Grandma cooked us a vegetarian lunch.
She’s a good cook, but vegetarian food is her achilles heel. Crazy how a lifetime of kitchen experience can be rendered useless by the removal of meat.
Lunch is delicious, though Gramps doesn’t agree. In any case, it won’t be served again. Grandma never makes the same meal twice.
After 60 years, you’d expect her to have some favorite recipes. A few go-to plays, crowd pleasers, hit songs. But Grandma refuses to play the hits.
“I got this recipe from Delores last week,” she says. "I don’t know if it’ll be any good.“
So Grandma cooked us a vegetarian lunch. And Grandpa was there. And John. And Shelly. And Mom too, I think.
Someone at the table mentions my dad. Grandpa still misses Dad. I do too, but Grandpa says it.
"He was my best friend. We did everything together.”
Grandpa is gearing up for a story. And Grandpa isn’t like Grandma, he sticks to the hits. For example:
Hit Story #1: As a teen, Grandpa pisses in the gas tank of a police car. It’s winter in Iowa and his urine freezes the fuel line.
Hit Story #2: Serving as deputy sheriff, Grandpa responds to a nudity complaint. Discovering a homely, middle-aged lady receiving oral sex from a dog, he tells the bestial woman that her business is her business so long as it happens behind closed doors.
Hit Story #3: Now retired, Grandpa goes fishing in the boundary waters with Dad, Uncle Jack and Uncle Paul. After several Miller Lights, Jack stands to relieve himself off the back of the boat. Paul revs the prop engine, sending Jack splashing into the chilly, Minnesota lake.
It seems all Grandpa’s hit stories include genitalia. Don’t assume that’s a coincidence.
So Grandma cooked us a vegetarian lunch and Grandpa was telling a story. But this time, it was a new story.
A week or so after your dad died, I came to the house to take you boys fishing. I thought it might cheer you up.
We drove to Lake McBride and set up along the bank. I helped you bait your hooks and cast your lines. Then I walked a ways down shore to find a spot of my own.
20 minutes later, I came back to check on you. You boys both had your head between your knees. You were crying.
“Fishing didn’t cheer you up,” I thought, “there’s no sense in staying."
We packed up our poles and got back in the car.
You boys were hungry, so we stopped at Jonesy’s on the way home for those big tenderloins. The server gal noticed how sad you were, and I told her about how you’d just lost your dad.
When we were through eating, I asked her for the ticket.
"There’s no charge” she said. “It’s on the house.”
“No. We’ll pay, we’ll pay.” I insisted. But she wouldn’t take a dime, so we ate for free.
Grandpa trails off, marking the end of the new story.
I turn to Shelly and she’s crying. But she smiles at me. Mom’s eyes are watery, too.
And Grandpa looks confused. His genitalia stories rarely elicit tears. I keep thinking about Grandpa’s new story.
How it leaves a depressing Norman Rockwell painting in your mind.
How it’s strange to have someone fill in the cracks of your biography.
How many other stories exist beyond Grandpa’s cannon of hits.
And how the final verse in the fishing story was all about free tenderloins.