In recent years, the holiday tradition developed that Grandfather visited the family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. He used to host the family at the farmhouse with a real tree and a turkey cooked in the oven, but the kids bitched privately to their parents that Grandfather didn’t have any Wi-Fi and they didn’t want to go there anymore so now it was games on tablets around the table and a pre-cooked turkey with all the pre-cooked trimmings purchased from a swank market. Oh Joy!
Another tradition had developed for the family. Grandfather used to pick out thoughtful gifts for the grand kids, like tool boxes, rain jackets and bicycles, but they were all a bust and the parents suggested Grandfather nix the presents and dispense cold hard cash in a nice card. It would be easier on him and the kids could put the dough toward more gadgets. He agreed and the amount gradually rose over the years until this Christmas it stood at $300 a brat.
Thanksgiving arrived. Grandfather showed up early as he always did, and drank a dark beer while watching the Lions getting blown out on television. The grand kids came down to greet him when he showed up, but then raced back up to their rooms to separately watch movies.
The parents toiled in the kitchen. Grandfather stood up from the couch and walked over to the big window that overlooked the yard. He couldn’t believe how high the leaves had piled up. They were practically shin high! It was a lazy home owner’s disgrace! The grass was going to die!
Grandfather strolled into the kitchen and casually mentioned how good everything looked outside. The son said he needed to get the leaves hauled away but he couldn’t find a service. The Pandemic, you know. No one wanted to work anymore. Yeah, no one wanted to work anymore! thought Grandfather. Like my two grand kids! They should get off their asses and rake up the damn leaves!
Grandfather excused himself and said he was going to take a little walk before the feast. He donned his his coat, went out the door, and started walking down the sidewalk. He passed the garage to the house and stopped. He turned around, moved forward, opened a gate, walked into the yard, and onto a mattress of leaves. He found a door to the garage and entered. Automatic lights popped on overhead. He surveyed the interior of the garage and could not believe his eyes—not a single yard tool. Not even a broom! There wasn’t even a leaf blower because no one in the house would ever deign to operate one.
A quiet fury, then disillusion crept into Grandfather. He left the garage and began walking down the sidewalk. He needed to clear his head and think. There was no way he was giving those brats more cash for Christmas! You had to be a good boy or girl for Santa to deliver the bounty. That was the rule.
Then Grandfather had a Grinch moment like when Grinch heard Whoville singing after he’d ransacked their Christmas. His heart grew and grew. He felt great empathy for his grand kids. They needed help and mentoring. They needed a good country belt lickin’ as well, but that was from another era.
A super great Christmas notion walloped Grandfather! It bowled him over. But it all depended on his son, sister, and his grand children doing absolutely nothing about the leaves from Thanksgiving until Christmas. Grandfather laughed. It was in the bag!
He returned to the house, ate his meal, and drank a couple more beers while watching the Cowboys game by himself on the couch. The Cowboys, his favorite team, lost on a last second field goal, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that Grandfather was braving Black Friday madness in person tomorrow and buying real gifts for his grand kids. The days of cash were over.
It was hardly Black Friday madness for Grandfather. He drove seven minutes to the Estacada hardware store, about the last business on Main Street that wasn’t boarded up, walked inside, said hello to the store’s owner, a man he had known his entire adult life, ambled down an aisle, turned right, then left, and there they were! Rakes! Rakes! Rakes! He selected two old school models with wooden handles and metal tines. No plastic for my kin! The brats must hear the soothing sound of metal trilling through grass! He also picked out a push cart with fat rubber wheels. He was paying cash at the counter when he saw the section of dangling work gloves, complete with some real leather beauties. He thought about throwing them in to complete the concept gift, but then at the last moment changed his mind: screw it! Let my grand kids get blisters!
The owner of the hardware store inquired: two rakes? You’re only one old man. Grandfather erupted in laughter like a bowl full of jelly. He told the owner to throw in the backpack leaf blower advertised in the window, too. He hated those infernal machines manufactured by Satan, but he had another great Christmas notion that, well, needed a Satan for execution.
His Black Friday took all of ten minutes and kept most of the money in Estacada. Now all he had to do was wait for Christmas and pray it didn’t rain. And pray he did.