Oh she’s a terrific gal. She’s really wonderful. I think she’s fabulous. Don’t you? Well, maybe not now, but you used to. She made those cookies and coffee buns. And that tenderloin she made—magnificent! She’s a terrific cook, one of the best. You didn’t starve. Trust me, I know what it’s like to go hungry. Grandma was a wonderful woman but she really wasn’t comfortable in the kitchen. We had to hire a cook. That’s really the way to go, they can make up a few meals for the week. We had this one cook, Doris, she made this incredible chili that'd leave you sweating for a week.
I’m talking to my grandpa about my girlfriend, Anna. I mean my ex-girlfriend. I just broke up with her, and he’s urging me to reconsider. Strongly urging me to reconsider, mainly based on her culinary skills. And personality, to be fair. He really likes her. I brought her over a few times and she did a lot of cooking and she and grandpa had some talks, some serious chats about life, while I was taking a nap. He was really into her. He asked me when we were getting married, said he always wanted to be a great-grandfather, said he’d welcome the day.
Didn’t I want to be a father? he said to me.
Not right now, I said.
Why not? Best thing you can do is have kids.
You had kids before it cost $200,000 to send them to college, I said.
It was cheaper back then, true, he said, but there’s always going to be something, some excuse for you to not do something. You just have to take it and go for it, whatever you believe in, just go for it, take it and do it.
I’m going to text her, he says. I’m going to see if she’s alright.
Okay, I say.
How are you doing, buddy? grandpa says on a voicemail. I had a great round of golf today, he says. Just great. The weather is absolutely beautiful today, isn’t it? A day like this and you’re happy to be alive. I know we’re in California but I just can’t get over how beautiful it is. I never will. Listen, buddy, I just wanted to let you know something. It’s no big deal but thought I’d give you a heads up. Anna and I are going out. Just on a little date, nothing to be worried about, but I thought I’d give you a heads up. I figured you’d be okay with it, since you were broken up, but thought I’d let you know. God bless. Talk to you soon.
You’re doing what? I say, when I call him back.
We’re going on a little date, he says. Do you think Mexican or sushi?
I’m confused, I say. You’re going on a date with Anna, my ex-girlfriend?
She’s single now, he says. I’m single, we get along great. We have a terrific time together. I called her and we talked, we just talked for hours. She’s a terrific gal, so we thought, why not?
She’s just off limits, that’s how it works.
Off limits? he says. No decent woman is off limits. That’s not how it works. We have a special connection, a connection I haven’t felt in a long time, so we’re going to go for it. I know it’s not ideal. I know it’s far from ideal, and I didn’t mean to hurt you, I really didn’t. I just called her to say I was sorry about the breakup and we talked and thing just went from there. We didn’t mean for it to happen but that’s the crazy thing about love, sometimes it happens when you don’t expect it. It’s crazy how love is. Crazy.
Love? I say. Love?
You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the big picture. When I met your grandmother, God rest her soul, it was a similar thing. You know how we met, right?
No, I said.
He’d told the story about fifty times.
We were at the fair. Augusta was at one booth where you shoot a BB gun at a target and if you hit the target it activates this lever, and you get a teddy bear. so she was shooting away at the target, and I came around toward that booth just as her friend Rhonda jostled her and was trying to reach for the gun. Augusta slipped and shot me. She blinded me in my left eye. Can you believe it, blinded me? She took me to the hospital herself and after that it was history. I lost an eye but I gained a wife, so I came out pretty well in that transaction.
I wonder what Anna will cost you, I say.
You’re a funny guy. I appreciate that about you, he says. Your sense of humor. You get that from your mother. Talk soon, kid. I love you.
My grandpa has a way of mollifying people, of going into the most volatile situation ever and creating some kind of resolution. That’s a great skill to have but he could overpower you with his magic. But I was not overpowered. I was furious.
Did you hear that grandpa was a new girlfriend? I say.
I did hear, mom says.
And what do you think?
I’m happy he found someone. You know how lonely he gets sometimes. He needs to be around people.
So you don’t have any problem that he’s dating Anna?
Yes, Anna, my ex-girlfriend.
What are you talking about?
He’s dating Anna, my Anna.
Oh, that does make sense, he did get along with her pretty well.
You don’t think, oh maybe that’s a little inappropriate.
The age difference? It’s not great but this is L.A.
And the fact that she was my ex-girlfriend?
Well, you did break up with her. We all said you shouldn’t do that. Everyone loved Anna, we all loved her. She's special.
That doesn’t mean that it’s a free for all, I say. That anyone can go after her.
Here I should probably talk about how “unconventional” my family is. I hate that word unconventional. My mother is a film director and my father a punk singer. They’ll talk about living in New York in the 1970s and doing heroin with Dee Dee Ramone and all the crazy sex they had and what it was like to hang out and play at CBGB. They don’t believe in “the rules,” whatever they might be.
I know this family might not be aware, I say. But there are rules. Rules of etiquette. I know you think decorum and etiquette don’t apply to our family but they mean something to me. Here are the rules of dating. When I break up with someone, people from my own family are not allowed to date this person. That person is off limits.
What’s the point of these rules? she says. Who made them up?
Society, but that doesn’t matter. They are important to me.
Baby, I know we have different values. I know we don’t think the same way a lot of the time, but I think you’re being to hard on Grandpa. He’s lonely, were you ever going to see Anna again. If they get along and have a good time, then why do you care what happens to them?
This is absurd, I say.
Anna calls me.
I wanted to see how you were doing, she says.
Fine, I say.
Really? I know we haven’t really talked, she says.
Yeah, I say.
Listen, we didn’t mean for this to happen, but it happened and we have to be adults about this thing.
Sure, I say.
Can be adults about this?
Sure, we can be adults.
He seems much younger to me, you know, she says.
He’s younger than you are, she says.
That's an absurd thing to say.
You're a child, she says. Anyways, I have some news for you. We’re going to get married.
Are you fucking serious? You’ve been dating for a month.
I know we’re moving fast but we know don’t have much time together, and we’re going to make the most of it. We’re traveling the world, can you believe it? We’re going on a world tour. Oh it’s going to be so fantastic.
I needed to speak with grandpa in person. I needed to have a serious chat with him. I drove over to his house. Anna’s car was parked out front. I knocked on the door. There was no answer. For a brief flicker I thought of them up in the bedroom having sex, and it made me angry. I banged on the door. No answer. I went around back. They were sitting by the pool drinking and chatting. Anna got up to go back inside and refill their drinks. I stood and watched them and listened. They were talking about traveling. They were making plans of what they'd see in Paris. Anna and I were going to go travel. I kept putting it off. I wanted to save more money, pay off more of my student loans. Someone had to be responsible.
I went back to my car and got in and drove to the end of the street. I turned the car around so it was facing their house. I revved the engine. I drove toward their house, their beautiful house, going as fast as I could. I went right through the front door. They wouldn’t answer so I drove in. I made it into their living room. Anna appeared from the kitchen. I saw her through the dust and falling plaster. Grandpa was trapped underneath the front of the car. Anna was screaming. I put the car in reverse.
They send everyone in the family postcards. The postcards are pictures that they took. They were in Rome recently on their honeymoon. They sent me one of a fountain. Anna is acting like she’s getting in, like she’s climbing over and getting in. She’s funny. I love a woman with a good sense of humor, my grandpa always said. There's a photo of him in his wheelchair, his leg in a cast. He looks happy, real happy.