This is a part of the first chapter to Grandpa Ernie’s Secrets. I hope that you enjoy it and want to read more.
I could see into my grandfather’s library through the sheer curtains as I walked up to his narrow, white, townhouse. I still had the extra keys on my ring that he gave me the first time that he had gone into the hospital. He was back home now, after a few days of rest and being looked over. I knocked on the big, black front door, with the little windows that ran across the top, and waited for my grandfather Ernie, to open it.
We were the last two members of our family still living, by some strange quirk of fate. He had raised me from the age of twelve. Because of that, we had become closer than most grandfather, grandson duos.
He had worked at the University, and I was finishing up my degree there, so I often stopped by on my way home. I would often borrow a book or two from his vast collection that he had created over the last fifty years that he had taught history and political science there. Sometimes I used the the need of a book just as an excuse to stop by and see him.
I stood waiting at the door wondering if he was all right, when I heard his familiar footsteps on the ancient hardwood floor approaching me from the other side of the the thick door. He was a special man. He was always very fit and alert, with the agility of a man half his age, but even he, couldn’t stop the inevitable march of time.
He opened the door with a warm smile and his customary, “Hello big Bobby,” and waved me in. Then he turned, and started to walk back through the house to his little den. He had a book in his hand as always. This time as I read the title, I could see it was on the Russian Revolution. His index finger had marked the page where he had stopped reading when I knocked at his door. He was wearing his usual Bermuda shorts and a white, short-sleeved shirt. He was barefoot, as always.
He read constantly. The only time he turned on the “idiot box,” as he called it, was when the evening news came on “with those talking heads,” as he called them. He hadn’t lost all faith in their objectivity, but he was nearly at that point now, since he had seen how the media had changed over his lifetime. It wasn’t for the better as far s he could tell.
I walked down the narrow hallway, behind him, and away from the street to the rear of the house.We walked into that little room on the left that was across from from his kitchen, where I had spent so much of my time as a child.
I could hear a man’s voice reading the news from the corner of the room before I could see him down there near the fireplace. “Today marks the second year of of the intervention of the United States of America in Iraq.” My grandfather, Ernest, Ernie to his friends, looked at me as he sat down into his leather chair, and let out a sigh. “This is going to be a major disaster Bobby. They don’t know what they’re getting into over there,” he said with an impatient glare at the television. “That place is a puzzle with half of the pieces missing, and the other half spoken in a language and existing in a culture that they just don’t understand.”
He moved his head toward the couch in an invitation for me to sit, and as I did, it reminded me of all the times I’d been there over my lifetime, and how large this townhouse had once looked.
The den was about twelve feet square with a high ceiling that made it look bigger than it was. When I was just a young boy, it looked enormous. I was twenty-three now, and the room had somehow become smaller over the passing years, like a favorite jacket on a man passing through middle age and gaining a few pounds.
The room was painted white with the obligatory coffee table in the center, and two side tables in two of the four corners of the room. The two end tables had the mandatory lamps on them, with white shades. The high ceiling had a large light hanging from three, short chains, with a thin coating of dust on them. The room was bright from the lights and from the French doors that led out into the the narrow, deep, well kept, back yard, that was once my whole world.
The walls around us were covered in black and white photos of my “Ernie” in different cities all ver the world. He loved to travel, and when my grandmother died at sixty, from cancer, Ernie started to travel even more than ever. “It keeps me from missing her so much, I guess,” he would tell me, when I asked him if he was ever going to slow down a little. There were pictures of the Brandenburg Gate, The Arch de Triumph, and even pictures of all those beautiful Buddhist temples in Thailand and the Far East.
As I got older, it occurred to me, just how much money he must have spent on all of those vacations of his. I began to wonder how he could have afforded them on his salary. He couldn’t have made that kind of money working as a history teacher at Georgetown. He always assured me that that he was in great financial shape when I asked, and he never gave me a reason to think otherwise. “Don’t worry about your crazy old grandfather Bobby, I’m fine, I just can’t sit still,” was all he would say.
Over the years I had started borrowing his books as a way if checking up on him, and keeping in contact with my only living relative. I passed by his home every time I went to, or left the campus, so it would be silly not to stop by and visit once or twice a week at least.
We had livd together for ten years after all. My parents had been killed in an auto accident, and he and my grandmother were the only family that I had left. It was easy for the courts to give him and my grandmother custody. When my grandmother died, we just had each other left to watch over us. I left when I turned twenty-two and wanted to try being out on my own. It was reassuring for me, knowing that he was nearby, just in case.
It wasn’t easy for either of us, but it was for the best. I had a lot of growing up to do, and I needed my space, or so I thought at the time. He was a good man, and let me leave without a fuss and without making me feel guilty about leaving him. He knew our bond would never be broken. I hadn’t even thought bout it. That shows you were my head was at the time. He had made it easy for us to remain close.
He said that he looked forward to our visits, and he always had a kettle on the stove in the afternoon on anticipation of my stopping by. I had never given it much thought to the idea that he might have had other friends or visitors than myself, but apparently, he did.
More than a few times, I had seen the butts in the ashtrays with bright red lipstick on them, and smelled a perfume that seemed somehow familiar to me. He would quickly toss the butts without comment when I arrived. He never smoked, and the French doors would always be open when I saw those butts on the table at the end of the couch nearest to them.
There was an alley that ran down the rear of the his home, and all along the other narrow back yards and it ran down to a larger street at the end of it. The rear fence had a gate that opened on to that alley.
Several times I had come to visit and could still see the smoke hanging in the air with no one else in the house. At least he told me that he was alone when I asked. I never ventured up stairs to the bedrooms unless he asked me to climb those steep, narrow, steps for a book that he had forgotten up on his nightstand or for some other reason. I had no reason to snoop, and I didn’t want to break our trust. I had thought many times that there could have been someone upstairs who didn’t want to be seen, but then I thought, “who and why would they hide up there, anyway?”
There were other odd things that I discovered in my grandfather’s home while he was in the hospital the first time, and I had been put in charge of of the mail and his greenery. I had time then, to pay more attention to all the photographs on his den wall for one thing, while I was there alone. I had been looking at them for most of my life, but never paying attention to them.
There were several faces that kept popping up in his photos on the walls, from all over the world. There was a woman in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the Eiffel Tower that definitely wasn’t my grandmother. These photos were obviously taken while he and my grandmother were married. I knew that for a fact because of his age. My grandmother would tell me, “Ernie is on a business trip,” when he would disappear for a week or so, every few months. “What kind of history teacher goes on business trips every few months?” I never did figure that out as I grew up. It was one of the mysteries of Ernie.
There was the same man in several of his pictures with the same stylish hat, as well. Those photographs were taken in China and Japan. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out. I could tell by the architecture. I wanted to know who these mysterious people were, and why they were in all of these different countries together with my grandfather.
I knew it wasn’t right of me to snoop through his library without his permission. He had that very clear to me on many occasions as I was growing up in his house. But I just knew that this might be one of the very few chances to look around until, or after his death, someday.
I wanted to more about him while he was still alive. So, I could ask him about those pictures, for one thing. But what else might I find out about my grandfather by going through his townhouse slowly and methodically? I knew my “Ernie” had to be more than what he appeared to be.
He had his library organized better than any public library. It was easy to see what his interests were. There was a large section on languages, a section on physics, and the largest section of all was reserved for history. There were plenty of other books on other subjects, but these three sections seemed to be the most important areas of interest to him. Some of that seemed odd to me.
He never once showed me that he was interested in physics or languages. He always seemed to have a history book in his hand whenever I saw him, but never one on languages or physics. He never even hinted to me that he could speak another language or that he cared about science at all.
Then it hit me, like the nuns in school. What the doctor had had said to me while Ernie was in the hospital the first time. He had been put into drug-induced coma while his brain healed from a small aneurysm. “Your grandfather seems to be mumbling in several different languages. Mostly, it seems to be Italian and Arabic, however.”
I’m done folks. If this doesn’t make you want to learn more about Grandfather Ernie’s Secrets, I don’t know what will.
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