Grandpa Magoo

“I think you underestimate my sneakiness. I am very very sneaky.”
– Mr. Deeds

My grandpa has always been a smart man.  He made a stable living, supported four kids and a wife, invested his savings into promising stocks (like “apples” – i.e. Apple), bought reliable cars, always paid for warranties, and insured every inch of his life.  But Grandpa has never really been known as particularly cunning; never been considered a think tank.

Case in point: Once when my sister and I were very young, we pulled into the driveway with my Grandpa, covered in mud from head to toe, towing a brand new black Labrador in the back of the van.  My grandpa had found the dog lounging on the side of the road and promptly decided to save the poor stray.

“Where did you get the dog?” my Grandma demanded, her skinny hands grasping her hips.

“It was lost!” He replied proudly.  “We saved it!” I shook my head, ensuring my Grandma knew I had absolutely nothing to do with this.

“Well it has a collar.” Grandma discovered, relieved.  “I’m calling the owner.”

Just twenty minutes later, our new dog’s, old owner came rolling into the drive.  “Where did you find him?” The stout lady asked, gratefulness and cleavage overflowing from above her neckline.

“Well it’s funny,” Grandpa told her, “Right along the edge of Hollybrooke Drive, near the curve.  He was just playing in the grass.  Good thing I drove by when I did!”

The lady blinked.  My Grandma covered her mouth to hide a smile.

“That’s my front yard.” The woman told my grandpa, closing the door of her truck with force.  “You took him.  You took him from my front yard.”

We watched her bob down the hill, hiding our giggles in the sleeves of our muddy jumpers.

“Baab…” my Grandma laughed, “You’re so DENSE!”  She smacked his back lovingly, as the stout little lady returned home with her stolen property.

And that’s what we have always expected from my Grandpa.  A loving, caring, dense old man who was sure to show you a good time, but who you could never count on to find his way home.  He tipped every canoe he paddled, he drove 40 mph in a 40 kmph zone and could barely contain his shock when we told him he drives like an old man.  He lets 3 year olds bait a fishing hook, gives chewing gum to kindergarteners, and has been known for tracking mud across every clean white floor in the tri-state area.  As I said before, he has always been smart in a prepared and pleasant to be around kind of way, but reason, sensibility and planning have been left on the back burner for quite some time.

Until now.

Weeks ago, my mom made the decision to take my Grandpa’s car keys.  As could be expected, all hell broke loose.  He threw every weapon in his artillery at mom; anger, yelling, silent treatment, pouting, arguing, reasoning, and even the occasional blackmailing.

And then Thursday night, my Grandpa calls my mom breaking weeks of the silent treatment.

“I can’t find the deeds.” Came through the other end of the line.

“The deeds?” my mom asked.

“Yes.  Can you please come help me?”

My Grandpa was pacing the kitchen by the time my mom arrived.  He had emptied out every basket, cabinet, and bread box, looking for something.
My mom evaluated the situation.  “Do you mean your keys?”  She asked, worried she would have to remind him he is no longer allowed to drive.  It’s a never ending battle we choose to avoid whenever possible.

“No!” He shook his head furiously, “What I’m looking for…what it is…well I use them at the cur!”  He exclaimed, making up words or possibly borrowing them from a German dictionary, “You take them and put them in and other people use them.  Sometimes he writes on them.”  His ability to be completely and utterly vague is really astonishing.

My mom carefully watched him draw across the air when his words failed him.  “Your checks, Dad?” She held out the check book we had taken from the bread box earlier that week.

His shoulders relaxed and he slumped down in his chair.  A wave of relief passed through his eyes.  “Oh thank you!  Thank you so much!  There it is!”  He hugged my mom and sighed, exhausted from worry.

Pleased, my mom returned home.  “We can let him keep his check book if it helps.” She told me later, “What can it hurt?  If something goes wrong, we can just cancel it or something.”  What could go wrong indeed.

The next morning, my mom arrived at her usual time to put my Grandpa’s Exelon patch on.  “I’m hereeeeee.” She called into the quiet house.
There was rustling coming from the pink hall bathroom.  She followed the sound and found my Grandpa in a war zone of pumps and chains and levers.  The entire contents of the toilet were spread out over the counter tops and throw rug.

“DAD!” She exclaimed, “What did you do?”

“It’s funny,” he replied, “I’m not sure what’s wrong with it.”

“It’s disassembled.”  She thought to herself, “THAT’S what’s wrong with it.  You took it apart.”  But she stayed quiet.  After all, at least he was holding a some-what reasonable conversation with her that didn’t involve the return of “his engines”.

“Ok,” she said after some thought, “I’ll have Jim come by and see if he can fix it.”

“Who?” he asked, turning around hopefully.

“Your son.  Jim.”

“Oh…ok.”  He wandered from the bathroom and flipped on the television, acting casual.  My mom surveyed the damage.  The bathroom looked as though someone was attempting to construct a bomb.  The scene was odd, and his behavior even more so, bordering on suspicious even.  But how do you judge what is abnormal when dinner conversation normally includes a discussion about “the sisters he met while transferring down the train tracks after lunch”?

Now whether or not these preceding events were connected to what followed just an hour later, we will never know.  With hindsight being 20/20, there are some of us who think he used the toilet as a distraction, to confuse his enemy like a suicide bomber.  Sometimes you have to sacrifice an asset for the good of the cause.  Others think he was plotting his next move since the recovery of his check book and renewal of monetary power.  And then of course it’s also quite possible that he just randomly took a shot in the dark and landed on a truly genius idea.
However much preparation went into his plan of attack, there is no one that can deny the sneakiness.  It was the D-Day of this war.  He snuck up on us from the water when we were looking the other way, at the disassembled toilet.

Heather, my Grandpa’s new home health care professional, was the first line of defense for “Team Family”.  She arrived an hour after my mom left and found my Grandpa in the driveway with a serviceman from AAA.  The gentleman was elbow deep in the guts of my Grandpa’s car, attempting to hotwire the vehicle for the nice man who so unfortunately “lost his keys”.  If I have ever doubted the security or benefits of being a Triple A member, I doubt it no longer.  They really will do just about anything to get you moving again, save buying you a whole new car.
No one spoke for a minute.  Grandpa kicked the doorstep, knowing he was in trouble.  The Triple A serviceman continued to work.

Heather broke the silence.  “You can’t do this.  You’re not allowed to drive!”  She dialed her boss, who promptly arrived, just as my Grandpa, frustrated that his plan had been foiled and “the fruit” had showed back up at his house, took off on his bike.

“Follow him.” Heather’s boss directed.  “See where he goes.”

Grandpa wobbled along on his bike, darting across streets, diving in front of traffic and whipping around corners (helmet not included) all the way to the Senior Center to play bridge.   Somehow, just like Mr. Magoo, he somehow made it alive and unharmed, most likely leaving wreckage, chaos and carnage behind him.

Luckily we know a guy, who knows a guy, who works at Triple A and said that this would never happen again and quite honestly told us that it probably should never have happened in the first place.
The moral of this story?  Taking the keys from a senior citizen isn’t enough.  They can’t be fooled.  Even if they regularly steal dogs from people’s front yards, watch the news 3 times in a row and keep their personal belongings in the bread box.  Those old people, they are a different kind of smart than us.  Street smart.  Must be because they never had Google.

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.”