Lost in Thought

My eyes were watering from the lack of sleep and the stench of cigar in the room.  “You haven’t eaten anything today right?”  I raised my chin a little as I spoke to ensure he knew I meant business.

“Well,” he began, scratching his head at the absurdity of it all, “I went to go eat this morning and then I saw this poster on the fridge so I didn’t.”

“Good!  I put that sign there to make sure you remembered.”

He tilted his head to the side and narrowed his eyes, “Why can’t I eat?”

“Because you have a VERY important doctor’s appointment and you can’t have a single thing in your stomach.” I told him, over emphasizing the importance.

His eyebrows shot up in surprise, “Oh is that it?  What time are we going?”

“Around 9:00.” I tell him.

He looks down at this wrist watch, pretending to adjust the band so I don’t know he is having difficulty reading the time.  “That’s in…that’s in about two hours.  Is mom coming?”

“Yep, my mom is taking you and when you are all done you can eat as much as you like!”  I smiled encouragingly.  It was already 7:15 am and I had been playing the role of the refrigerator gestapo since 5:30.  I could almost hear his stomach growling at me from across the room.

He adjusted his position on the couch, the squeak of the old leather the only sound in the room.  Waiting on an empty stomach is like watching a pot boil; it just makes you hungrier and has little concern for theory of relativity.  After some thought my grandpa decided to make an attempt at conversation.  “I think I’m going to take a bike ride, because there really isn’t much else to do, is there?”  He looked at me, almost hopeful I’d have a better idea, possibly one that secretly involved food.

“Not much else.  A bike ride might help make the time go faster!”

He looked around, lost in thought, quite literally I imagine.  “I have been down in the yard all week digging at those vines.” He gestured to the front yard at a patch of weeds that refuse to kick the bucket.

“Yea, those things just won’t die will they?”

“Gosh!  They sure won’t!  Do you have one of these?” He was still looking toward the front yard.

“A yard?” I asked.

“Yea, a yard.” He confirmed.

“No, I live in an apartment.  They don’t usually have yards.”

“I swore you had one.  I just swear it were true.”  He was truly befuddled by this but I can’t seem to remember a time that I’ve ever discussed having or not having a yard with him.  And I most certainly never want one.  I’m not much for grass or digging.

“Well you could buy one.”  He seemed so hopeful, a look of excitement dancing in his eyes.  At the prospect of me having a yard?  Perhaps one that was better than his that he could sit in and smoke cigars?  Maybe one without weeds or neighbors trying to fight him?

“It’s a bit hard to buy a yard for a building I don’t own.”  I thought for a bit.  I’ve never mentioned to my grandpa that I live downtown in the heart of the city.  I feel like that’s a can of worms better left un-cracked.  I choose my words carefully.  “Plus, there isn’t a lot of space to put a yard around my building.  There is mostly just streets and sidewalks around it.”  Perfectly vague.

“No.  The thing is I swear that you had one.  And it was at this place.” He was urgently pointing East.  “Right over there.”

“My mom’s house?” I asked, laughing at bit.  Sure, I suppose you could say that I kind of have a yard at my mom’s house.  If she’ll share…

“Yea.  At your mom’s house, and you took it around.  It was very dangerous too, where you took it around.  Down by the sidewalk but not on it.  And you went like this.”  His arms were out now, held firmly in front of him as he peddled his feet furiously, trying to get his point across.

“A bike?  Are you talking about my bike?”  Things were getting a bit clearer now.

“Well YES!  A bike.”

“You said yard, grandpa.”  I couldn’t let that one pass.  He was looking at me like I were completely off my rocker.

“I did?” He thought for a minute.  “I did.  You’re right.  Well I meant bike.  No wonder you were acting like a lunatic!”  He smiled then and laughed.  “You have a bike don’t you?”

“Yea I have one.”  I avoid that topic as well.  There aren’t enough hours in the day to satisfy my grandpa’s need for bike riding.

“Why can’t I eat?” His growling stomach saved me from a lecture on exercise habits and his daily trip down the “bike bath”.

I sighed, stuck partially between relief and exhaustion.  “Because you have a very, VERY important doctor’s appointment.  They are running some tests and your stomach needs to be empty.”

“What time?”

“9:00.”

“That’s in…2 hours.”  He played with his watch band.  Paused and chuckled to himself.  Part of me wonders for a brief moment if he knew along that we had just had this same conversation and is just playing a trick on me.  Then he looks up, a deep confusion behind his eyes, “Do you have a yard?”

I smile.  “I do.”

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He’s down, like the economy

There are three things my grandpa does EVERY day, if possible.

1)   Ride his bike – It could be pushing 90 degrees and sure as the corn is high, he will pedal somewhere.  If there is snow?  Rain?  Sleet?  Hail?  He wears a hat, of course.
Additionally, he is ridiculously obsessed with where/when/how I ride my own bike.  He believes that bike riding is the only thing that has kept him alive for his 85 years of life, and I don’t really think that he is wrong.  However that does not mean that everyone else (my friends, family, co-workers, boyfriend, and cashiers at the supermarket included) has to ride their bike every day or THEY will die.  But you can’t argue with the man.  As established before, he is crotchety, old, set in his ways, and sometimes, though rarely, quite grumpy.  Especially if you try to mess with his bike riding.

2)   Play bridge – Lately he has been complaining that people at bridge don’t like other people at bridge.  I’m beginning to wonder if the people they don’t like are him.  He forgets a lot of things; where his keys are, my name, my mom’s name, how to read a clock, the year, the succession of the three meals in a day, where he keeps his cigars, what goes in the refrigerator, and what must certainly does not, etc.  It is doubtful to me that he can remember terms like dealing, auctioning, bidding, pass, double, diamonds.  Ironically, under “skills required” for the Wikipedia page on Bridge, the first skills is memory.

3)   Watches the news – Three times.  Every day at 6 o’clock (or shortly thereafter) my grandpa sits down to watch the PBS news station.  (It’s channel 16 ‘round these parts but sometimes it takes a few minutes to remember if it’s 19, 61, 14 or 16 – and, quite frankly, how to get the danged TV to change to that station.)  Well, like many 30 minute news briefs, they are repetitious.  The PBS news program plays at 6:00, 6:30 and 7:00.  And although they may vary in name (PBS news hour, Nightly Business Report, etc) they are all relatively, if not exactly, identical.
This Wednesday, while watching the biographical introduction of Texas governor, Rick Perry, my grandpa decided to have a one-on-one about politics and of course, the economy.  Of course the news was on at the maximum level, causing static and ear ringing.  My grandpa was shouting over the noise, insisting that his ears worked just fine.

“My brother wants to come back.  Don’t you think?” he yelled at me, lying back down after taking a sip of coffee.

“I didn’t know your brother left.  Where is he?” I asked, wondering what old Uncle Lee was up to.

“Washington D.C., of course.” He said, pointing to Barack Obama giving a speech in rural Iowa on TV.

“The President?” I laughed, “Obama isn’t your brother, Grandpa.”

“Oh yes he is!  He is everyone’s brother.  We picked him.  Well I didn’t, but all the others did.  Gosh.  I don’t know why!  It’s not like he is doing anything but talking.”

I stayed quiet.  We don’t always see eye to eye on politics, and by not always I mean practically never.

“Do you have opinions on all this stuff?” he asked, suspiciously eyeing me and my silent demeanor.  Secretly I think he knows that I (gasp) subscribe to a liberal agenda.  But publicly, we just don’t talk about that.

“I don’t know much about economics.  I know about social stuff but not economics.” I answered, quite truthfully.

He leaned back and put his arms behind his head, quite satisfied with my answer, “That’s alright.  You’re a woman so it’s not as important for your future.”

I laughed nervously and continued to dust the book shelves as the news anchor announced that the market rose again and was at it’s highest level since 2009, whatever that all means.  My grandpa jumped up and cheered, clapping his hands above his head in excitement.

“The Dow recently went up 429 points,” the anchor added over my grandpa’s cheers, “It’s been touch and go these past few weeks.  We waited to see if it would go down, and it did.  Then we waited to see if it would go up, and it did that too.”

My grandpa gave another little cheer and turned toward me as he settled back in his seat.  “It’s just been going all over the place.” He said, parroting the news anchor, “Just up and down, up and down, up and down.” He moved his finger back and forth, into the air and back to the ground, looking more like John Travolta than my grandpa.  I laughed.

“You know,” he shouted at me over the commercials, “There is one thing that I think this bad economic downturn is helping.  They have always been letting lots of those guys…those Mexican guys, into the US.” He said, using his vague pronouns like always.  “They are letting them come over.  You know what I mean?  Those guys, you see them all the time banging on the roofs and things.  Boy they are doing real well.  I never see one of them unemployed.  They are just hard workers.  I bet if everyone were to act like Mexicans they wouldn’t be laid off left and right.  Mexicans would never shred private documents.  Mexicans would never be late to work.  Mexicans.  We could all learn a little from those guys.”

“You think so?” I asked him, trying to remain as neutral as possible.

“Yea, I really do.  They shouldn’t say ‘work like a dog’ they should say ‘work like a Mexican.’”  He paused and then looked over at me.  “Well you know what I mean.  Work…work hard.”

“I know what you mean, gramps.”

He changed the subject.  “I’m going to Florida with your mom.”  His smile was big.

“You mean Columbus?” I asked him, knowing that he had a date set to visit his brother who lived near the capitol on Friday.

“Yea,” he said, disappointed, “Columbus.  That will be Fridee, of course.  I guess it’s probably not as nice as Florida, but it will be ok.”