf-like wizarding abilities to your children. That and it makes an excellent poker face for his buddies from church when they get together over beer and cards. But still…
It took a while to figure this out. I had to employ some serious Harry Bosch – Jack Reacher – NCIS detective work. But I’ve put together a pretty good case. Grandfathers you are hereby forewarned: I’m on to you.
My parents live in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, and I live outside Chicago. About three months after my son was born the grandparents showed up at the house to see their new grandchild. Grandpa was holding on to the kid, who has never seen anyone wearing glasses before. The child’s grabby little hands kept trying to pull them off.
“Oh, you like those?” asked Grandpa. “Those are called glasses. Pretty nice, huh?”
And then he proceeded to take them off and let my son play with them, which mostly meant trying to stick them in his mouth, which in turn made Grandpa awfully happy.
I can tell you right now that if I took off my dad’s glasses and started throwing them around or trying to eat them, he would not be awfully happy!
When my son was two, Grandpa happened to be in Chicago on business and he stopped by the house for a quick overnight visit. What did he bring? An old toy dump-truck that he used to play with when he was a child, which he gave to my son. Well, I don’t recall ever seeing this dump-truck in my life. That means he was holding on to it, not for his own kids, but for his grandkids.
Of course, my son instantly loved the toy and didn’t let go of it for about three weeks. And while Grandpa was there, my son would only play with Grandpa and that new truck. When I got him out of bed the next morning, the little guy immediately ran around the house looking for Grandpa, who he found in the kitchen making coffee. He grabbed Grandpa by the pants leg and pulled him into the living room where the dump-truck waited. So Grandpa, pretending to just be humoring the kid, went through all the cool dump-truck functions with the lad over and over again. That’s right: he was pretending to humor my son. Now we know that he really just wanted to show off by letting his grandson know that his dad never bought him a toy as cool as that dump-truck. Right?
EXHIBIT C THROUGH WHATEVER (Man, there are a lot…)
That time I took my parents and my son to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field and Grandpa sat next to his grandson and instructed him on the nuances of baseball? Showing off.
That time Grandpa showed several of his grandkids at once how long he could hold his breath underwater at the pool? Showing off.
When most of my siblings and their kids and the rest of us all went bowling together and Grandpa, who claimed he hadn’t bowled in years, easily beat everyone with a 200+ score? You guessed it — Showing off.
When Grandpa drives 25 hours from Colorado to the U.P. just because he thinks it’s more fun than flying? Utter insanity. (But, yeah, showing off.)
I could go on and on, but as I write this, it occurs to me that all I’m doing is compiling a mountain of evidence certifying how totally awesome Grandpa is. This is so wrong. I refuse to let my son read this.
About a year ago. my parents stopped by the house on another one of their trips across America, or whatever it is they’re doing these days (I can’t keep track). I had just bought new bikes for myself and my son. Of course, who does he ask to go biking around the neighborhood with him? Grandpa.
A week later, Grandpa called up to tell his grandson that he and Grandma had been inspired to go buy new bikes of their own and they had just comeback from an excellent bike ride around their own neighborhood and they just thought he should know that. These people are 70 and they just bought new bikes. I hope I inherited those good genes.
A month after that, I received a cryptic photo on my phone from Grandma. The photo showed Grandpa lying in a hospital bed with what appeared to be a tube attached to his head. I immediately freaked out and called Grandma only to find out that Grandpa thought it would be a good idea to go on a bike ride while walking the dog. Well, the dog, on a leash, saw a rabbit and took off, yanking Grandpa right off his bike. He landed head-first on the concrete, which knocked him out. Luckily someone found him and an ambulance was called. He needed a few stitches for a gash on his head, but otherwise he was okay.
And what did he do the next time he saw my son?
That’s right, he showed off the scar.
Tomorrow, MojoFiction helps a friend remember their dad.