My grandpa died a few weeks ago. I've been thinking about him a lot. It's about four-thirty Christmas morning and I can't sleep so I thought I would write a bit about him.
Except, not really about him. I was actually not around him for most of his life. I guess I'm not really qualified to tell you about him. I mean, I have some facts but as I lay in bed not sleeping I realized that the totality of what I know from first hand experience about my grandfather only reveals how much I don't know him. I don't mean to say he was a stranger to me--he wasn't. Not at all. But I know him best through my father's stories. It is strange to think that even though he has only been gone a little while he has been a legend to me since I was small. I guess this is what happens when families live far away from each other.
So please forgive me if I write about my Grandpa by telling you a story about myself that he liked. I told it to him at Tom's wedding a few years ago and he laughed so hard. He and my brother Matt are some of my favorite people to make laugh. It feels like a triumph. Anyway, I ended up telling that story about five times that weekend. Grandpa kept pulling people over and telling me to tell it to them too. So, I'm going to write it down now.
I was in college. I was in my third year I think. It was winter and I had an intense crush on this boy named James. I thought he was brilliant and poetic. We were friends and would sometimes walk home together. This happened more often than not when I casually waited outside his office until he finished work then "bumped" into him. Man, crushes are so embarrassing.
Anyway, since I lived on his way home sometimes he stopped by my house and had some dinner with me (turkey and cheese sandwiches dipped in barbecue sauce. I really liked this meal for about six months). Finally I got up the courage to invite him and his apartment of roommates over to my house to play some games and eat treats. He said yes.
I was thrilled. I felt like he had basically confessed his undying love for me by agreeing. That day was wonderful.
However, as the evening we had decided on approached I began to have doubts. What if he forgot? Should I call and remind him? What if he remembered but didn't want to come? What if he just said yes to avoid the angry retribution of a stalker? I grew more and more anxious.
About an hour before he and his roommates were to come over I was in despair. My roommates were primping in their rooms (boys were coming over!) but I listlessly moved around the house telling myself he wasn't coming and that I didn't really care. It was snowing and I just knew that if he had remembered and had been planning on coming, he probably wouldn't because of the snow.
Then, out of the blue, my mom called. I told her that I had invited the most awesome boy ever over and that he wasn't coming. That he was standing me up. She asked if he was already late and I said that no, he had about ten minutes to get there but I KNEW. She asked me for a history of our relationship so I told her (it didn't take long, stalker-crush relationships are remarkably easy to sum up).
"So anyway, Mom. That's it. And now he's not coming. And I'm so sad."
My mother's voice on the other end of the line was confident, "No, Anna. He is going to come. I am positive he's going to come. But you are at a very delicate part of your relationship right now. Do you really want this to go somewhere?"
"What well, yes I do, but..."
"Ok." She took a breath. "Then you have to do exactly what I say. Are you listening?"
"Okay. Now do this exactly. As soon as he sits down, sit down right next to him. DON'T let some other girl take your spot. Then, at some point tonight, probably best if it's right after he tells a joke, you put your hand on his knee. And you squeeze it."
"Anna, it's time for the knee squeeze."
"Mom, you want me to reach out and grab this guy's leg?"
"Yes. You've got to promise me you'll do this. It's the only way."
"Mom. You're crazy and he's not even coming so it doesn't even matter."
We hung up right after that and a couple minutes later there was a knock on the door. It was James and his roommates. I forgot all about my mother, I was so delighted and nervous I couldn't open the door at first. We spent the first little while in the kitchen standing around and eating cookies or something and then we went to the living room to play games.
I was worried about the lack of chairs/couch space so I sat down on the floor. James sat down right next to me. We started playing some game. I said something funny and James laughed and then...he put his hand on my knee and squeezed it.
I couldn't believe it. For a second I couldn't move. Then I looked at my knee and his hand. Finally I looked up and burst out laughing right in his face. It was loud. I believe there may have been a snort or two. He quickly removed his hand. There was an awkward silence as soon as my laughter was killed by my embarrassment.
Needless to say, nothing further happened with James. If there had been something, I effectively killed it that night with my insensitive response to the romantically loaded knee squeeze.
(To be fair, although it makes for a less dramatic story, it was also effectively killed a few days later when James dreamily told me that he liked to describe his eyes as "blue with flecks of gold." Who says that?)
That story cracked up my Grandpa. Every time I saw him after that he would bring it up. It might be casually asking me if I saw anyone in the room I thought worth a knee-squeeze. After I married Chris he asked if I had finally gotten the knee squeeze timing right (answer: yes).
I love my Grandpa. I wish I had visited him before he died. I don't mean once he got sick. I mean earlier. I wish I had visited him before there were big and heavy things going on.
Let's see if I can sleep now.