Grandkids can get us thinking
“So, how was your soccer game?” I ask my 8-year old grandson.
“Good,” he mutters staring out the car window.
“Did you score any goals?”
He shrugs tossing his tangle of summer streaked brown hair. A woman could sit in a beauty shop all day to achieve that look. “You don’t sound like you want to talk very much, right now. Not like usual when you are at least polite enough to give more than one-word answers to your grampa.” Silence rang loud. Something was troubling the kid. “Want to stop at Shake and Bake?”
“It’s Steak and Shake, grampa.”
“Ah. That’s right. So, where’s the closest one?”
“Next corner go right.”
Over his pumpkin shake, he finally lets it out. “Tico deliberately kicked me when the ref wasn’t looking.”
“You guys are buddies, right?” I watch his lips purse. “Sometimes, friends do that. Hurt you.” His eyes raise, interested. I don’t need much, if any, excuse to launch into a story. My favorite kind. About me. “My best friends Tony and Jay gave me a PB.”
A questioning tilt of his head.
“PB stands for pink belly. They jumped on me after school and held me down while they slapped my belly. Really got me mad. I even cried. I thought they were my friends.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing, really. I just got over it, after a while. We kept being friends.” His attention went back to his straw.
“Know how old I was when they gave me the PB?”
“Somewhere around your age. We met in fourth grade and graduated from eighth grade but then never saw each again until I saw Tony’s picture on Facebook a while back. We emailed each other.”
“So, you knew each other for like five years.”
“Yeah. Seemed like a long time back then. Now it seems like someone I might have met on the airplane and had a nice conversation with before we landed. You know how many times I have spent five years?”
“Is this a word problem? How old are you?”
“Say 70 and change.”
“Yep. I’ve known a lot of other people during those 14, 5-year spans. Including you and your most recent 5. So, do you think I ought to connect with Tony? Maybe hire a couple of goons to help me sit on him and give him a PB?”
“Or play soccer against him and trip him when the ref isn’t looking.”
I nod sagely. “There’s that. But he lives on the East Coast now and I doubt he plays soccer any more than I do. There was just baseball and football and some basketball when were kids. But thanks for the thought.” I take a hit on my soda. “He invited me out to his house. Sounds like a beautiful mansion on the ocean. Think I should go?”
“I guess. Why not? Could be fun. Take me too.” His face lighting up. “We could play in the ocean, like in Florida.”
“But what if we can’t stand each other? I mean it’s not like we’re still kids playing marbles next to the street or hitting grounders in the playground until the cover wears off.”
“You played baseball back then?”
I gave him my sullen stare. “What if his house is so nice that I can’t picture inviting him to stay in our house in return?”
“What’s wrong with your house? We like to stay there. It’s cool. Besides what does it matter if his house is better? A house is where you go and your mom and dad are there.”
“And he lives by the ocean.”
“You live next to Lake Michigan.”
“In a trailer park…big difference.”
“I love it at your trailer.”
“Okay, so it’s not just about houses and where we live. But he obviously has made more money than me if he can afford to live where he does.”
“So?” He smudges ice cream dribble across his chin. “Maybe he was a crook and stole it or someone gave him the money or he won the lottery or the house belonged to his wife. Could be?”
“Okay, so it’s not money or careers. Maybe he’s the kind of guy who thinks differently from me about religion and politics.”
“I don’t even know what you mean. If he’s your buddy you just do things like go fishing or ride bikes.”
“Grownups don’t just play together. They sit around and talk and notice things and compare. And you don’t know if you’re going to enjoy each other’s company or have things to talk about after all that time since you were kids.”
“What if he has a yacht or rides horses?”
“Really, that is so cool…to be on a yacht. What’s a yacht? And ride horses! Wow! Why do you need to talk? Which way to the bathroom?”
So simple. Just have fun together. But we no longer have the all-day energy to play constantly. There’s more down time. You know, it would be good if I could just meet the guy for a coffee like they do with online dating meets. We could see where we’re at with each other, decide whether there is enough commonality at this point to resume the friendship. But isn’t that what you have class reunions for? But how can you get a class reunion for grade schoolers 65 years after the fact? No one has kept track of us. Certainly none of the married women will have the same last names, some may be dead.
“Hey, grampa, you should have seen that goal I made. I faked Tico right onto his butt. Ha!”
Yeah. That’s the idea. Live in the moment. Quit trying to recreate the distant past.