Sucking noisily on his old pipe, George slowly exhaled a large puff of smoke that filled the room with its heady rum and maple aroma.
“Grandpa, they say that smoking can kill you,” said Amy his granddaughter as she brought him a cup of coffee.
Chuckling at the thought he replied, “No my dear, I think old age will kill me, everyone and everything else has tried but I am still here.”
“How old are you granddad?” she asked as she cuddled up to him on the sofa.
“Ninety two years last February and still going strong,” He replied as he painfully raised his right arm and gave her a hug. “It won’t be long before I pop off this mortal coil. The good Lord gave us three score and ten years, so I have far outlived my sell by date and yet I am still around”.
“When were you born granddad?” she asked, knowing that another interesting story was on its way.
“I was born in 1917 and was blessed with wonderful parents. They were hard working, God fearing people and while we never had much money, there was always food on the table and we had a happy home.”
“Mommy said that you were a soldier in the war and that you were a hero,” said Amy rubbing his cold frail hands.
“I am no hero Amy, I only did what I had to do to survive. The men with me were the real heroes, unfortunately most of them died and did not come back home. I was the lucky one.”
“Really granddad,” said Amy warming to the story, “What happened?”
Slowly George filled his pipe and lit it. How could he tell her that at the age of twenty three, he had been taken prisoner in the Philippines during the war and of the terrible suffering he had endured as the Japanese had forced him and 75,000 other American and Filipino prisoners of war on what has been called ‘The Bataan Death March’? Only 54,000 of them finally reached their destination, only to endure further torture and abuse. No it would be better if he changed the subject, he thought as the memories of those years brought tears to his eyes.
“Did I tell you that I saw man walking on the moon in 1969 on television?” he said as she snuggled closer.
“Really, did they have television in those days?” she asked
“Sweetie-pie, we had all sorts of wonderful gadgets when I was young and they are still around today, only they have got better and fancier since then. In fact being able to watch mans progress over the past 92 years or what I can remember of those years, has been a privilege in itself. The only things that have never changed are a beautiful sunrise and the setting sun as it disappears below the horizon.”
“Now that you are old grandpa, what do you miss the most of everything that you have experienced in life?” she said, turning to stare into his wrinkled weather beaten face.
“I miss your grandmother most of all,” he said without a moment’s hesitation. “She was the most wonderful woman, a wife, lover, mother and my best friend for nearly forty eight years. These last twelve years have been the hardest of my whole life since she went to be with the Lord.”
Sensing a romantic story, she asked, “How did the two of you meet?”
“When I came back from the war, I was a walking skeleton and she was a nurse. It took her four years to nurse me back to health and I fell madly in love with her. We were married in 1949 and from then on my life was complete.”
Changing the subject, George smiled and said, “How’s your pregnancy going?”
“Oh just fine thank you.” she said, “Only two months to go you know.”
“What are you going to call him?”
“We are naming him George, after you granddad.”
“That is a great honour for me; I can hardly wait to meet him.” he said as he relit his pipe and took a long deep pull on it. “Lord willing, soon I will be a great-grandfather, I’m sure Heaven can wait a few more months.”
“Oh granddad, you will be around to meet him, just promise me you won’t teach him to smoke.” she said with a smile
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