June 19, 1983
I woke up at Grandpa’s and made myself breakfast. Grandpa was still asleep. Pop Tarts for breakfast! What did kids do before Pop Tarts were invented? Since no one was around to tell me different, I made a Pop Tart and Kit Kat sandwich. I discovered that sometimes what your brain thinks is a good idea, your stomach does not always agree with.
This is Shelby’s last full day in Colorado Springs. Mom and Dad and Shelby are flying into Detroit tomorrow. They left the suburban at the airport so they can drive home. Dad didn’t want Grandpa to go out of his way to pick them up. They may not be back in East Lansing in time for our Saturday walk in the park. It won’t be the first time Grandpa and I walked with the Barker family alone. Grandpa says it’s good to stick to routines.
So, I guess I’ll spend one more night with Grandpa. I don’t mind it. Besides, I can’t smell the Aqua Velva anymore.
This morning I sat at Grandpa’s dining room table trying to digest my Pop Tart and Kit Kat sandwich. His black and white pictures helped me keep my mind off my tummy. It was about 11:30 am. The house was quiet except for Grandpa’s snoring and various other noises.
Grandpa may have been asleep, but as I looked around the room I could see that the faces in his old photographs were wide awake. I held the picture of the five young sailors with their wooden hockey sticks. We all sat there listening to the sounds of an old sailor’s home at 11:30 in the morning. Then all of a sudden, me and the faces in the picture were startled. There was a noise at the back door. We heard voices. The door knob twisted…and in walked Rob. He was followed by the two other guys in his band, the Death Row Bodines.
The drummer said, “I smell Pop Tarts!”
The bass player said, “I smell Kit Kats!”
“Shuush,” I whispered loudly. “You’ll wake Grandpa.”
“You can’t wake the dead, Squirt,” replied Rob. My big brother sniffed the air around me. He carefully looked at my face and neck. “Have you been using Grandpa’s Aqua Velva?”
I shook my head to say ‘no’ as the Bodines helped themselves to the rest of the Pop Tarts and Kit Kat. I took a quick sniff of myself but still couldn’t catch a whiff of Grandpa’s cologne. I wondered…if the more you’re used to something, the less it bothers you…or is it simply easier to ignore?
I am definitely not used to the Bodines yet. They are hard for me to ignore. “Who are these old young soldier dudes?” the drummer asked as the pictures in their frames watched him shove a whole Pop Tart in his face.
Rob replied, “Mostly my grandpa.” Then Rob pointed to the picture of the five sailors. “Grandpa’s the sailor-dude with the goalie stick. One of the other guys got shot and killed playing hockey.”
That’s not exactly the way Grandpa tells the story.
“Dangerous sport,” said the bass player with a mouthful of chocolate Kit Kat.
“Bogus! Is that why you quit hockey?” asked the drummer as he crammed another Pop Tart in. “So…you wouldn’t get shot?”
“Naw,” replied Rob. “I quit so I wouldn’t shoot my dad.”
“I know the feeling, bro,” replied the drummer as they all headed down the basement stairs to practice making noise. “Me, too,” said the bass player. “Me, too.”
Grandpa finally woke up as the house shook from vibrating guitars and drums.
“Did the noise wake you up?” I asked as he walked out of his bedroom and into the bathroom.
“What noise?” he shouted from the bathroom.
Grandpa didn’t really need to shout since he never closes the bathroom door all the way. I was glad to hear the sound of the faucet running. I trust that was proof his hands were being washed. Grandpa then passed right by me as he made his way to the kitchen. The wide-awake faces in the frames followed him. Grandpa yawned as he opened the refrigerator door. He ignored the milk and pulled out a ginger ale. It’s his favorite drink.
“Want a Vernors?” he asked.
“No, thank-you,” I answered.
“That’s it, Soldier…” he said as he yawned again. “You’re finally learning my favorite word.”
“What word is that?” I asked. “No?”
“Thank-you,” he said.
“That’s two words,” I argued.
“Shut-up, Soldier,” he replied.
That’s Dad’s favorite word…words. So, as the Death Row Bodines continued to wake the dead…except for Grandpa, I asked him to tell me the story again.
“Which story is that?” he asked.
The story about your sailor friend who died playing hockey,” I replied, holding out the picture of the five friends.
Grandpa gently took the photograph from my hands and placed it back on the dining room table. “Some stories are harder to get used to telling than others,” he said. “Each story has its own time. Let that story sleep a while longer.” Grandpa explained, nodding his head. “Ask me again in December…that’s a Pearl Harbor story. Let the dead sleep.”
That was good enough for me. I know I won’t have to ask. He tells that story every December. It doesn’t change much from year to year. I’ll let the dead sleep for now.
“Yesireebob, I remember it like it was only 42 years ago,” he said walking away from the not-so-sleepy gaze of his old friends.
"Yesireebob," I added. "Yesireebob."