Marty slumped on the floor - eyes closed with his back leaning up against the front of the sofa – basking in the aftermath of a video game frenzy. The floor was littered with empty soda cans and chip bags. The controllers and various games lay haphazardly all around.
Marty turned his head and stole a peek at his older brother. Jake was pretty depressed lately. This was the first time in a long time he’d done anything with his “little” brother.
Marty decided to take advantage of his brother’s rare good mood and ask something he’d been avoiding for a while.
Jake didn’t even open his eyes. “What, squirt?”
“Can I ask you something?”
Marty hesitated. “What’s love?”
Jake’s eyes came open. He glanced over at Marty with a strange look on his face. “Why? You gone and got yourself a girlfriend?” He teased.
Marty’s face got red. “No, nothing like that! I just want to know, that’s all.”
“I’m just curious, okay?”
Jake shrugged, laid his head back again and closed his eyes. “Trust me…you don’t want to know.”
Jake let out a sigh. “Because love is the most destructive thing in the universe and you should stay away from it for as long as you can, okay?”
“More destructive than a nuclear bomb?”
Jake looked over at his little brother again. “There are ways to avoid nuclear fallout, squirt. Nobody escapes love. It gets everyone eventually.” He said ominously.
Dad’s answer hadn’t been much better.
Marty sat in the family room with his grandfather. They hunched over a card table with a jigsaw puzzle spread across its top. It was one of their favorite things to do, finding all the right places to put the pieces together.
“What is it boy? I got a lead on this square one, so make it fast.”
Gramps put the piece he was studying down and looked carefully at his grandson. “Asked that question a lot, lately?”
Picking the puzzle piece back up, Gramps replied, “Just came out pretty easy, that’s all. Like it’s been practiced some.”
“I asked a few.”
“Well, dad and Jake to start.”
Gramps was now trying to fit the square piece into a corner. “Hmmmpf. Got a couple of different answers there, I’d wager.”
“I’ll tell you a little something, kiddo. You can ask that question of a thousand folks, and you’ll get a thousand different answers.”
“So what’s the right answer?”
Gramps put the piece down again. Marty noticed it was getting a little bent. He knew it didn’t go in that spot.
“The right answer. Now that’s a fine question to ask an old man who can’t remember where he left his teeth most days.” Gramps paused and looked Marty firm in the eyes.
“I’m gonna take a wild leap here and say this is about your mom, right?”
Marty shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Your mom loved you a lot. She said it all the time. Said it to us all. Now she’s gone and you live with a bunch of men who don’t say it so much.”
“At all. We don’t say it all. We used to say it all the time when she was here. To her and each other.” Marty tossed a puzzle piece he was holding, “It’s like love died when she did.”
“It didn’t die, boy. Just moved, that’s all. It was your mom that coaxed it out of us, and we don’t know how to do the same. It’s still there though, believe it.”
“How can you be sure, Gramps?”
“Because we had your mom, Marty. However much love she pulled from us, she put more back than we’ll ever be able to use up. That love we hold inside, that we’re all protecting so fierce right now…it won’t ever run dry, because it came from an endless well. Your mom may be gone, but she left us that well, boy. We just got to learn how to not hoard it up inside so much. Give a little of it out sometimes.”
Gramps looked back at the puzzle and picked up the battered little piece he’d had no luck with before. “Aha! There’s where that sucker goes!” He said triumphantly as he crammed it unconvincingly into a tight spot.
“I love you.”
“Yeah, well me too. I mean…I love you too, kiddo.”
Marty grinned. “But you suck at jigsaw puzzles.”
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