Your Grandpa Was Cooler Than You
YOUR GRANDPA WAS COOLER THAN YOU
“Mikey! Let’s go. We’re late!”
Mrs. James stood at the bottom of the stairs, peering up. She waited, not so patiently. This kid had no respect for anything but his stupid games.
The front door opened behind her. It was Mikey’s best friend, Cal.
“Hi, Mrs. James.”
“Would you go upstairs and drag him down here? We’re going to be late.”
Before Cal could answer or take a step Mikey appeared, disheveled like he hadn’t showered in days. He looked like he hadn’t slept in just as long.
“You’re going to go see your grandfather looking like that?”
“Looking like what,” asked Mikey.
“Never mind,” said Mrs. James. “Let’s just go.”
The nursing home was a little less than an hour away in Towson. Mrs. James drove as the two boys sat in the back. The car was silent except for the hum of the tires on the road. Mikey’s quiet angst was so loud it might as well have been the radio. He broke the silence with a palpable sigh.
“Why do we even need to go see Grandpa, anyway? He doesn’t even know we’re there.”
“Because, Mikey, he’s your Grandfather. And besides, how do you know he doesn’t know we’re there?”
Mikey answered by not responding. The car fell back into the silence of the tire hum. Mikey slouched, even more, rooted in his seat.
“So where you at,” asked Cal?
“Campsite at Cliffside Village. I just got the Firestryker.”
“Yeah, that was easy. Now you need to—“
“Dude, don’t spoil it,” snapped Mikey!
“I’ll never understand it,” said Mrs. James.
“You wouldn’t,” Mikey snapped again.
“You stay up in your room all damn night playing video game camping, complaining that your Hot Pockets are too hot.”
Mrs. James was exasperated.
“You know your Grandpa cooked baked beans on a field stove in Holland during World War 2. He was lucky if they were lukewarm.”
“Sucks to be him,” snickered Mikey. He smacked Cal in the arm and held his fist out. Cal didn’t make eye contact. Cal didn’t dap him either.
“Without it ‘sucking to be him’ there are no Hot Pockets or video game camping,” said Mrs. James.
“I’m not video game camping, Mom!” Cal sighed his great sigh. “God.”
“Yeah, well Grandpa and his squadron were once trapped in a bunker for three days before crawling on their bellies for more than a mile to get away from the Nazis. And when they finally got to an abandoned bunker, they survived on rations they found with that stove for weeks.”
“So? So, you couldn’t even finish the mile last week in gym class.”
Cal started laughing. “Oh damn, Mrs. James!”
“Shut up, Cal!”
“I”m just saying, your Grandpa survived World War 2 without Hot Pockets. He was just two years older than you when he was fighting Nazis.”
“Cool. Maybe I’ll fight Nazis in two years,” chuckled Mikey. He slapped Cal, again, and held out his fist again.
“Yeah, in Call of Duty! Am I right,” laughed Cal.
He dapped Mikey’s fist. Mikey scowled.
“And then after the war, he took a job at a concrete manufacturer. You know he came up with a formula they still use today to pave roads? So, basically, not only did your grandpa defeat Hitler, but he also paved all of America.”
“I kid ya not. Grandpa had owned his first house by the time he was 25, two corvettes and more boats than your Uncle or me can remember. He once saved a little boy from a tiger shark in Cozumel while scuba diving.”
“Okay, Mom. I get it. Enough!”
“He won the New York Golden Gloves. Twice. He met President Kennedy. Twice. Oh, and one time he solved a murder after getting into a fender bender with the murderer on the Beltway.”
Mikey didn’t respond. Not even his silence replied. He felt beat.
“Did you know that he sold Dennis Hopper his motorcycle after he filmed Easy Rider? Grandpa’s actual motorcycle.”
“Really,” asked Cal?
“And you know how he met your Grandma, right? He
“Please don’t,” pleaded Mikey.
“Bro,” said Cal. “Your Grandpa was cooler than you.”
“Shut up, Cal.”
“I’m just sayin’—”
“Don’t,” snapped Mikey.
The car fell back into the silence of the tire hum. Mrs. James drove with a smirk, neither boy could see. Mikey couldn’t wipe off the dumb look from his face. Cal thought about his own Grandpa. Mrs. James turned on the radio.
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