“Well, what the hell do you think I am?” The crotchety old man said as he shuffled his feet into the guest bedroom. “I think you are tired, Grandpa,” Kevin said as he tried to lead his grandfather towards the room, but the old man didn’t want anyone to touch him. He was slow and easily distracted. “I just want to get you set up so you’ll be comfortable.” “That’s what they tell people that are dying,” he coughed out as he slowly inched forward. Kevin didn’t know what to say, so he looked over at his wife Stephanie. She shrugged her shoulders and tried to direct the old man down the hallway. Grandpa turned to see who he was looking at. “Well you sure are pretty,” he said when he laid eyes on her. “Grandpa, this is Stephanie, my wife,” Kevin said with an edge in his voice. He had seen his grandfather push the boundaries of what was acceptable to say to women these days. Kevin had seen him ask a woman younger than Kevin himself to “sit on his lap.” Not only was Kevin mortified, but he was shocked that the young woman found it funny. His grandfather seemed much older than the last time they had been together. The old man’s hair was now just a few strands on the top of his head. His skin, which had once been taunt and muscular, now hung loosely off his bones like a long sleeve t-shirt that was three sizes too big. His pants engulfed him, threatening to fall off of him. Still, no one had been able to get him a smaller size. If anyone gave him a smaller size, he would throw them back in the face of whoever brought them and shouted at them to “go to Hell” or “there’s no way those would fit me. Idiot!” Stephanie put her hand on the small of Grand Pa Jo’s back and Kevin winced. He feared what would come out his grandfather’s mouth next. He prepared what to say to calm his wife down because he knew that she didn’t take anything from anyone. “Well, where are we going? When can I go back home?” Jo asked. Kevin was flabbergasted, they had this conversation three times on the way home. “You can’t go home.” She said, directly challenging him. “Can’t go home? Why not?” He asked, confused. “Grand Pa, your house burned down,” Kevin said for the hundredth time since they had picked him up. “Don’t you remember?” “My house burned down? Was it my good for nothing brother?” Jo asked, his eyebrows furled. “No Grandpa, it was the microwave. You can’t microwave foil with food in it for that long.” Kevin said sullenly. “Oh,” he said as he started to shuffle towards the room again. With Stephanie’s help and some focus, they finally managed to get Jo into his room and down on a comfortable chair. “I’m an old man you know,” he said to Stephanie as she got a pillow for his back. “You’re not that old in spirit,” she said with a smile. “I’m old enough to have fought in the damn World War. Have I ever told you about that sweetie?” He said with a smile that could draw anyone in. “You hav…” she started. “I survived four invasions. Them Germans tried to kill me and even they couldn’t do it.” He cut her off before she could finish her sentence. “They even tried to drop a damn bomb on me.” She knew the story by heart now though, she had heard every time they had visited Grandpa before the wedding. “I could hear the missile dropping from the sky. Damn German’s cut the tips so that they’d whistle on the way down. I did the only thing I could think of doing, I jumped in a foxhole and pulled one of the dead soldiers on top of me. That blast rolled over me like a fire bath. “I would later find out who that soldier’s body was that saved my life and I wrote a letter to his family. They were so happy that he was able to save my life.” He sat there with his smile. “That’s so nice,” she said like she was talking to a baby. Jo never got the hint that she had, in fact, heard this story only about a thousand time. “Dad, do you need anything else? Are you comfortable?” Stephanie asked. “Well, I could use a soda.” He thought, twisting his body to view to his grandson better. “And you could put that Perry Mason on the television, I’d sure appreciate it.” “You got it,” Kevin said.
Stephanie led Kevin out of the room and stopped to wait. She could see the look of weariness on his face. As he caught up the last few steps with her, he wrapped his left arm around her waist. “You okay?” She asked, concerned about her husbands mental state. “I’m okay, I’m just… sorry.” He said, his head hanging towards the floor. “This isn’t really how I wanted us to be spending the first year of our marriage together.” “You mean, you didn’t want me to realize that I married the greatest guy in the universe.” She kissed his cheek. “I mean, your own family wouldn’t step up to help you out.” “Yeah, but they’ve got a lot going on too,” He said. “And we don’t?” She eyed him deeply. “I’m happy to be able to help you- our, family out. Besides, it gives me a chance to really meet the man. You know that we’ve never really talked much.” “Yeah, Dad’s still so mad at him.” He said, moving towards the living room, his arm still wrapped around his bride. “Why is that?” She asked, looking up to him. “I’m not really sure. Dad wouldn’t ever tell me. Grandpa just starts rambling on about his brother.” “He has a brother?” Stephanie asked. “He did. Apparently, they had a falling out too. His brother died when my dad was young. Dad said they didn’t even go to the funeral.” “Interesting.” She glanced back toward the shut door. She wasn’t sure if she felt sympathy or worry towards the old man.
After a few days, they got their routines down. Kevin would go to work, not really knowing when he’d be home. He hated that he left them both alone for so long every day. Stephanie worked from home, so she would tend to Jo during the day. started anticipating the yell for Jo’s room that he was hungry. It hadn’t taken her long to realize how this interaction was going to go when she entered. The first few times she entered the room, he asked politely for a soda, so she started to just bring on with her. She would pour the soda into his cup and sit and watch a few minutes of Perry Mason with him. She would show him, for the tenth time that day how to use the streaming media device to get all the shows he wanted to watch. She often wondered if technology would pass her up when she was older like it had done for him. Then he would regale her with a story. His stories were always about one of three subjects: His army history and the invasions he went through, stories about his family and how all of them stole from him, how those family members cut him out of his life, or his battle with the squirrels from his home that burned up. She found that she quite liked the stories about the squirrels until she realized that all of them ended with how he trapped the squirrel, ran a knife across its neck, and skinned it. She hadn’t known that he was even able to do that. She knew that he had spent some time in the military and had probably learned all the skills of death there, but she only really knew him as an old man, as her grandfather-in-law. She didn’t even know if he was quick enough to do the things that he’s spoken of now. “Did I tell you able that one squirrel? The one that was so smart, he wouldn’t fall for my traps?” He asked as they sat there together. “You did. He outsmarted you for a while, but then you started to put hot sauce around the trees by your house and that scared him off.” “Oh yeah.” He leaned back in his chair chuckling to himself. “Grandpa Jo?” she started. She was dying to know more about her new family, but she was scared to bring up painful memories. “Can you tell me about Kevin’s grandmother?” “Kevin’s grandma?” He asked, his head snapping to attention. “She died.” Stephanie smiled and leaned back in her chair. She wasn’t going to push anything, she didn’t want him to stress out and have a heart attack or anything. “She died of cancer. Kevin told me.” “Cancer?” he said surprised. “It wasn’t cancer..” He leaned his head back against the headrest of the chair and closed his eyes as if he were going to sleep. A smile crept across his lips. “Not cancer,” he said behind closed eyes. “I slit her throat.”