Thursday, May 17, 2012

No One Ever Has To Know

         A curly topped bundle of energy landed full force in my lap.   
        "Grandpa, read me a story" Soft green eyes looked up at me. 
        "Go ask Grandma." I said gruffly, "She's the official story reader around here."
        "Grandma's busy." pouted Emma, "Please read me a book?"
        The smell of roast beef permeated my nostrils; the clatter of dishes told me that final preparations for Sunday dinner were well underway.
       "Why don't you read the story by yourself? It's good practise for you."
        "Grandpa," Emma giggled "I can't read I'm only four. You're a grown up. Grown ups are the only ones who know all the words."
        "I think it's time for me to carve the roast." I said, removing a squirming Emma from my knee. I stood up and snatched away the Nintendo my grandson David was playing with, "Do something useful. Read this book to your sister."
        "Bur Grandpa, I was on level 10." whined David, slouched down in the rust coloured recliner in the corner of the room.
       "When I was your age we didn't have computers, we didn't even have television. We played with our brothers and sisters and we enjoyed it. Besides, reading is good for you. Don't forget to turn a light on, it's darker than Grant's tomb in here."
        "Who's what?" David looked confused.
        Ignoring his question I crossed the worn area rug and stepped onto the scuffed hardwood. I entered the kitchen with it's happy yellow walls and the old formica table that we'd had for how many years now? I couldn't remember when or where we'd bought it but it had served us well. 
        Annie and Anita were working side by side at the counter under the window. Anita resembled her mother in both looks and action. I smiled every time I looked at her multicoloured eyes and dimpled cheeks. I felt happier just being in this room with them. 
        "Dad, grab me a package of frozen corn will you?"
        Annie's head turned quickly and my eyes met hers. 
        "I'll do it dear, you get the roast out of the oven."
        "I think I can manage to find a package of frozen corn." I grumbled.
        I opened the freezer in the bottom of the refrigerator and pulled out the drawer. I studied the white plastic bags. I spotted peas and beans but no corn. 
        "What's taking you so long Dad?" Anita asked as she grabbed a bag from the shelf above the drawer. "I swear I'll never understand men. If it had been any closer it would have bitten you." she teased; shaking those bright red curls that were so like Emma's. 
        If the picture on the corn bag had been facing up like it should have been I would have found it right away. I wish Annie would be more careful when she puts things away.
        "Were you and Emma having a nice time?" Annie changed the subject quickly.
        I opened the oven door and paused.  "Emma wanted me to read her a story." I answered with downcast eyes.
        Annie looked up from the pot of potatoes and gently touched my arm. "It's okay Gus", she said quietly so only we could hear. Annie had been at my side for over forty years telling me we'd be alright. And we always had been. Even though I'd been through more jobs than I could recall we'd managed to buy this cozy little bungalow and successfully raise three children. Today the old feelings of inadequacy and fear had come rushing back and I was struggling with them. I was feeling so frustrated. 
        I looked down into Annie's plump face; into those multicoloured eyes that seemed to change to whatever colour she was wearing. Today they were hazel with flecks of green that shone like tiny sparkling gems. How could I not trust that face? I wanted to look at her forever.
        The slamming of the back door broke the silence. "Hi sweetheart," James said to Anita, giving her a peck on the cheek, crossing the room in three strides. "something in here smells mighty good."
        "They didn't have half and half so I got whole milk,"  he said to Annie, his thin six foot frame towering over her ample 5'2" form, "I hope that's okay."    
        "That's just fine dear," replied Annie, "stick it in the fridge for me will you?"
        Why was it always James they sent to the store? I could have gotten a bottle of milk just as easily as he had.  Where he needed to be was in a barber's chair getting a proper haircut.
        That evening after Anita and family had finely gone and Annie and I had finished washing the dishes, just like we always did, I decided to finally broach what had been on my mind.  
        Tentatively I began, "Annie I think it's time."
        Annie put down her knitting. There was no going back now. I rattled off the words that had been churning in my chest for days, waiting until I'd built up the courage to let them out.
        "Annie, I'm tired of walking around with a pocketful of labels so I can pick things up at the store for you. I want to be able to read a newspaper. I want to know that if my supervisor at the loading dock asks me to pick up a pallet of televisions I'll be able to do it without being afraid I'll pick up the wrong brand. And most of all, I want to be able to read to my grandchildren. You said this thing is confidential, right? No one will ever have to know unless I tell them myself."
        Annie reached over and touched my hand. "No, Gus. No one ever has to know."
        "I'll call first thing tomorrow then."
        I turned up the television and Annie went back to her knitting, a Mona Lisa smile on her face. 

Copyright Shirleymac April 2009