My grandmother picked me up and, with lips like two mini-slabs of fresh calf’s liver, laid slurpies all over my face. I wiped away the wet violations to my toddler face when she finally relented. Then she released me and, likewise, attacked my sister. As soon as I felt the hardwood floor under my feet, I escaped to the living room.
My grandfather was in the living room watching the news. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to watch the news. It was so boring. Howdy Dowdy, with Buffalo Bob and Clarabelle the Clown, was a much more entertaining program. Yet, there sat Grandpa, staring at news on the cube-shaped, black and white Motorola.
He did give us some limited attention, though. We sat on his lap and he rolled his eyes around and around again, in a demonstration, so that we might try. I never could do that until years after he was gone.
When he tired of us, he reached into his pocket for a nickel for each of us.
“That’s to buy an ice cream.”
Forgetting the slurpy monster in the kitchen, we ran to tell our mother that Grandpa had given us a nickel for ice cream.
That was my mother’s euphemism of many meanings. This time it meant, don’t bother me now.
When we left for home I reminded my mother that Grandpa had given us a nickel for ice cream.
As we left town I became concerned and reminded her, again, that we had a nickel to spend for ice cream.
Thirty minutes later, when we were entering our own community, I reminded my mother, once more, of the nickel for ice cream.
This time the tone of voice sent a warning to me that my mother’s patience was waning. Still, this was a nickel that Grandpa intended me to spend on ice cream. I couldn’t let him down.
Our route home took us right past the Dairy Queen. As we neared, I made my final plea.
“Mommy, are we going to stop for ice cream now? Grandpa gave us a nickel.”
“Why? We have the nickel that… “
“Because I said so!”
When she responded in this tone, I knew that the next response would be non-verbal and harsh if I was foolish enough to press. The pain of this injustice sharpened as we passed the Dairy Queen and I watched it vanish behind us. Our grandpa gave us nickels on a few occasions but we never bought ice cream because our mother said so. Uh huh.
The rest of my limited memories of Grandpa are of his battle with cancer. I went with my father to visit him a couple times in the hospital. He didn’t roll his eyes or give me a nickel then. He only talked with my father. He looked strange with plastic tubes in his nose.
My mother visited Grandpa in the hospital many times, also, but we waited in the car, on those visits, because my mother said so.
My final memories are of Grandpa at his funeral. I can’t remember now what he looked like then or before. What I clearly remember, though, are his rolling eyes and the nickels never spent.