I was glad that Dad was in such good physical shape for an old guy, because the number of shocks his body was experiencing today would have done in a lesser man. I was proud when he was able to pick his lower jaw up off his desk and pull himself together under the onslaught. I was even prouder of my wife Ammie for her graciousness, style, and compassionate nature. She managed to wow my dad right out of his socks. Well, with the help of her daughters.
Later on Dad admitted that he had been impressed by Ammie’s intelligence and ability to articulate a proper sentence, but what had really won him over was the red lollypop stuck to the butt of her white pencil cut skirt. Hmm, who’d a thunk it? The Great White of the world of consultants has a whimsical side.
“Are you my grampa?” Seven asked as she stepped through the door behind her mother.
“Maybe,” Dad said. “It depends. Who are you?”
“My name is Seven, and I’m five years old,” she said striding towards his desk. “And I like turnips,” she added, as if that would clinch the deal.
“I’m Dora,” Dora exclaimed at the door; she had a firm grasp on Sven’s hand and was trying to pull his bulk into the room. “I’m seven years old and I surely don’t like turnips…or brockri…but I like ice cream. Do you like ice cream, cuz I like ice cream, do you?”
Jake and I watched the whole scene unfold as if we were watching an action adventure movie at the theatre. Deep down, I even kind of wanted some popcorn. Jake handed me a mint.
Have you ever been in a house which was so quiet that you could hear the tick of a wrist watch in the next room? Yeah, neither have I. With three small girls I’m lucky if I can hear a low-flying 747 going over the roof. The last time it got so loud in this office was when Dad had a screaming match with two of his ex-vices in the eighties. There may even have been weapons fired. I have to admit, he took it pretty well. Even when suddenly both his laps had been conscripted and occupied, and one hand captured by a sticky hand. You see, my kids don’t believe that grandpas want to, or even have the right to, act aloof and distant.
“I’m going to be an astronaut, or maybe a waitress.”
“I want a dog but mom says that it isn’t fair to the dog.”
“Is this your for real hair? Cuz my other grandpa has store-bought hair.”
“Did you know you can pee in a garden and it will grow into a beautiful flower?”
“Not pee in the garden, stupid, you have to plant peas in the garden. She’s five she doesn’t know.”
“Daddy, she called me stupid.”
“What’s this button for? Hey it makes a noise when I press it.”
“Yes, Mr. Hays?”
“That’s cool, press it again.”
“Are you my really-real grandpa, or a bee-tend grandpa like Grandpa Joe?”
“My turn to sit on his lap.”
“I just got here.”
“Your breath smells yucky.”
“Do you play Angry Birds?”
I stuck my fingers into my mouth and gave a loud, quick whistle. “Okay girls, that’s enough,” I said, coming to my dad’s rescue. “Everyone quiet, and get off your grandfather.”
My dad looked up and said something which made me wonder if he had been kidnapped by aliens and replaced with a body double. “It’s okay, Parker, leave them be. We’re just getting to know each other.” Jake and I exchanged glances, and then we both looked at Ammie. She lifted her shoulders – it was a classic this-is-your-bailiwick-leave-me-out-of-it shrug. “Why don’t you three go get some coffee?” Now I knew he had been abducted; this couldn’t be my father.
“He seems really nice?” Ammie said in a tone that conveyed the same thoughts.
We both looked at Jake. “Hey, I’m as blown away as the two of you. Whoever that guy is in there, I know it can’t be Dad.”
Five minutes of alone time was all I figured that Dad could handle. “Sven and daddy always have to watch us so we don’t get took,” I heard Dora say when I walked back in the door.
That’s how I ended up getting re-fired after only a week. Dad paid for our new kitchen with the stipulation that Sven and I continue our guard over the girls, and that the entire family go over to his house every Friday for dinner. Someday, he said, he even wanted to meet Ammie’s mother. Yikes.
So in the end, Ammie’s smoky birthday present had transformed into a magical gift which produced an olive branch that was the foundation of a new bridge between our families. So it looks like her homemade birthday present rule was the best rule of all. But don’t tell her I said that because I will deny it to my dying day…or maybe get Sven to pay you a visit.
“Green Yellow Red” by Beni Ishaque Luthor. www.flickr.com. Some rights reserved.