Yes Mom! I’ll clean up that pile! Yes, I know that those papers have been sitting there for forever! (confused) I’m not talking back, I’m just agreeing? Okayyyyyyyyy I’ll do it now.
(Picks up pile of papers and sifts through, stopping on a pink card.)
Trash, trash, trash…
Huh, I remember this birthday card, one of the cute ones with the cutouts of our family. Grandma used to send these cutesy cards covered with pictures of her, me, and… Bill.
Your official title is now “Ex-Step-not really related-married in-grandpa”, my mother insists, coaxing a sad smile out of grandma. But I don't say that! You were always just grandpa Beale to me. You rolled your eyes and called us silly little kids when my sister and I pronounced Grandpa Bill- Grandpa Beale, Beale- a weird, twangy word. Some strange cross between, like, bean and whale, clearly the handiwork of small children, but to us it meant love. You know that, right?
You aren’t welcome in our picture frames anymore though. My mom scoffs at your name. I don’t really remember why you aren’t Grandpa Beale anymore. Something about lies, for some 3 years, something about stealing, something about money. I don’t know. I don’t ask anymore, at least not after I heard what Grandma said last year. It was Christmas eve at about 10 o’clock, that meant I was up late cause I was only 10. I heard voices from the other side of the house. I tiptoed through the connecting hallway to the guest room, but paused with my hand on the doorknob as I heard the whispers of a forbidden phone conversation. She was talking to you, just like old times, leaning on her pillows, a faint light from her kindle. I dropped my hand but she heard me, let me in, and knew I understood. “I miss Bill,” I said. “I miss him too,” she attempted at a smile. Her thinning lips left crisscrossing stains of lipstick across her front teeth, it was nothing like the full smiles of my childhood, when you were welcome in the picture frames.
You were my grandpa Beale when you taught me how to push the bike pedals back and get back up onto the driveway. Grandpa Beale liked cold bud lights in the ugly blue cans and watching golf in the sunroom. I can still remember the playful banter as I insisted golf wasn’t really a sport, flicking the light switch back and forth on your commemorative golf club lamp from the adjacent chair. You didn't force me to go to mass like (sarcastic sophisticated voice) Grandfather Douglass, instead you always listened, entertaining my thoughts with your big smile. (Sigh) I miss that.
Grandma always told me your smoking would be the end of your marriage. I laughed and playfully coughed in your direction. I thought it could never end.
I still have that Facebook link open on my phone, “Happy Birthday Sofia! I love you!” from months ago. I knew you wouldn't forget! I wish I had replied… I love you too Beale. Even if my mother hates you for lying to us. She doesn’t see my side. Even if I don't understand why we can't move on and still be family.
(looks up)I know I'm taking forever mom! I'm keeping this one! Yes mom, it's of Bill. No, my grandpa Beale.