Become a Fan
Waiting for Ray - Chapter 16 - My Dog has Fleas
By P-M Terry Lamar
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
This is chapter 16 of my novel, Waiting for Ray.
Mr. Yoshida sat across a small, highly polished, conference table from Kelly and explained what needed to be done. During the discussion, Kelly discovered what it was like living in a small town. He must have heard about her conversation with Al in the diner when they'd discussed the origins of his name. Unfortunately, he seemed to have been given a poor account of what she'd said, and apparently had only heard the negative side.
"I suppose that, since I'm Asian, you might not be sure of whether or not I can handle this case." His speech was without accent, and Kelly doubted he had been born out of the U.S., but she didn't comment. "However, I know how to handle a case like yours. Though I don't normally do this type of case, I can help you. Even though I'm Asian."
Kelly leaned forward. "Look, Mr. Yoshida. I don't know what you've heard, but…"
"I haven't heard anything. Why? Is there something I should have heard?" He didn't look very concerned with the exchange; in fact his face was almost blank, yet polite.
"I just don't know why you keep referring to yourself as Asian?" Kelly knew she could have handled this better if she'd had more sleep the night before. She hadn't slept a wink in her Grandparents house. She'd heard many unidentifiable noises and in the end had turned on some lights and frequently awakened and looked to see if anyone was in the house. She had felt exhausted by the time the sun rose.
"Do I? I don't usually. But back to the case. If you decide to take me on as your lawyer, I can have you named as your grandparents' formal Guardian. That means you will now be in charge of their lives, finances, taxes, bills, property, etc. You will then be able to legally place them in a care facility or take them home with you, or whatever you decide. Speaking with the doctor, I don't see any problem with getting you appointed as the legal Guardian." He started writing down notes on a yellow legal pad.
For some reason, as she watched him scribble down the information she related to him, Kelly felt surprised that lawyers really used yellow legal pads. She felt a weight settle on her shoulders and slowly stopped caring about what Mr. Yoshida thought about her opinions of Asians. She was beginning to feel as though the weight of her responsibility was more than she had bargained for.
Kelly asked, "How long will it take to be declared Guardian?. The doctor said he needs them out of the hospital soon."
"As I was about to say," Mr. Yoshida looked at her without raising his head from the legal pad, giving her the impression that he didn't think much of her. "In the meantime, with the doctor's spoken statement, I can have the court declare you as temporary custodian so you can start taking care of your grandparents' needs. I should be able to do that in less than a day, given the circumstances. Before I go any further, I need to know if you do wish to retain me as your lawyer." He now looked at Kelly quizzically, as if wondering if she was capable of making that decision. "I'll need you to pay me the advance I mentioned."
Kelly looked at him, her mind already made up, but she wondered why she was so sure she wanted to hire him as her lawyer despite his apparent dislike for her. She wondered if it was simply to make Al uncomfortable. She considered that she'd liked Mr. Yoshida's secretary when she'd first met her. The woman was older, reliable and exceptionally nice even when they'd only spoken on the phone. Kelly thought her liking the secretary made the decision easier, but it didn't provide the real reason she wanted to retain Mr. Yoshida.
Kelly admired his abrupt way of getting down to business, despite his poor people skills. His rates didn’t seem too expensive, though lawyers always seemed to cost more than expected. He worked in an unassuming office in a small, one-story wooden office building. She liked everything except the way he was talking to her at the moment.
"Yes, I'd like to retain you as my lawyer." Kelly let out her breath.
Mr. Yoshida actually seemed surprised that she agreed, but didn't dwell on the matter. He quickly went over the requirements, telling Kelly that he'd have the papers ready to sign in two hours, and that she would need to be at the office at exactly at one p.m. to sign the papers, or they wouldn't get the court to look at it that day.
Her grandfather's condition was such that an ambulance had to take him to Payson Manor. On the other hand, Kelly was given permission to take Grandma herself. Kelly envied the ambulance driver his job.
"Grandma, just lean on my arm, and I'll take you out this door to the car."
"My purse, they took my purse! Kelly, we've got to go back and get my purse from that nurse." Her grandma looked wildly around the hallway, trying to decide where she was. At least she'd called the nurse by the correct title, rather than referring to her as a ghost, or a burglar.
"Grandma, here's your purse. Don't worry. We've got everything, now. So, just come along with me." Kelly applied more pressure to her grandmother's back with her left arm, trying to physically, but gently, move her along.
"Where's Johnny?" Now Grandma stopped looking worried, and just appeared stubborn. "I'm NOT going without Johnny! You can be sure of that."
"Grandma, he's already on his way over there. In fact, he may be there already, and he'll be worried that you're not there. So, we need to hurry." Kelly felt that Grandma would go just to be with Grandpa, if for no other reason.
"Oh, alright, yes, you're right." Grandma made a happy sound, almost a chuckle. "You know, it's about time you took us home. I was going to ask you, but I've been so confused, I didn't know when I should ask. So, it's about time."
Kelly continued helping Grandma to walk toward the far end of the hallway and to the exit near where her car was parked. She wasn't sure what to say now. The doctor had said not to worry about a few little white lies. He said that neither Grandma nor Grandpa would ever really be able to remember what she said well enough to determine whether or not she'd lied. Unfortunately, lying wasn't something that came easily to Kelly. Moreover, lying about where she was taking her Grandma didn’t seem like telling a little white lie. After all, the care facility was where Grandma was likely going to spend the rest of her life.
Kelly knew, however, that she may not ever get her grandmother into the car if she said they weren't going to her home. Up to this point, she'd only said they were going "there", never specifying where "there" was.
"Okay, Grandma. I hope you like it at home. I think it's very nice." Maybe it wasn't really a lie; the care facility would really be her grandparent’s new home from now on.
Grandma stopped the slow trip to the car another few times, worrying about this or that. She asked about her purse two more times, and Kelly started to become irritated with her.
"Grandma, look I have your purse. I've told you that ten times now. I've got your purse, so stop asking about it." She knew it made no sense to get angry with her grandmother over something the woman couldn't control, but she wanted to get to the care facility. She was actually concerned about how her grandfather was doing there. She worried that he might be upset if he didn't have his now favorite nurses there, and new faces were surrounding him.
Finally, her Grandmother was sitting in the passenger seat. Kelly reached in to help with the lap belt. The shoulder harness was electric and would close on her grandmother automatically once the car was started.
"Now, Babe. I know how to put on a seat belt. Leave me alone." Kelly was startled by her grandmother using her mother's name again and didn't react quickly enough when Grandma tried to pull the automatic shoulder harness back to her shoulder. Kelly reached out to stop her, but before she knew what was happening, her grandmother had the belt twisted around her right arm.
"Grandma. This is an automatic belt. It will go from where it is to the proper place once I close the door and start the engine." She tried to calmly unwrap the belt from her grandmother's arm.
"I tell you, I know how to put on a seat belt! These new-fangled things can't stop me. I know what I'm doing!" Her grandmother stepped out of the car again. Her arms were flailing, wrapping the belt even further around her, and she started to panic, pushing Kelly away from her.
"Grandma." Kelly was already off-balance from leaning forward and she had just moved quickly back to avoid being hit in the face by her grandmother's flying left arm. When her grandmother actually pushed her even further back, Kelly reacted by reaching out toward to grab the car door to keep her balance. Just as she was about to grab the door frame, her grandmother's flailing arms pushed the door away from Kelly's reaching hand. Kelly completely lost her balance and sat down with a thump. "Oof."
Grandma looked down at her adult granddaughter sitting on the asphalt next to the little rental car and stopped waving her arms. Kelly stared back up at her, determining if she'd hurt anything or not. Grandma started laughing, pointing at Kelly as if she were a stranger who'd slipped on a banana peel. Kelly, surprised to hear her grandmother laugh, the first time in who knew how long, stared at her grandmother in disbelief.
Her grandmother tried to stop laughing, but paused only long enough to say "Oof" and start guffawing even louder. Kelly, now sure she wasn't hurt, felt her own laughter building up inside her chest. She laughed and then chuckled as she pulled herself up.
Her grandmother seemed barely able to stand up; she was laughing loudly enough that a couple patients had come to the door to see what was happening. Kelly was starting to double over with laughter, feeling relief at the release of tension and worry. Suddenly, her grandmother's arm shot out again to give Kelly a shove. Again, Kelly was off-balance, but this time she managed to grab the door, only to lose the grasp and to sit down again, harder. "Ouch!"
Her Grandma screamed with laughter, but Kelly's mirth had all but disappeared. "Okay, okay, Grandma. I think that's enough Three Stooges for today, Moe." When her grandmother looked puzzled, and then, catching the joke, started a loud belly laugh, Kelly managed to chuckle again.
Thinking more clearly now, Kelly unhooked the passenger side shoulder harness from the automatic slider and unwrapped it from her grandmother's arm. Her grandmother, exhausted from so much laughter, stood docilely while she worked, still giggling from time to time as she remembered the "Oof." Kelly helped her grandmother into the seat again and strapped the lap belt across, meeting no resistance this time. Finally, she clipped the shoulder harness back onto the automatic slider and hoped her grandmother would not play with it for at least another minute.
She rushed to the driver's side and jumped behind the wheel just as her grandmother was reaching for the shoulder harness. "Silly thing. I thought I had that on, now what's wrong with my memory." Her grandmother tried to pull the harness toward her.
"Grandma!" Kelly tried to get her attention away from the shoulder harness, feeling as if she were dealing with her daughter, not her 86 year-old grandmother. When her grandmother looked over at her, Kelly said, "I want to show you something that you'll really like! Now, put your hands down in your lap, and watch what happens when I start the car." She spoke animatedly, trying convince her grandmother that she was about to participate in a big adventure.
Grandma's hands were in her lap, and she wore an excited smile. Kelly turned the ignition key and the passenger side shoulder harness whirred into life, closing in on her grandmother, mindlessly trying to ensure the passenger was secure.
Her grandmother screamed.
"No, it's alright, Grandma. It's supposed to do that to keep you secure." Her grandmother's hand were clawing at he belt, now trying to get it off of her as frantically as she had earlier tried to get it on.
Giving up on safety and the laws of Arizona, Kelly reached through her grandmother's agitated arms and unhooked the shoulder harness. "Look, Grandma, I'll just get rid of this awful harness. It just won't cooperate with you today, will it?" Kelly let the harness retract into its holder and patted her grandmother's shoulder. "Now. How about we go for a nice ride? I think it's a beautiful day."
It actually was a beautiful day. The mountain air was cool and clear, revealing a startlingly blue sky highlighted with a few puffy white clouds. The green pine trees, which covered the mountains, seemed brighter than they had just the day before, and birds could be heard chirping among the branches.
Pulling out of the parking lot, even her grandmother seemed to appreciate the splendor of the day. Her health, despite eating little, was better than it had been for quite some time, so her thinking may have been clearer. Kelly hoped, against her better judgement that her grandmother's mind would clear up with proper medical care.
Payson wasn't a large town, so after only a couple minutes, Kelly was turning left off the main street and onto the road for Payson Manor. Her grandmother had been quietly looking out the window, and Kelly was feeling more in control of herself.
"This isn't Scottsdale is it?" Kelly's head whipped around to see her grandmother still looking out the window. "I'm not sure I've seen this part of Scottsdale before. Is it Scottsdale? Are those Palm trees or Pine trees? They look so green." She turned toward Kelly. "You know I'm allergic to pine dust, so I hope they aren't planting a lot of pine trees here in Scottsdale now. What will I do then?"
As if she didn't expect any answers to her questions, she turned to look out the window again, muttering about pine trees, Tuscon's tree problem, and how Scottsdale should stick to Palm trees. Feeling guilt twist her stomach, Kelly didn't respond to any of the questions.
Kelly pulled into the parking lot for Payson Manor and parked near the main door. She saw an ambulance pulling out and wondered if it had been the one that had brought her grandfather. If so, it had taken them quite awhile to deliver him to his room, and she hoped nothing had gone wrong.
"What's this place?" Grandma asked the inevitable question.
Kelly answered directly, "Grandma. This is your home, now."
Kelly prepared for the worst, not sure of what her grandmother would do. She expected she'd refuse to leave the car or would even try to gain control of the car itself and drive away. At the very least, she expected her grandmother to shout or throw a tantrum. She didn't.
"Is Johnny here?" The feeble voice didn't sound even as strong as it had the first night Kelly had gone to the hospital. It seemed to Kelly as if all the fight had been taken out of the old woman. When Kelly said that yes, Johnny was here, her grandmother fumbled with the door handle and popped open the door. Kelly had no time to consider how surprised she was; she had to jump out of the car and rush to help her Grandma to the building.
Kelly had Al help with the easy chair. She was pretty sure that it was the chair her grandmother used as her favorite chair in the Payson home, so she hoped it would improve her grandmother's comfort. As they lugged it into the back of Al's truck, Kelly explained to him that the clinic and the nurses encouraged family and friends to bring familiar and comfortable things from the home.
"Okay, I think I have something that Johnny would like." As soon as the chair was securely positioned, he walked quickly into his house. Kelly placed a plastic bag filled with framed photos and other wall ornaments onto the front seat. She had some books for her Grandma and some magazines for her Grandpa. Since she'd managed to find both of their reading glasses, she wanted to ensure they could pass the time. She'd even bought a television set, which her grandmother had wanted taken out of the room, because "the rays would hurt Johnny". This was said as Grandpa had been happily watching an old western movie.
Kelly thought about the room her grandparents shared. It was about the size of the two-bed hospital room they'd been in before, and only slightly less sterile. It had a sink area, a counter, where the T.V. now sat, and a small restroom with only a toilet. The beds were hospital beds and there were single chairs by each and a small chest of drawers for each person. A small closet to the side held room for the few decent clothes her grandparents still had. The room definitely needed something to make it more personal and more comfortable.
"Here we are. Don't you think he'll like this?" Al looked proud as he held out a framed picture. It was a rough sketch of a caricatured fisherman standing in a tiny rowboat, pulling on a rod which was bent from the heavy weight of his catch. On the hook, just coming out of the water, was an old boot filled with jumping trout. The face of the fisherman was captured as it changed from disgust to delight that he'd gotten such a good catch, and a great fish story to boot.
Kelly laughed and patted Al on the shoulder. "Yes, he'll love that. What a great picture."
"I meant to give it to him for Christmas, but I lost it. I just found it under a pile of things the other day." Al's beaming smile showed a man sincerely happy that he had found the perfect gift for a dear friend. Kelly was happy for his good feeling; she felt she was still missing something key in making her grandparents happy and comfortable.
As they drove to the clinic, Kelly turned to watch Al carefully while she asked, "Al, did you come by the house late last night and knock on the door?"
Al looked surprised, "No, why?"
Kelly shook her head and said, "I think I'm getting a little worn-down from not sleeping. I could have sworn I heard someone knock on the front door at about eleven thirty last night. I looked through the peephole and didn't see anyone." She turned and looked at the houses they were driving past. "I thought that you were playing a joke or something, so I opened the door. As I did it, I became pretty scared that someone was there, but when I looked outside, there wasn't a soul in sight."
Later, Kelly told Al that she was going to have to go down to the Scottsdale house the next day. "I have to look it over and see how much cleaning up it needs. I'm going to have to sell one of the houses, and it turns out that, unless the Scottsdale house is in a lot better shape than I remember, it may actually be worth less, or about the same as this house here in Payson."
"How can that be?" Al was incredulous. "Scottsdale is one of the most expensive places to live in this world!"
"You obviously haven't been to L.A, San Francisco, or Monterey lately," said Kelly, speaking from experience. "Scottsdale is expensive and the new neighborhoods would be impossible for my grandparents to get into now, but the old neighborhood they're living in is now considered to be the low-rent district. I know it used to be a great, middle to upper middle-class area, but now it's lower middle-class at best. That's according to all I could find out about it anyway." She picked some lint off her jeans, needing something to do with her hands. "I won't really know until I see what shape it's in and see what a couple realtors say."
Al muttered something about how it sounded like a lot of fun, and Kelly wondered if he was upset that she was planning on selling some of her grandparent’s things, including their house. "Is there a problem? You know I don't want to sell their house, or anything else for that matter, but it's required. My grandparents' estate has to pay for their care until they meet requirements for state funding. I'm just glad that Arizona allows a person to maintain a house and a car, though that's really meant for people who could eventually recover and eventually go back to taking care of themselves. The doctor says,” Kelly paused, though she was sure Al wouldn't disagree with what she was about to say, "The doctor says that there's really no hope of them recovering."
"So, what does the lawyer say?" Al asked; the words more gravelly than usual. He'd been unhappy when Kelly told him that she'd gone with Mr. Yoshida.
"Well, the part about the estate and the state funding was part of what he told me. It also looks like it will be a few weeks before the court will be able to hold a hearing about my being the official guardian. Mr. Yoshida says I should be here for that hearing."
"So, are you going to go back to work in Germany and then come back?" Al sounded as if he didn't want her to leave. She was the only regular company he'd had lately, except for the folks at his favorite café.
"I don't know if I can afford to fly back there and then come back again. Plus, I have to take care of cleaning both houses and then selling one of them, along with a lot of their possessions. I spoke with my commander and the others. They're not happy about it, but they'll let me stay here throughout the time it takes to take care of all this." She sighed, "You know I haven't taken leave in such a long time, except for a couple days. I have all this leave time saved up, and it will disappear now." She glanced quickly at Al, "Not that I don't think it's worth it."
"It's just that I wasn't spending enough time with my family as it was, working twelve to sixteen hours a day and often on weekends, too. To tell you the truth, I think my marriage is in trouble." Kelly tried to sound less serious than she felt about that subject.
"Really? Why?" Al asked with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
"Look, Al. I know you were a long distance trucker, and you rarely saw your family. But look at what happened." Kelly stared through the windshield. "I mean, you've got to admit that your divorce and the fact that half your kids don't talk to you could stem from the fact that you weren't with them enough through the years."
"It was mainly that my wife turned against me and tried to turn the kids against me, too." Al grumbled.
"Okay. Whatever the case, I don't want my marriage to fall apart. I think you can understand that."
"So, why don’t you work less hours then?"
Kelly laughed. "Oh, Al. I wish I had enough time to tell you all the reasons for the hours I work." Kelly's mind raced over the arguments she and Tony had had over the past two years about her long hours. The military drawdown, which had left her office with about a quarter of the people it had had before. The end of the Cold War, which meant that, instead of concentrating on one big, bad, but known enemy, the military now had to be prepared for many different types of operations from humanitarian work up to a major conflict. Intelligence personnel were tasked especially heavily because they were required to be able to predict what would happen in the known trouble spots, while foreseeing any new countries which might heat up. Her office, with only a quarter of the manning it had held during the cold war, was watching activities in a hundred more countries, some with little-understood leadership and capabilities.
She tried to explain this to Al.
"Sounds like normal military belly-aching to me." Al pulled into the Payson Manor parking lot. "If a military man isn't griping, he isn't happy."
Kelly said dryly, "Thanks for he understanding, Al. Since you don't want to accept that, how about that, once I get back home to Germany, I'll have about a month to get ready to leave my family again for four to six months. The deployment schedules are getting worse." Kelly expected another of Al's opinions, "And, I know that it isn't as bad as World War II, or any other war, for that matter. However, we're expected to have normal family lives while still deploying for several months at least once a year or so. Plus, the same jobs have to get done back at home base with the few people who are left are getting ready to deploy, or who just returned from deployment."
Kelly stopped. She did sound as if she was just another G.I. griping about military life. No matter how much she was saying was true , and no matter how much it affected her life, she'd signed on the dotted line, so she may as well stop griping. Normally, back in Germany, she was more concerned about how the people who worked for her were holding up under the pressures, and she rarely worried about her own situation. However, in the couple weeks prior to her grandparents’ crisis, she and her husband had been showing definite signs of marital discord. She was concerned that, with her grandparents’ lives so much her responsibility now, the strain on her marriage would become even harder to handle.
"Are you coming, or what?" Al stood outside his door, watching Kelly as she stared through the windshield at the now familiar Payson Manor.
"Sorry." She climbed out of the truck and grabbed the bag of things for her grandparents’ room. "Let's go inside and let the nurses know that we're going to bring in the chair. Maybe they have something that we can use to wheel it in, instead of carrying it the whole way."
Al started to carry the chair out of the truck anyway.
"Al, why don't we wait to see if they have a cart?" Kelly tried to keep the impatience out of her voice.
"I'll just carry it to the door, just in case."
"Well, I can't have you do that all by yourself, no matter how strong you are. Just wait here until I come back." Kelly looked at Al, and saw only stubbornness. "Please."
Kelly walked into the front entrance and asked the receptionist, who she knew by name now, for a cart.
"Sarah, is there a cart or something here which I can use to bring in an easy chair for my Grandmother?"
"Sure, wait there and I'll get it." Sarah took the side door out of the office area and into the main corridor. She went towards the main area of the care facility.
"Oh, Kelly. I'm glad you're here." The admissions counselor, Theresa Wheelwright was walking toward the window from her office at the back of the main room.
"Hi, Theresa. What's up?" Kelly tried to be casual, but speaking to Theresa always got her on edge. The woman was young, slender and very attractive, and she seemed very confident in her abilities, but something about her made Kelly feel as if she was insincere. Kelly had worked with insincere and manipulative people before, and usually had no problem with them, but she felt uncomfortable working with Theresa. She couldn't even pin down the specific behavior that may have indicated insincerity.
She shook the thoughts from her head; it was probably still the tension of having to admit her grandparents into the care facility. Theresa was the person Kelly had to talk with in order to make all arrangements, so she may have been using Theresa as the object of her guilt and tension. On the surface, Theresa seemed like a dedicated worker, so she most likely was one.
"I need to set up an appointment with you to discuss some details of your grandparents stay here. I mentioned it before, but we never got around to it. The main point we need to discuss is whether or not you want a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. There are also various levels of care or response which we can provide or withhold." Theresa looked down at her personal organizer which she had brought out of her office. "Do you have any free time this afternoon?"
"Yes." Kelly had tried to discuss the DNR with her grandparents, and had some marginal success with her grandfather, but she wanted to talk about it further. Now that Al was here with her, she wasn't sure she could discuss it this morning, so later this afternoon might work. She'd just have to put off some of the cleaning she'd been planning. "Is later in the afternoon alright with you?"
"Sure, how about four o'clock? Is that alright?"
"Okay. I'll be here. Thanks."
Sarah was bringing the cart around the corner just as Theresa turned to go back into her office. Kelly smiled, thanked the young girl, and took the cart out the front door.
As Kelly backed out of the door, dragging the cart, she pushed the door as far open as she could, and started to swing the cart around out the door. She almost backed right into Al, as he stood there holding the chair.
"Al! I can't believe you!" Kelly looked at him in surprise and felt herself get far more upset than she wanted to. "You said you'd wait by the truck."
"Well, I changed my mind. That's not only a woman's prerogative, you know. It's also a God given right for old folks. We're allowed to change our mind anytime we want." He looked at Kelly with a twinkle in his eye. He was having fun. "I wanted."
Kelly couldn't stay mad at him when he was just trying to be playful, and it didn't seem as if he'd hurt himself. Kelly looked at the chair itself, and it seemed fine, too.
"Alright. You're obviously old enough to take full responsibility if you hurt yourself making the wrong decision." Kelly smiled at him, a twinkle in her eye this time. "Just don't be surprised if I stand over your injured body and laugh a bit the next time you decide to drag something this heavy around all by yourself."
Al laughed and they both lifted the chair onto the flat cart.
When they rolled the cart into her grandparents’ room, they were still in a happy mood and were delighted to discover that her grandparents were, too.
"Hello, Al. Hello Terry. How are you this fine morning?" Grandpa sat up in his bed, the window blinds open so he could see the mountains, with the sun pouring in on him. He looked years younger than when he'd gotten there only a couple days before.
"Hi, Grandpa. Hi, Grandma. How are you guys doing?" Kelly looked from her grandfather to her grandmother, who was sitting in the chair beside her bed. A tray of breakfast food, mostly eaten this time, was on the tray table in from of her. She smiled sheepishly, but didn't seem to recognize them.
"Hi Johnny and Betty." Al raised his rough voice to as close to a roar as he could, and Kelly saw Grandpa smile. Al went over to the far side of Johnny's bed and stared speaking with him about some mutual friends.
Kelly turned back to her grandmother. "Grandma, it looks as if you ate a lot of your breakfast this morning. That's great! You look like you're feeling better. Are you?"
Grandma nodded her head a little and giggled like a little girl. "I ate a little, but I also fed some to Johnny. He was so hungry!" She pursed her lips, closed her eyes and then giggled again, looking shy. Then she opened her eyes in recognition and exclaimed, "Why, Babe. I'm so glad you're here." Kelly was beginning to get used to being called by her mother's name by both her grandparents, but she was hoping that her grandmother's better condition might help her remember better.
"Grandma, it's me, Kelly. Kelly. Remember?"
Grandma ignored the question. "Babe. Do you know what the funniest thing is?" She giggled again. “Johnny and I were just talking about the first time you and Carl met. Do you remember?"
Kelly felt as if her own question had been turned around on her, and felt suddenly that she wasn't sure who she was. A sense of vertigo swept over here until she shook her head and firmly settled into her own persona.
"Yes, Grandma. Mummy used to tell us about how they met." Kelly had tried role playing, hoping that pretending to be the person her grandparents thought she was would help the flow of conversation. Unfortunately, pretending to be her mother became too complicated, especially if her grandfather suddenly came to realize who she really was.
"You know that's funny, because it was you, Babe, who had to tell us what happened, since Carl just said he'd met this special girl." Grandma smiled wistfully. "I always knew that Los Angeles was the ideal place for romance." Then she suddenly looked serious. "Of course, that isn't always good. You know you weren't the first girl he fell for in L.A. Oh no. There were these other girls, and I only ever really liked one of them." She smiled again, "But the way you two met was so romantic."
Kelly reflected on the difference in the Los Angeles she had visited and driven through several times, and the L.A. of the late forties and early fifties. Her parents and grandparents had often reminisced about their lives in L.A. and it had become a place of surreal romance for Kelly, too. The road and place names became as familiar to her as the roads of the towns she'd actually lived in. When she first drove there as an adult, she would read the road signs and recognize virtually every name. She had felt as if she should know where she was, but, instead, she was lost in a normal big city that had replaced the beautiful, romantic city of her dreams.
Her grandmother's eyes showed that she was now in the Los Angeles of her own dreams. "Johnny. Do you remember how it was that Babe had told us about meeting Carl?"
Al and Grandpa looked over at the two women, interrupted in their discussion of a baseball team. Grandpa said something under his breath and then said, "That Babe was such a card. She first old us that they'd met when her team beat Carl's in volleyball. Ha!" He laughed loudly, stretching his smile wider in his face, making his toothless condition even more apparent.
"That's right. You were one for the jokes, weren't you Babe?" Kelly was surprised. Her mother had always had a good sense of humor, but she'd never seen her as someone who would just tell a story for the purpose of joking around.
"Was I?" Kelly blurted the words before she had time to think about it and stop. She glanced at Al and saw that he thought the whole situation was funny.
"Oh, yes." Grandpa said. "Babe always liked to laugh. But then, she would shed a tear over something sad or sentimental. She'd cry if she saw a poor child, a hungry dog, or when she saw an old, romantic movie. Quick with a laugh, and quick with a tear." Grandpa chuckled a little, remembering.
Kelly felt a little weak. She sat down on the edge of her grandmother's bed and looked at her grandparents. They were sharing old memories about something she had never heard. Her mother had probably always steered any conversation away from herself in the past, so Kelly had never heard of Babe's personality when she was a young woman in love with her dashing young Carl.
"So, how did they really meet?" Al was obviously caught up in the moment.
"Oh, well, it was on the beach, like Babe said. Isn't that right, Babe?" Grandma looked at Kelly with questioning eyes.
'Grandma, you like the story so much, I'll let you tell it. I know you enjoy telling it." Kelly turned toward Grandpa, hoping to show at least him that she was their granddaughter, not their daughter-in-law.
"Oh, good. Alright." Grandma settled back in the chair, reminding Kelly that she needed to replace it with the chair they'd just brought in, but it didn't have to happen right away.
"Well," her grandmother started, sounding like an excited child, "the story goes like this. Carl was a young and very handsome man, going to UCLA at the time. He took after his father, that's how handsome he was." She turned to look at her husband and nodded, confirming that the good looks had come from Johnny. "He was an athlete, a tennis and volleyball star. Of course, volleyball was just a pastime, not really a sport back then. At least for Carl."
"That's right. But in tennis, he was the captain of the team." Grandpa spoke out.
"Yes. He used to go to the beach to swim, and surf a little, but he really liked to play volleyball on the beach. On some Saturdays, he'd be gone from dawn until way past dark, and during summer break, he'd be gone like that every day." Grandma squinted her eyes and looked at the ceiling, looking for the memories to come to her clearly. "On this day, they had a volleyball tournament and a beach party afterward. They'd have a bonfire and eat roasted fish or whatever they could find to eat." She turned to Johnny. "I don't remember what they used to eat, do you Johnny?"
"No. No, I don't. Maybe that's not important to the story, though."
Kelly glanced at Al. He seemed satisfied to listen to this rambling story about someone he had never met and never would. She was glad he was such a good friend to her grandparents. She started to feel sentimental and felt a tear come to her eye, just like her mother would have, she realized. She took a deep breath and told herself it was just the stories that were making her feel nostalgic.
"So, on the same day, Babe was on the beach, too. She was going to start attending UCLA in the fall. You see, she was three years younger than Carl, but had finished High School a little earlier because of the strange way they do school in California." She was explaining this to Al, who probably thought that the U.S. as a whole handled education in a confusing way. "Carl was about to start his junior year at UCLA, so you would have thought that Babe would still be in High School. It wasn't as if Carl was a bad student. Oh, no. Just the opposite. He had many opportunities for scholarships. He didn't even have to take the ROTC scholarship initially, you know. But, Korea was starting, and he thought he'd want to go over there, so why not join the ROTC. UCLA was one of the first to have Air Force ROTC, you know." Grandma was rambling, something that she'd never done before. Kelly didn't want to interrupt her and get her back on course, since she seemed to be enjoying herself so much.
Grandpa, on the other hand, wanted the story to be told before they all forgot where it had originally started. "Okay, okay. Maybe I should tell this story, after all. Otherwise, we'll go through the history of the world before we know how Carl and Babe really met."
"Oh, be quiet, you old poof." Grandma looked irritated, in a way she had often looked irritated at her husband in years past. Kelly was overjoyed to see the familiar face and hear the familiar argumentative exchange.
Grandma looked at Al, and then at Kelly again, a ray of sunshine shone in the window, reflected gently off the sink mirror and onto Grandma's face. She smiled. "As I was saying; Babe was at the beach this day, too. She was with a girlfriend of hers at another, smaller picnic just down the beach from Carl's party. She and her friend were trying to play a couple small ukuleles. Oh, Johnny, do you remember how everyone played ukuleles then? They were such a craze!"
Grandma was starting to move back and forth to an unheard tune. Kelly could almost hear that Hawaiian song, "Aloha ey, aloha ey …"
Grandpa said, "Yep. Everyone had to sing those island songs along with a ukulele. You'd have thought the beaches in California had broken away in one of those earthquakes and gone off to be their own island." He laughed. "I think Carl wanted them to do just that for awhile. Though we came to California from Ohio, he took to those Southern California Beaches just like a native. Yep."
"So, here they were, on the same beach, a handsome young man and a lovely young woman." Grandma glanced at Kelly, "You know you were so lovely then, so don't you go arguing about it like you usually do, now Babe." She started the tale again. "So this young man and young woman who had never met, but who would be going to the same school, soon, were within hearing distance of each other."
Johnny said quietly to Al, "Sorry this is taking so long, who would have thought she couldn't tell a simple 30 second story in under ten minutes."
"Babe had been watching the volleyball players and had noticed this handsome young man with his dark hair in a crew cut. She'd thought he was handsome, but hadn't thought too much else about it. Then here she is, singing these tunes and playing her ukulele. Well, you know that everyone then knew how to play a basic ukulele, which meant everyone knew how to tune it." Grandma's smile was getting bigger. "Well, whether or not Babe did this on purpose or not, she'll never tell, but the boys playing at Carl's party couldn't help but notice that one of the ukulele's these girls were playing was out of tune. So, three or four of them, Carl in the lead, went over to help these poor high school girls with their ukuleles."
Grandpa poked Al in the side, "Now, this is the part to listen to."
"So, these girls are sitting there, playing their ukulele's and the four men walk up. The girls stop playing and Babe asks, 'Is something wrong?' And one of the young men, not Carl, says, 'Yes, one of you has been playing a ukulele that's out of tune, and we'd like to help.'"
Kelly and Johnny were smiling now, and Al was looking as if he expected something significant to happen. Kelly hoped he wouldn't be too disappointed, she realized the story meant a lot more to family members than it ever would mean to a family friend.
Grandma continued, "At about this time, Carl had moved closest of all the men to Babe. He had taken one look at her and decided that he wanted to tune her ukulele. Now some people would take that to mean something rude, but that's not what he wanted." Grandma paused and looked at Kelly, "Was it Babe?"
Kelly stifled a giggle and shook her head.
"So, the two girls now play each string of their ukulele in turn. You know how to tune a ukulele, you sing the song, 'My dog has fleas' and each string is supposed to match. Well, the girl with Babe plays hers first, singing, 'My dog has fleas' and the ukulele is in perfect pitch. So then Babe plucks her ukulele strings and sings 'My dog has fleas.'" Grandma sang the last note out of tune, higher in pitch than it should have been. Grandpa was already chuckling, "And Babe says, 'See, mine's in tune, too.' And the boys all start laughing because the ukulele was in perfect tune with Babe's singing, it was just her singing that was all wrong." Grandpa and Grandma burst into familiar laughter, Al guffawed and then joined the laughter and Kelly bent over with the force of her laugh.
"So, Carl takes her ukulele," Grandma managed to speak in between laughs, "and he takes her arm and draws her to one side and helps her tune her ukulele. Well, I won't say it was love at first sight, but Carl didn't have fleas on him that weren't shaken off in the speed he set chasing after her, off key and all." They all laughed some more.
Just as Johnny sang, loud and off-key, another 'My dog has fleas', a nurse walked in with some medication. The room burst out laughing to Johnny's singing, and the nurse couldn't fight off the contagious laughter so she joined in.
Later, after almost two full hours of telling stories and jokes, Al had to leave. Since he was Kelly's ride that day, she decided to go along with him, though she was enjoying her grandparents’ good moods. She would have stayed longer if she'd known that she'd never see her Grandma in a good mood like that again.
Copyright 2000, P-M Terry Lamar
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|Reviewed by Jean Pike
|Terry, I loved this chapter. It was so heartwarming and really had me hoping for something good for grandma and grandpa. Why, oh why, did you have to add that last line ... ? :-(|
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Good story, Terry; brava!
(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D