I’m trying to study over at Grandpa’s house again. I have a History quiz in two days. Since I’ll be at hockey practice tomorrow I figure I had better study tonight. Grandpa just lives right down the street. His house is quieter than mine, usually. I empty my backpack out in front of me. Class notes, broken pencils and Kit Kat wrappers scatter all across the dining room table. Faces of young sailors in old picture frames seem impressed at how much junk a kid nowadays can carry around in a school backpack. One or two black and white photographs propped up on the dining room table and a couple more hung on the walls seem to snicker at me.
Grandpa’s back in his bedroom. His old record player is turned on. I’ve heard this song before. It’s a song by some old dude name Simon Garfunkel…I think. Grandpa plays it every time he looks through his box of old pictures. He calls it his Memory Box. Grandpa loves that cardboard box of old memories. I think it reminds him that he was once more alive than he is now. It reminds him that he once had two good eyes. It reminds him of all the people he's met in this world and hopes to meet again.
Time it was,
and what a time it was,
a time of innocence,
a time of confidences
I don’t know why I can’t sit down and study the stuff I’m supposed to...like my History notes. I study everything else instead. I study the sounds in Grandpa’s house…the music…the rustling of pictures in a cardboard box…and the packing of a suitcase. Then it comes to me. I get up and look at the calendar on the side of the refrigerator. It's December 5th. Grandpa walks out of his bedroom with a suitcase and an envelope.
'You’re going to have breakfast in Chicago, aren’t you?' I ask.
'I’ll leave tomorrow and get a good night’s sleep near Lake Michigan,' replied Grandpa. 'The boys and I will meet up Wednesday morning for breakfast.'
He hands me the envelope. 'You need me to go over anything?'
'Nobody will ask,' I answer as I reach for the envelope.
He looks sad as he mutters, 'Too bad.'
I admit it, I'm not a very good student at school. But I'm a great student away from school. I study all the time. I study everything but what my teachers want me to. I study my grandfather as much as I can. I don't care that I won't be ready for that stupid History quiz. I know Grandpa wants to tell me his story again and that's good enough for me. It’s a story about why he always goes to Chicago for breakfast with his old Navy pals. He’s been going every December for as long as I can remember. Grandpa also hopes…deep down, that I can pass the story along when someone…anyone is willing to listen. It’s important to him and a guy name Bob.
Bob was from Chicago.
Grandpa hopes that the envelope full of pictures will help tell the story just in case some kid in my class ever wants to understand what really went on that December day. I don’t want to make him any sadder than he already is this time of year, or I’d tell Grandpa that I don’t really think anybody in my class cares what happened on December 7, 1941.
So after he tells me the story again, Grandpa says, 'Make damn sure I get my pictures back.'
'I promise,' I say. 'I'll bring your picures back, just like I did last year, and the year before that.'
It must be,
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories;
They’re all that’s left you