Grandpa's Harmonica

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Chapter 10

Monday when Jamie arrived at school, Homer was climbing around in their tree. He saw Jamie, waved and dropped to the ground.

Jamie said, “Hi, Homer. What are you doing here so early?

“I wanted to find out what your grandpa did about church.”

“You should have been there then. Where were you yesterday?”

Homer laughed. “Home. After that new reverend said I couldn’t come ’less I wore shoes, I decided I wasn’t gonna go no more. When I told Ma Saturday night, she said she was gonna take me out to the woodshed if I didn’t. Then Pa got into it and if you can believe it, he agreed with me.” Homer’s eyes went round with remembered surprise.

“What? My dad would’ve been on Mom’s side.”

“That’s what I figgered too. Then they had a big row ‘til Pa got mad and said he wasn’t goin’ neither and that was the end of it. He don’t like the idea of raisin’ money for no organ.”

“Grandpa doesn’t either.”

“Good. So anyways, Pa and me stayed home and shoveled out the calf barn. And guess what? Doin’ that was a whole lot better than sittin’ in church and havin’ somebody yell at me.”

Then Jamie told Homer about his grandpa not going and the number of people at church.

“Best news I heard. That’ll teach him. There’s lots of other churches around.”

Homer and Jamie made fun of Reverend McIvor until Miss Kuelmann rang her bell. Usually she’d go back inside after ringing her bell, but this time she waited for them on the porch.

“Jamie, I heard that you and your grandfather can’t play your harmonicas at your church services anymore. Is that true?”

“Yes’m and Grandpa’s pretty upset about it.”

Homer shrugged and said, “Dunno why. He don’t have to go to church no more.” He smiled and poked himself on the chest with a thumb. “And neither do I.”

“I heard about that too. In any case, Jamie, please ask your grandfather to call me tonight. I’d like to talk to him about his harmonica playing.”

“Yes’m,” He was curious what she wanted, but didn’t ask. He’d been taught it wasn’t polite to be nosey and anyway, his grandpa would tell him later.

Jamie gave his grandpa the message and after supper, he called while Jamie sat at the kitchen table doing homework and his mom and grandma washed dishes. Since the telephone hung on the wall of the kitchen, they all heard his grandpa’s half of the conversation.

“Hello there, Miss Kuelmann. Jamie said you wanted to talk to me about my harmonica playin’… Yes, ma’am… That won’t be no problem at all… This Wednesday? I’d surely like that and I’ll look for you to come by. Thank you, ma’am. Good-bye.”

Grinning, he hung up the receiver. The expression on his face said he wanted someone to ask him what Miss Kuelmann had told him so Jamie said, “It looks like Miss Kuelmann said something that made you happy.”

“Sure did, boy. Miss Kuelmann teaches a children’s Bible study class Wednesday nights at the Lutheran Church in town and she wants me to come and play for ’em.”

A dish smashed on the floor and Jamie’s grandma spun around from the sink. Shock made her voice quiver. “The Lutheran Church! How can you go there?”

Grandpa’s smile disappeared. “I ain’t goin’ to no Lutheran Church. I’m gonna play songs for some little children who meet there.”

Grandma’s face had turned bright red. “But… but… they’re Lutherans. Who knows what they believe. What would Reverend McIvor say?”

Well, that was definitely the wrong thing to say! Grandpa scowled and said, “Humph! I don’t care what he says. There ain’t no green-as-grass preacher gonna tell me where I can and can’t play my harmonica. I’ll do as I durn-well please.”

Jamie’s mom pointed at the door. “Jamie, go help your dad in the barn. Right now!”

Reluctantly, Jamie closed his book. “Yes’m.” He pulled on his chore jacket and trotted out the door, grumbling about never getting to listen to the good arguments.

From the porch, Jamie heard his grandpa ask, “Don’t Lutherans and Methodists use the same Bible?”

His grandma hesitated and said, “Well, yes… I guess they do, but… but…”

A more few steps took Jamie too far away to hear the rest of what his grandma said, but it sounded like Grandpa was winning. In the barn, he told his dad what was going on.

Jamie’s dad laughed as he forked straw into stalls. “I wondered when he’d find a place to play his harmonica. Outside of the family and farm, that’s the most important thing in his life.”

“Yes, sir. Not playing at church anymore really upset him.” Jamie picked up a fork and helped spread straw. “Did he play the harmonica when you were a kid?”

“Sure did. He even tried to teach me, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. Then he tried teaching your brother Will, but he wasn’t any better. Neither one of us could carry a tune if it was in a bushel basket with handles. Your grandpa was very happy when you learned.”

“Why are Grandma and Mom making such a fuss over him playing for little kids?”

“It’s not so much about the kids as it is him going to the Lutheran church. Your mom and grandma take being Methodist a lot more seriously than your grandpa does.”

They did small chores until the barn door opened and then closed with a bang. Jamie’s grandpa said, “Jamie, you can take yourself back up to the house and finish your homework.”

It took all Jamie’s willpower not to ask him who won, but then his grandpa smiled and winked, telling him all he needed to know.

Wednesday after supper, when Miss Kuelmann picked up Grandpa, his grandma and mom weren’t talking to him again, but they weren’t arguing anymore either.

Jamie was anxious to know how things went, but his grandpa wasn’t back by his bedtime. He struggled to stay awake until he came home, and had almost lost the fight when his bedroom door opened. “Grandpa?”

“Yep.” He came in and sat on the bed. “Thought I’d see if you was still up,”

“I was trying to stay awake until you came back, but I almost didn’t make it.”

“Well, I’d been back sooner, but they had coffee after, so I socialized a spell.”

“What was it like playing songs for Lutherans?”

“Humph! Didn’t see much difference. Miss Kuelmann has twelve little kids in her class and they use lots of the same hymns we do. All in all, we had us a good time.”

He was panting a little when he finished. Jamie asked “Grandpa, you feeling all right?”

“Oh sure, I’m fine. I got a little winded tonight. It’s been happening off and on for a spell. Might be comin’ down with a cold.”

“Are you going to keep playing for them?”

“Sure am, boy. When I play, they sing better and that makes ’em happy. You shoulda seen the look on them childrens’ faces tonight. There ain’t a better sight.”

Jamie sat up in bed. “Do you think I could go along with you next time?”

His grandpa rubbed his chin. “Well, that ain’t such a good idea right now. Your mom and grandma wouldn’t like it.” He took a ragged breath and coughed.

Jamie frowned. “But I miss playing my harmonica with you. How will I get better?”

“You be patient. Give it some time to let things work out. Now I gotta go to bed and rest up. I guess I did little too much today. We’ll practice tomorrow.”

“Okay, Grandpa. See you in the morning.”

A few days later Jamie’s grandpa came down with a cold and when he had a hard time breathing, he went to the doctor who told him to rest for a week. He spent most of his time in his rocker so Jamie sat on the floor next to his chair and they practiced harmonicas more than usual.

After his cold was better, he’d still get short of breath, but he said it was just taking him longer to get over his cold because he was getting old. That worried Jamie because he’d never thought of his grandpa as old. He was just Grandpa, always there, never changing. Realizing that Grandpa might be getting old lit a small spark of worry in the back of his mind that he couldn’t extinguish.

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