I always enjoyed my Sunday visits with Grandpa. He wasn't able to take care of himself anymore so the family had moved him into a retirement community. Being an independent person, Grandpa had made a big fuss about moving in at first. However, once he started to get to know the other residents and learned about all of the activities that went on at the home, he felt a little better about being there.
After Grandpa moved in, I would visit him every Sunday and join in at the weekly game challenge. The game changed depending on the week. Sometimes it was gin rummy. Other times it was shuffle board. Sometimes it was Bingo. The games were chosen ahead of time by the residents from a list that had all of the available games written on it. When the game was decided upon, the entire hall would be converted into an arena for the game of choice. This week the residents had chosen to play backgammon, admittedly not one of my favorites. After we played a few rounds of the weekly game, Grandpa and I would get some lunch from the retirement home dining hall and then head back to his room so he could tell me one of his favorite stories.
Grandpa told all sorts of stories about gnomes, fairies, giants, and other supernatural creatures. He even told me about the urban legends like the alligators living under the sewer he had heard while growing up in New Jersey. It was always great fun hearing grandpa’s stories and I always looked forward to hearing a new one every week. The years passed and I entered high school. I didn’t stop by to visit grandpa as often anymore because I became busy with hanging out with friends, doing homework, and starting to date girls for the first time. Even though I didn't have the same amount of free time as when I was younger, I would still try to visit Grandpa as often as I could and join in on the Sunday games.
I would have lunch with Grandpa, and listen to one of his tall tales when we went back to his room. I was older but I still loved listening to his stories. It seemed like he would never run out of subjects to talk about. He even told me about his experiences as a pilot in WWII. It was always great fun listening to the trouble he got in as a pilot, flying under billboards to see how low he could make his personal plane that he bought after the war go.
Finally it came time for me to go off to college. I would not be back for a while so I wanted to spend a lot of time with Grandpa before I left. I noticed that his health had taken a turn for the worst but he never brought it up. I never brought it up either because I didn't like to think about the fact that Grandpa’s health was fading. I visited him like usual up until the last day I had free before the start of the new semester. This would turn out to be a visit that I would never forget.
We had our usual schedule; play a game, chat over lunch about all of the new things in both of our lives, and go back to his room for a cup of coffee, butterscotch cookies, and one of his tall tales. We sat at the table next to one another, dunking our cookies into the hot coffee and eating them one by one. Today Grandpa seemed more introverted than usual. He hadn't really said much over lunch either. I figured that this was because he was having one of his ‘bad days’ or the days when his bones ached and he had a hard time getting around.
However, I didn't think this anymore when I saw Grandpa promptly stop eating the cookies in front of him and give me the most serious look I had ever seen him give me in his life. I put down my cookies as well and listened for whatever it was grandpa was about to tell me. He cleared his throat and in a grey tone said, “You are older now Thomas. You are about to go off to university and experience a whole new chapter in your life. That is why today I have to give you some advice.”
I smiled and urged for him to go on. Grandpa nodded and continued where he left off.
“You are the first person I am telling this story to. I told myself I would only tell my most devoted grandchild the story in the hopes that they would not make the same mistakes I did in life. And you must promise me that you will only tell this story to your most devoted grandchild so that every generation is given a fair warning.”