We Met in the Middle

My brothers and I didn’t really like our grandfather when we were growing up. That isn’t to say we didn’t love him, we just didn’t really like him.

His house had rules. We couldn’t be too loud. They didn’t have toys. We couldn’t watch the TV shows we wanted. They didn’t want to play with us.

So, we didn’t really like him.

Our grandfather had a heart problem. Literally and figuratively, his ticker didn’t always tock and even if it did, he wasn’t so great at using it.

My mother cattled us up to the hospital room to see him after the procedure. How many bypasses a man can take, I dont know, but he had more than a couple.

He wasn’t like the guy we’d seen before. He smiled and sat up in bed. He was genuinely excited to see us.

This was always striking to me, even as a 10-year-old. He wanted to tell us the details of this and how that felt. Felt? Sure, he was talking about having a pipe cleaner get the leaves out of his cardiac gutters, but feeling was new to us.

Things got better after that.

Maybe it was because we were getting older and didn’t need to be loud, didn’t need toys, didn’t need to watch anything in particular on TV. Maybe because he had more than a few dirty jokes he’d wanted to share, but had to wait until we were old enough to appreciate them.

Maybe it was because we liked music. Because we knew that in any good jazz song, the snare might set the beat, but the piano or trumpet or saxophone told the story.

As a guy who had lost track of his best friends so he could provide for his family or lost them altogether as he got older, he found himself with a couple of good ol’ boys in his grandsons. Eating gobs of horseradish without making a face, discussing the “technique” of the various women’s Olympic curling teams –manly stuff. And when the University of Michigan played a football game I would call him. I didn’t watch it. Football wasn’t my thing. But U of M football was his and men are supposed to talk about football. Just like men are supposed to poke fun at each other jokingly.

My grandfather, my brothers, and I just needed a few years to figure each other out first.

See, getting older is nature, but growing older is a choice. The four of us, we all met somewhere in the middle.