“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be my grandfather.”
We all want to be our grandparents. When we knew them, they were old, wrinkled, and smelled of sharp tobacco – whether it was forced snugly into their bottom lip or packed into a gentlemanly cigar. Their clothes were soft when we were young, and their collarbones made perfect chinrests to watch the early stages of life dwindle past us. Their eyes, hidden by sagging eyelids, searched out lies with unforgiving depth, and we’re all glad their lids were closed at the funeral. No one wants to hear the secrets that have surfaced in their absence.
You get weaker when your grandparents are gone. Parents are harsh, unfair, self-centered and demanding. They smell like leather belts and never understanding, even when we only want a nod and a smile. The rocking chairs are empty. The porch misses its inhabitants. The rooms echo. The whole damn house is for sale, and parents don’t listen when I tell them, you can’t sell Grandma’s home. This is her oven. She was going to make me cookies next weekend.
We all think we want to be young. We can run faster, jump higher, live.
And so we frolic.
We waste our sanctified seconds thinking we’re too young and too immature. But we’re only as young as our immaturity allows us to wish we were older…that is, until our reasoning starts to fray, and we decide we’ve become antique in our impatience. So when were we supposed to do all the living that we saved “until we were old enough?”
There’s too little joy to ask the bartender for another drink, or to hide in the backroom of a party that was bad to begin with.
What would Grandfather think?
You’re too big to sit on his knee, and he’s far too deep in the ground.
While we’re waiting for Grandma to finish the checkered hat she was knitting, and Grandpa to fix the fishing rod, our children have children.
And the checkered hat is yours to finish.
“Grandma, Grandma, will you make me cookies next weekend?” Down the kitchen sink with a rusted class ring and a few undelivered love letters that never would have made a difference, because the only people that could have loved each other forever are buried in separate coffins with their eyes closed – everyone can cry when nobody is watching. Your house has a For Sale sign on the curb.
He’s too tired to fix the fishing rod, and you’re far too deep in the ground.