You’re gonna love my grandpa by the end of this post.
He insisted on giving me a full tour, even though I’d already visited several times.
My grandfather walked me through their living room, past the burnt orange couch from the ‘70s, the antique steamer trunk inherited from my great-grandmother, the shelf of shot glasses picked up on cruise ships and trips to Mexico. He showed me his new Keurig machine, the wood floor they installed in the computer room, the spare closet he converted into a makeshift bar.
Then he led me out the front door to check out the yard and driveway. It was October in Texas and it felt like heaven.
“Here’s the rosemary grandmother puts in her pot roast”, he said, pointing to a huge bucket of herbs.
“Over there’s the air conditionin’ unit. Still works real well.”
“That there’s the feral cat comes up into the front yard every mornin’.’”
I continued following him, grinning to myself as I delighted in how proud he was of his property and all the little odds and ends that make a house a home. I’d always heard that people became ornery as they got older, but my grandfather has been growing more joyful and charming with each passing year. Everyone enjoys being around him. He is splendid.
Then he took me into the cleanest, most well-organized garage in the history of the world. In addition to two pristine cars, he also had a separate tiny storage space and garage door for his golf cart. Along the left wall, a framed photocopy of the Mona Lisa was sandwiched between a few knock-off Monets. Just adjacent to the art was a door with a tiny metal sign on it that read: “Man Cave”.
He opened the door and welcomed me inside. “This is my favorite place in the house,” he said. “This is my man cave!”
Granddad’s Man Cave didn’t have a flat screen TV or a recliner in it. There was no computer. No neon beer signs. He didn’t have a whole basement dedicated to a pool table or his favorite sports team. My grandfather’s most treasured space was a pocket-sized room in the corner of his garage—only slightly bigger than a closet– with a small window and several shelves lining the walls.
Every nook and cranny was filled with memories. The room was one big scrapbook. There were faded black and whites of our ancestors. Pictures of my granddad as a little boy in west Texas wearing suspenders and newsboy caps. Newspaper clippings from his days as a school superintendent. Golf trophies. Photos of my father and aunt in high school. My brother and me as babies. My grandparents’ wedding from 1948. My wedding from last October. My cousin, my niece, my family. It was his life, and by extension, it was all of our lives. I started feeling a little emotional in that little room.
“So what do you do in here, Granddad?” The tears were hot, and hard to blink back without him noticing.
“Aww, not much. Especially not in the summer–woowee–it’s too hot. But I like to come in here at least once a day and look around at my life.”
We retreated back into the house where my grandmother and aunt had been fixing lunch for us. It was hamburger, zucchini and a tiny baked potato–a simple meal that tasted ambrosial because it was made with my grandmother’s hands.
When lunch was nearly over, my granddad looked over at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Know what I’ve been really into lately?”
“What’s that, Granddad?” I was expecting him to glow about Fox News or Sudoku puzzles.
His eyes widened, and he broke into a huge grin before saying ice cream like a 5-year-old who’d just tried it for the very first time. “I’m on a diet, but I eat a little bowl every day after lunch as a treat. Ya want some?”
My aunt and I declined and took another helping of the kale salad she made. We ate our healthy greens while Granddad sat across the table from us, happy as a schoolboy with his dish of butter pecan. He’d brought out a second bowl just in case we changed our minds.
Finally, I snuck a tiny spoonful, and gave my grandfather a little wink.
He leaned in across the table, scrunched up his nose and giggled, “Idn’t it wonderful?”
Yes it was.