I spent lots of summer days with my Mom’s parents, while she worked. Mom, Dad, and Granny called me Daniel, but Grandpa’s name for me was Danny-boy, and, coming from him, that was okay. They were special grandparents, but in 1992, when I was eleven, I saw a side of them I’d never seen before. It was a big part of my growing up.
As we drove that day to look at the “place in the country,” I pouted. I was secretly mad at Grandpa for choosing to sell their home downtown. I loved the big, sprawling, white house on the corner. In the huge living room, Grandpa had told me great old-time stories. Granny had read Bible stories, and taught me verses about loving other people, forgiving, and all that stuff. I didn’t want them to move, but the house sold quickly, and things started changing.
While Granny attended a week-end retreat, Grandpa had seen this new place, and had even made an offer on it.
“Howard, I can’t believe you actually did this without talking to me first,” Granny stormed, as I rode in their back seat, glued to their conversation. Mom followed behind us in our car.
“Well, Lexie, I was afraid to wait. It seems like just what we need. Anyway, my offer was the most we could pay, and well below the asking price.” He paused, then added, “but Lex, I need to tell you something. The kitchen may not be just what you want, the colors and all...,” he trailed off. That would prove to be an understatement.
It was a neat place, on two acres of land covered with pretty trees. We parked, went in the front door, and began the tour. Granny didn’t flinch at the seventies’ style wallpaper in the bathrooms, commenting that she could replace it. The carpet, a bit outdated, was liveable, she said. But at the kitchen door, she stopped, stone-still, and gasped.
On the walls of the kitchen and dining area was the ugliest wallpaper I’d ever seen. There were huge orange flowers with bright green stems, against a grassy background. Admittedly, wallpaper was replaceable, but this had been matched, unfortunately, to extensive orange countertops. Not rust, nor pumpkin, but bright, staggering orange.
“Unbelievable! No way, Howard. This would have to be changed right away.” She put her hands on her hips in absolute defiance. Even as a boy of eleven, I knew this was trouble.
But I got a lump in my throat as I glanced at Grandpa. He looked like he’d been punched.
“Lexie, it’s just a color. Think about it. This house is well-kept, energy efficient, great for retirement, and that’s not many years away. It will be, uh..., a few months... before we can redo the counters, because of the cabinet involvement. The carpenter says... a major job..., but soon...,” he stammered, finishing lamely.
My normally calm, cool, and collected Granny burst into tears.
Grandpa’s shoulders slumped, and he walked outside. I followed him. I mean, what else is a guy gonna do? Maybe Mom could make Granny better. I wasn’t up to all this.
“Danny-boy,” Grandpa said heavily. “I thought I was doing what was best, but guess I missed it.” At that moment I saw how much this meant to him, yet how he wanted Granny to be pleased. “I have to make it right,” He sighed.
Back inside, we found Granny, red-eyed and tight-lipped, measuring for wallpaper, with Mom helping her.
“I can, at least, do this,” she said. Then looking into Grandpa’s sad eyes she spoke simply, “You are a stubborn, pushy man, but a fine husband. If I’ve learned to live with you all these years, guess I can live with this orange for awhile.
“Are you sure, Lex? ‘Cause I really don’t want to live here or anywhere without you.” He took her in his arms and held her.
Years later, with a wife and son of my own, I still treasure that picture.
Granny had to wait three years to be rid of the orange countertop. She disguised and covered it with pretty baskets, small appliances, even a large wooden breadbox. When guests noticed the color, and there was an awkward pause, Grandpa winced, but Granny had two standard jokes: “Originally decorated by Texas Longhorn fans;” or, “It’s temporary - just for Halloween.”
But I had seen love in action, and I will never forget.
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