Not really paying attention to where I was going, I was somewhat startled when a pair of legs came into view. When I looked up, I saw a young lad of about eight or nine peering through the iron grating of a small side entrance to a cemetery.
I went closer and followed his gaze.
After a quick glance at me, he shook his head, and mumbled, “My grandpa’s in there.”
“Oh, I'm sorry.” I didn't know what else to say.
“He died last week. I sure miss him.”
“I’ll bet you do.”
“They put him in there.”
“Well, it looks nice and peaceful.”
“He won’t be happy.”
“He liked the bush. They should have buried him in the bush!”
Emphatic disappointment was unmistakable.
“Um, I don’t think it’s allowed any more.”
“They could have found a way.”
We stood there, staring at the setting - at the headstones - at nothing.
“Well, I gotta go,” he said, moving off in the direction I had been walking.
“Mind if I walk with you, although I’m not quite as fast as you?”
“Tell me about your Grandpa. What was he like?”
His little face brightened.
“Oh, Grandpa was funny. We did things together.”
“What kind of things?”
“We built kites. He never wanted to buy one. He always said, ‘When I was your age, you built your own.’”
The kid smiled weakly at this recollection.
“Of course,” I said, recalling my own kite building days. “Were they four-cornered or six-cornered?”
“What do you mean?”
I used my cane to draw in the dirt. “Well, did your kite look like this, or like this?”
“Oh, we made this kind; just two sticks. We used a garbage bag and tape to cover it. What kind did you make?”
“I made the extended hexagon type, and used tissue paper and glue. The tail was bits of newspapers tied on a long string.”
“There was no plastic in those days.”
“Gosh, that must have been a long time ago.”
“Yes, I suppose it was,” I chuckled.
“Grandpa had a cabin way up north. Last summer, mom and dad let me go and stay with him for a whole month. We canoed and fished and did camping stuff.”
“Sounds like it was a lot fun,” I said, as we came upon a park bench and sat down.
“Yeah, it was really neat.” The boy’s eyes sparkled with obvious vivid memories. “Have you ever made a sailboat out of an old log?”
“Never,” I said. “How do you do it?”
“Well,” he began instructionally, “First you have to find a tree that has been dead for just the right amount of time. If it is too old, it will just fall apart.”
“Sounds quite technical.”
“Yeah. If you find the perfect tree, you can make lots of boats out of it.”
“So you just don’t grab any log.”
“Oh, no. It has to be hard on the outside and sort of soft in the middle so that you can dig out the rotten wood. Then you can push the masts into it. And you need tin can lids for the rudder and along the bottom.”
“The keel,” I added.
“Yeah, and then all you do is sharpen one end to make the front part – Grandpa did that – then you find a thin stick for a mast, and make a kind of flat point so you can jamb it into the log.”
“What did you use for sails?”
“Birch bark. You hafta find a dead birch tree too. You’re not supposed to take bark off a live one, ‘cause then it will die, at least that’s what grandpa said.”
“He was right.”
“So then you cut the bark crosswise to get the size of sail you want; cut two holes and slide it down the stick.”
“And away you go.”
“Oh no,” he said, looking straight at me. “You hafta put the lids on. At first, Grandpa did that, because he was afraid I might cut myself. He let me do it later on. Anyway, he stuck one in the back, and pushed two into the bottom. The first boat we made went in a circle and came back.”
“Well, that was pretty good.”
The boy frowned a little. “Not really, ‘cause it was supposed to keep going, as if on a voyage. Grandpa bent the lids a little bit and then it went straight out.”
“It certainly sounds like a lot of fun.”
As he jabbered away, I began to think of playing computer games with Daniel, my own Grandson, whom I had not seen for quite awhile, all due to a silly misunderstanding. I should not have argued with Maryanne. My stubborn pride had blocked reconciliation.
“Do you have grand kids?”
The question snapped me back to reality.
“Er, yes,” I said, picturing Daniel’s face, “One, a boy about your age.”
“Do you do stuff together?”
“We used to. We haven’t for some time now.”
“Oh, I had a disagreement with my daughter - his mom. We got mad and said some things we shouldn’t have. Actually, I said some things I shouldn’t have. I can’t even remember what the fight was about.”
I laughed self-consciously. “I don’t why I’m telling you all this.”
“Did you fight with your grandson?”
“Don’t you miss him?”
“Of course,” I nodded.
“I’ll bet he misses you.”
Immediate realization instilled itself. The priorities of life were far more important than maintaining some semblance of childish pride.
I stood up and shook his hand.
“Thank you, young man,” I said, “for opening an old man’s eyes. I shall go and rectify a situation which should have been resolved weeks ago.”
I hurried home where, with great trepidation, I lifted the receiver and dialled.
Upon hearing the familiar voice at the other end, I said, “Er, hi, Maryanne. Um, I was wondering, if we could meet for a coffee and donut this afternoon.”