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(8/14/01 1:37:50 pm)
Every few minutes the old man would get up from the kitchen table and go peer out the front room window. He was having
his delayed cup of morning coffee and watching the TODAY SHOW. The ARIZONA REPUBLIC newspaper was opened up on
the table and scattered about randomly, as the old fellow suspected his day was going to be. The black, heavy set weather
man, Al Roker from the popular NBC show, was talking and laughing with the morning crowd of citizens and world travelers
that assembled outside the New York City studio every morning. This morning the crowd was larger and more boisterous. A
well known singing group, that was currently appearing on Broadway, was presenting a free show to the assembled throng
shortly before TODAY was due to go off the air. There was a spot announcement reminding everyone listening to stay tuned
to the REGIS & KATHY LEE SHOW. The old man muttered something unkind about ‘that mouthy woman’ and spewed the
crumbs of his English muffin all over the open sections of the classified ads.
The ringing of the doorbell and the simultaneous thumping of the screen door being pounded, jarred the old man back to
what he had been waiting for--company’s coming. Company that morning was scheduled to be a woman from the wife’s
church. They were planning on assembling sections of quilts with batting materials, hand tying the parts, sewing the edges,
and preparing the finished product for shipment to some disaster area sponsored by their church. The old man had
assembled the quilting frame for her earlier that morning, back in the den. Although he had set the contraption up many
times, the task was always accompanied with his sputterings, mutterings, and words his religious wife Mary would not
tolerate. She made a point of being at some distant point in the house as her cantankerous old mate of more than forty years
fussed and fumed.
He had hurriedly attempted to swallow the last of his coffee before heading to answer the door. The church that his wife
was a member of, frowned on coffee drinking. He was the only member of the entire family that consumed coffee--many
times he would tease her when she’d offer to make his coffee. He’d remind her to don her surgical mask and wear her rubber
gloves. It was that thing of more than forty years-- he really did’nt even like to be waited on--one could say ‘that mouthy old
The delay had caused his wife to get to the door first and he heard the good-natured greetings and salutations of two
women, who had not seen each other since their church meeting the day before. Like long lost friends, it seemed to go on
and on-- the old fellow rolled his eyes in exasperation and thought to himself ‘what do they find to talk about and so often too’.
‘Hon, come here, would you’, the wife called out to her lurking husband. He had finished with his coffee and muffin so
there was not reason for him not to go into the front room, other than an honest reluctance of not wanting to get involved in
some ‘girl-talk’. As he rounded the corner, the old mans eyes were immediately attracted to the young boychild standing
there along side his Mother--and it would seem the youngster’s eyes were attracted to the old man. A splash of pure joy
seemed to envelope his innocent looking face, as the young child dropped his mother’s hand and litterly screeched
‘Grandpa--Grandpa’ and run childishly, arms open, toward the old man. As if it had been rehearsed a hundred times before,
the old fellow leaned into the boy’s charge and swooped the young lad up and onto his shoulder. The child was giggling in a
muffled, bubbling fashion--just sounds of pure delight as the old man jostled the plump young man on his shoulders. The
mother of the lad was litterly transfixed, as if nailed to the floor--wide, disbelieving eyes--mouth ajar with no sounds being
uttered. Along side the young mother the old man’s wife was comparably positioned---as if waiting--what was to happen this
‘By Golly, you’re a real arm full, young man---the last boy that jumped on me that way, I took him and cut his hair--how
would you like me to cut your hair’, the old man questioned threateningly. The youngster now had the old mans face clasped
firmly between his two chubby little hands--his baby looking face not more than six inches from the old mans wrinkled
face--peering right into his old eyes--almost right into the old mans soul. ‘Grandpa, you come in my dream last night again
and you look just like my dream of you--your eyes are so blue Grandpa--just like my dream of you’.
‘Mary, what is happening--I don’t understand--Little Johnny is usually so shy, especially around older people--I have never
seen anything like that--I don’t understand’, the young mother continued, her voice trailing off ‘don’t understand, Mary---what
is happening’?

The old man and the lad continued to stand where they were--the joyful sounds the youngster had been emitting had
ceased, but he still held the old mans face between his little hands. The mother seemed to break free of the spot she had
been standing and moved off, seemingly to claim ‘Little Johnny’. There was no resistance on Johnny’s part as he easily slid
from the old mans embrace into the arms of his mother, however his eyes and smiling face remained focused on the old mans
‘I just don’t understand this at all’ the young mother remarked once again--’Johnny does’nt even know his Grandfather--in
fact he does’nt even have a grandfather’. There was silence for a moment all around. The old man’s wife had not uttered a
single sound --not a solitary word and it was abundantly clear the old lady was in a state of speechless shock--not at all like
the talkative, gregarious grandmother she usually was. Oh yes, her dark but still handsome eyes, were wide as dinner plates
and appeared to be non-seeing. What amount of shock or surprise had it ever taken to silence her this way. Later she would
offer up something spiritual for the old man to grumble about but for now, her silence was deafening.
‘I’m so sorry Mary, Bill was called into work and I had to bring Little Johnny with me today--I hope you don’t mind--I know
he’ll be good’. The young Mother had addressed her apology to the awe-struck old lady, however her eyes held onto the old
mans face in an almost saintly gaze. ‘I have never met you sir’, the young mother declared ‘I know your wife Mary from
church and I just love her to pieces’ she continued, ‘ but I cannot state, with any degree of certainy, that I have not met you
before--it’s as if’---and the attractive young mother’s voice seemed to bleed off like lowering of the volume on a radio. ‘It is
as if we have been someplace before and we knew each other very well---that we were related’, her firm, but now faltering
voice, volunteered--’how can that be’ she exclaimed in an inquisitive mumble.
The young man named Johnny was listening to his Mother’s ramblings but his gaze was once again fixed on the old man’s
face. A slight smile tugged at the corner of his bow-shaped little mouth--a touch of spittle at each corner--as if he did’nt have
to quest any further for some logical explanation--like his Mother appeared to be doing and not being at all successful--he
appeared completely at ease as who this was, and how it all fit together for him.
‘Johnny’, the old man offered pleasantly to the waiting boy, ‘how would you like to go help me build a bird house--- the
momma bird told me just this morning she was ready to start a family and she would need a place to live--would you like to
help me?’ The rapid nodding of the young lads head caused the appearance of his tousled hair to be blowing in the wind, as
the old man looked over toward the lad’s mother for parental approval. Her nodding head could be comically compared to her
young sons, for approval was prompt and with no doubt what so ever, in the affirmative.
The old man’s wood shop out back had turned out many things over the decade and a half it had been there, but never
anything so meaningful as that single, solitary birdhouse the two of them made that day. Little hammer, big hammer--fat nail,
skinny nail--boy talk--grandpa talk. Everything fit --everything worked, and the resulting bird house become a labor of love
for the old man and the youngster--this young man who he had’nt even met, short hours before.
Lunchtime today would be so very different for the old man--no pepper-pot soup today--or tuna--or peanut butter, not at
all. Today, with the young mother’s approval of course, would be OREO COOKIE day--the kind with the double filling--a fresh
new package with no ‘crumbles’ or ‘bitties’--the old man hated when his wife gave him those ‘crumbles and
bitties’--everytime she cleaned the cookie jar she made him eat ‘crumbles and bitties’ before she would let him open another
package--not today though--got company today and this young guest of honor thinks his Grandpa lives here.
Milk and cookies were served up to the bird house builders--big, open necked mugs filled with cold and foamy milk--big
enough so the whole cookie could be dunked in to soak and get soft without spilling out. As the two bird house builders dined
on the cookies, the old man told the young boy that he used to call them ‘rich-kid-cookies’. That was when he was little,
because his parents were too poor to afford them and he could only eat them at someone elses house when he was company.
The generous sound of cookies being chewed and milk being drank prevailed as the two watched the happy events on the
small tableside television set. ‘We gotta’ clean up our mess when we finish Johnny’ the old man exclaimed ‘ and if we don’t
Grandma will make us eat dirt’--bet you would’nt like to eat dirt would you’, the old man questioned.
The contented young man confirmed with a heavy sigh that he was really full when the old fellow asked. There had been
no interaction whatsoever between the young mother, the grandmotherly hostess, or the two bird house builders. Talking and
laughter filtered out from the den where the two quilt-makers labored. What’s that expression you hear so often-- ‘you’re in
good hands’.

The old man had noticed, and approvingly so, that little Johnny was calling him Grandpa--to the old man it was as
comfortable as an old working glove. ‘Grandpa, I gotta’ have a nap today like always’ , little Johnny remarked to the old fellow
‘Momma says I get cranky if I don’t have a nap--will you let me sit on your lap while I take my nap Grandpa-- will you tell me
a story Grandpa if I’m good --I’ll be good --I promise’. ‘ Well my young birdhouse builder’ the old man exclaimed
approvingly--’let’s just check with your Mom real quick, okay--see how much longer they will be working’.
The approval from the happy young mother was quick in coming for the story telling and the nap. Almost immediately
adding, that she just could’nt believe the events which had transpired this day--and remarked as an after thought that she was
very undetermined who the old man reminded her of--that the comparison was a strange mixture of her own deceased father
and that of her husbands father who had died in a tragic midwestern hunting accident a few years earlier.
A large platform rocker in the front room provided the setting for nap time. The old man and his wife often joked about
their own napping habits, and the comfortable old chair was many times, the proper accommodation for either of them to use.
With shoes shucked off, Johnny snuggled up onto the old mans lap and gazed lovingly into his weather beaten face. The
young boy traced one of the deep wrinkles on the old mans cheek with his stubby little finger and asked ‘what makes those
deeps valleys in your face Grandpa--kin I have those in my face someday, huh grandpa, kin I’, the youngster quiried. ‘
Johnny ma’ lad, God gives you those valleys in your face when you smile at folks--don’t make no mind if the people you
smile at are old like me, or young like you--God keeps track of those smiles and when you’re old enough, and have earned
enough points from smiling at everybody, I mean everybody, then you’ll earn your own valley--us old folks call then
wrinkle-awards or just plain wrinkles. Some folks get them sooner than others and lots more of them Johnny, because they’ve
spent their whole life just a grinnin’ and a smilin’ like old cheshire cats.’
The old fellow had such a feeling of utter accomplishement as he talked to the young boy--he’d never told this story before
and he was very pleased at how it was turning out--the sturdy little boy reclining on his lap seemed completely at ease as he
waited for more. ‘You know Johnny, you and Grandpa have eyes alike--did you know that son’, the old man asked and waited
for Johnny’s response. ‘What do you mean Grandpa ---I got kids eyes, you got Grandpas eyes--but both our eyes look like
the sky on a sunny day Grandpa, don’t they, huh Grandpa, don’t they’, the assertive young Johnny persisted.
‘That we do Johnny, that we do, and the color is blue, just like the sky on a sunny day--just like you said my boy’.
The old man appeared to gather his thoughts for a moment and then continued---’God had a hand in that also Johnny, just
like the smile awards Before you were born Johnny--while your parents were still planning for you, that day where God was,
the sky was so very blue, so God told all his helpers that all the little boys that were to be named Johnny, would have eyes of
blue, just like the sky above--and so young man, you have God-given eyes of blue’.
The blue eyes, that a few moments earlier had held the old mans undivided attention, were now heavy-lidded with much
deserved relaxation. ‘And’, the old man continued in a slow and lowered voice, ‘your Momma and Daddy got the nicest, most
handsome little boy God could make for them--they are so proud of you and love you so much, as the whole world loves little
The young lad, now sound asleep, did not hear, but he may have sensed the old mans special attraction for him.
Something had happened that day--- that moment in time--the boy had felt it in an almost a spiritual way, the Mother
undeniably so, and the old man and his wife had an event happen at their home that they could not explain, nor would they try.
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