“Paw Paw, look, I’m winning!”
His grandson’s face was a rosy glow as he grinned at the speed his big wheel was now achieving as he raced down the cement hill of the cul de sac. They’d watched the Indy 500 earlier together and decided to ‘soup’ up his big wheel to see what speed it would top out at. Buddy, just his nickname, had no idea Paw Paw had done nothing more than oil the plastic axels so the wheels would go faster. All he knew was Paw Paw was the bestest. Paw Paw, not Papa, or Grandpa, but Paaaw Paaaw, because he was special.
Buddy was going so fast, at least 10 miles an hour, that he couldn’t keep his tiny feet on the peddles any longer, and just held his feet up in the air until he came to a stop across the cul de sac and halfway up the neighbors driveway. Then he quickly rolled backwards, screaming in glee until he finally stopped in the middle of the huge circle of cement. Paw Paw sipped on his usual, a rum and coke, and hollered,
“Five seconds flat, Buddy, that’s a new record.” He hadn’t bothered to even look at his watch, it didn’t matter how many seconds it took, only that his little Buddy thought he went faster. Which he did actually, but only because he wasn’t peddling. He turned the big wheel around and pushed it back up the driveway, while Paw Paw lit a cigarette. He thought about mowing the lawn, but decided to wait until Buddy’s nap time, so he could play with him longer.
This was how they spent the weekends now, ever since Buddy and his daughter had moved in a year and a half ago, and she worked nights and needed a sitter. She only got a few hours sleep each morning before Paw Paw had to leave for work during the week, and she had to get up and watch him all day. Then she would sleep a few more hours after dinner when he got home and he would put Buddy to bed, while she went to work. But on the weekends, it was play time with Buddy all day long. He was only 2 years old now, but talked and had matured into a 4 year old stage almost over night. Paw Paw loved him through and through and they had become buds the minute he held him at 3 days old.
His daughter was a single parent, and he was glad because she needed his help. They had always been the closest out of all his children; mostly because she was the youngest and hadn’t really understood what it had meant when he had abandoned them and left her Mom to raise them alone. She’d instantly forgiven him the day she met him again, at around the age of 11, after he had taken her to the Red Lobster and treated her to crab legs. She’s only been a year old when he left, and had thought her step father was her only Dad, until he reappeared in their lives once again. She had no idea what child support meant back then, and didn’t care. Her new Dad was fun and spoiled her rotten. Something she had never had before that day. She’d been the youngest and a bit forgotten in the crowd until that day. She had no idea how close they would become over the years, and when she ended up pregnant, she turned to him. He couldn’t say no, and she moved in when Buddy was about 6 months old. Paw Paw became like a father to him, and his daughter loved him even more for it.
“Paw Paw, can I have some soda, too?” He grinned down at the joy of his life, and said,
“No, but I’ll get you some apple apple juice.” Buddy wrinkled up his nose, but since he’d added the extra ‘apple’ in, Buddy knew it would be a treat. Paw Paw would blend the apple slices and a scoop of ice cream in with the apple juice and make a milk shake of it. This was making little Buddy’s legs a bit chubby, along with Paw Paw’s belly, but neither cared. Paw Paw had been 8 months pregnant for about 20 years, but not due to ice cream; more due to alcohol. But he always blamed it on the ice cream. Something he had to have every night before bedtime; and now had insisted the routine be carried on with Buddy. “What’s the point in living, if you don’t live?” he would say.
“Paw Paw, can I help you mow today?”
“Maybe later, after your nap. I’ll save the side yard for you to do.” The back yard had too many obstacles to go around, and the front yard was too steep for him to hold Buddy and drive at the same time. But the side yard was flat and bare with only one tree to circle around, and was safer to mow with Buddy on his lap.
They went inside the cool kitchen, and sat for a moment, before he made the apple shake. He was tired all the sudden, and the heat had gotten to him, making him sweat, when it was only about 10:30 in the morning. He set his drink down, and got a cold bottle of water from the fridge and guzzled half of it down, thinking he was so thirsty he would melt. It was only about 65 degree’s out, and he wondered why he was so hot all the sudden.
The wicked stepmother, as his Mom called her, came in sipping on her first drink of the weekend, a bloody mary. She got a huge stalk of celery out of the fridge, plopped it into her drink and left without saying a word. She was mad at Paw Paw for canceling her ‘antiquing drive’ to play with Buddy. She was almost always mad for some reason or another, and the only time she was nice was when she had about 4 drinks in her. But Buddy knew even at his age not to play with her, because at some point she would get mad. Usually at his Mom, because she and Buddy took up so much of Paw Paw’s time.
They made regular trips to the bar together, to get away from the wicked stepmother. Paw Paw would tell stories and jokes for everyone in the bar, and flirt with the bar maids, and Mom would flirt with men. But neither ever invited the wicked stepmother, because she was no fun. They only went on Mom’s days off, and if Buddy was asleep for the night. But Mom had told him she needed some adult time too, and wouldn’t leave if he was still awake.
Buddy was pretty smart for a 2 year old, way past his years. Mostly because he was his Mom’s little man, and had been treated like a little man since he was born. He had been born a month late, and was walking at 6 months, and she never talked baby talk to him. She knew he was smarter than the average kid when he called her Mommy at the age of 4 months. Not Ma, or Ma Ma, but Mommy, like a big boy. His second and third words were Paw Paw, about a week later. Then it was ‘uh oh’ over and over again, until the day he learned to say ‘what’s that?’ He never stopped asking ‘what’s that’ until he knew what everything was, and by the time he was 8 months old, it became ‘why?’
Buddy looked at Paw Paw and saw his red face and said,
“You ok, Paw Paw?”
Paw Paw just chuckled, and went to make the apple shake for him. He was too big for a high chair anymore, and sat on a phone book on the kitchen chair, and waited. Then he saw a hummingbird outside the patio screen, and said quietly, like a conspirator,
“Paw…Paw…look, it’s a hummer.” Paw Paw grinned to himself, and thought maybe later he would explain that it wasn’t a hummer, but a hummingbird, before he got into trouble. He turned around and asked Buddy,
“You want a PBJ sport?”
“No. Can I have a B with no LT?” Paw Paw had explained this just yesterday, and Buddy didn’t like the lettuce much and hated tomatoes.
“Alright. Do you need to go potty?”
Paw Paw’s heart was racing a bit, and as he wondered why, he finished up the shake and sat it in front of Buddy, before sitting down himself, and sipping on his drink. His daughter came in the kitchen a second later, hair tousled from just waking up, and still in her sweats. Buddy jumped down from his chair and threw himself at her. She snatched him up and spun around hugging him and kissing his face. He tried to stop her, but she switched to puppy kisses, licking his cheeks, and he giggled and squirmed to get down. She let him go, and he climbed back up onto his chair as she poured a cup of coffee. She added some cream, and then went to the table and sat down too. She looked at her Dad and saw his red cheeks, and asked,
“What have you two been doing?”
“We were racing!” Buddy said grinning, which told her they were talking about his big wheel, his favorite toy Paw Paw had got him for Christmas. He took a big gulp of his apple shake, then with a huge milk mustache went on, “and I won. Huh, Paw Paw?” Paw Paw said,
“Yep, you went faster than ever before Buddy! It only took him 5 seconds to reach the neighbors.”
“And what were you doing Dad, running along beside him?” He smiled and shook his head, but could still feel his heart beating fast. He looked at his beautiful daughter, and smiled to reassure her but then admitted,
“Guess I should stick to water before noon, my hearts racing.” He pushed his drink to the middle of the table and got up again to get the half drunk water bottle, then sat down again and drank some more. He was so thirsty and his rum and coke was not cutting it.
His daughter’s brows began to draw closer as she looked at her Dad. His cheeks and forehead were very red, when it was usually just his nose and cheeks looking a bit rosy. His heart was racing, and she didn’t like it at all. She asked him,
“Is your left arm numb?” He knew she was thinking he was having a heart attack, but he tried to reassure her again and said,
“No, I’m fine, just feel a bit weird. Like I just ran a race.”
She got up to get her cell phone from her purse, and when she came back, said,
“Shall I call 911, or do you want me to drive you?”
He laughed and said,
“No, I’m fine…really!” She didn’t believe him, because she could tell he was lying. She stood next to him, and picked up his wrist, and felt his pulse. He was only 50 years old, but it was the average time men had heart attacks. His pulse was racing way too fast. She said,
“Get you’re ass in the car, Dad, I’ll get my purse. That’s an order. You too, Buddy, get in your seat for me, ok? We’re gonna go for a drive.”
“OK!” He ran to the garage door, and pulled it open, and looked back expectantly at Paw Paw, who was still sitting there saying over and over again, ‘I’m fine.’
His Mom came back a few seconds later, with her flip flops on and her purse, and combing her hair as she walked. She said sternly,
“Come on Dad, were going! This isn’t something to fool around with! We’ll just go to the Sports ER, and have them check you out. It’ll only take an hour! We’ll be back before the witch knows were gone!”
He grabbed his wallet from the key shelf after five minutes of arguing, and said sternly,
“Only if we stop for ice cream on the way back.” Buddy giggled and squealed with joy, and like two grinning kids, they finally got in the car.
He made it to the small ER and Buddy and his Mom were in the waiting room when Paw Paw died of a massive heart attack. To this day, at the age of 40, Buddy eats a bowl of ice cream every night before he goes to bed.