November 30th, 1978
Yesterday afternoon, I traveled down to Sedgefield to be with my mother and my father’s parents for Thanksgiving - today.
I made sure to pack in my chess set.
[I never knew my grandparents on my mother’s side. They both passed away before I was even born.
My mother was the youngest of 5 children, and when she was only ten, her mother had died from lung cancer. Her father had passed away some years later in his sleep. If I could choose, I guess that’s the way I’d like to go – peacefully in my sleep.]
It is bittersweet sleeping in my old bed again. There are many wonderful memories, but this only makes the single, tragically traumatic one all the more intense when juxtaposed together with them.
I would have thought that Claudia would have wanted my room, it being much bigger than hers, but I guess that she feels uncomfortable after learning where Hannah had spent her final hour upon this mortal plane.
I am not at ease with the idea myself – and I have the rational mind of a 59 year-old man at this time.
Before my grandfather had passed the honor of carving the turkey over to me, my grandmother had asked each one, as she traditionally always does, to tell what they were most thankful for.
“Second chances,” I had said. “For all the times I’ve had the courage and the opportunity to be able to right the wrongs.”
They had all agreed that the statement had sounded wonderfully profound and sincere.
Boy o’ boy, if they only knew the whole truth?
On both these particular occasions (In my first and second lives), my grandfather had given me the same advice.
I have already mentioned that he was…is a man that calls a spade – a spade. And I continue to admire him for his candor. He will be sorely missed next year.
He will suffer a stroke right after an eagle putt on the 11th hole at St. Michaels. He will pass away shortly thereafter.
Less than a year later, my grandmother will join him. My mother will claim it was from a broken heart.
Strange, my grandparents seem to argue so much, and yet…like Time, Love is also a four-letter word!!!
We had decided to have a few games, prior to the meal, while the ladies were all assisting in preparing the large special feast planned for around lunchtime.
“A man has three brains,” he had told me in a low tone across the chessboard. “One in his head, one in his stomach, and one between his legs.” I had laughed the first time, but had just stared seriously at him on the second. He had returned the stare before adding, “Depending on the circumstances, each will take its turn in dominating…controlling you. If you allow your johnson to rule your life, it will ruin your life. That is why I’m going to give you some advice today that will help you greatly. Hell, it may one day even save your life.”
“Oh, yeah. At times like that it is best to get a hold of yourself. I mean literally. Do you catch my drift?”
“Good! And there’s nothing for you to be ashamed of either.” He gazed across to the kitchen table where my grandmother and mother were basting the turkey and, seemingly, having their own deep conversation. “It’s either that or face a lifetime of regret for a few minutes of pleasure.”
The gravity of those words had escaped me the first time round. “Are you telling me that my father was an illegitimate…he really was a bast…”
“Hey, let’s not talk ill of the dead, okay? Besides, I made an honest woman out of your grandmother long before…”
I laughed. “The bastard really was a bastard.”
That was the first time my grandfather had ever struck me. He slapped me on my left cheek. It was not a hard strike, but it had seemed like a sledgehammer. The words that followed were even more violent. He pointed a condemning finger. “I like you. More than I ever liked your father. He was weak and he made many mistakes, but he made you. He was your father and he deserves your respect. Okay?” I remained silent. I guess the disgust on my face probably forced out the truth. “Don’t be playing this holier than thou scenario. There’s nothing I despise more than a hypocrite.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m sure you’ve often wondered why Beth…your mother, such a beautiful and intelligent creature, married someone like your father?”
“Actually…yes. Are you trying to tell me that I…”
“Hell, you’re supposed to have a superior I.Q. You kick my butt all the time at chess. Are you telling me you never did the math?”
“What? No! No, I never even imagined that…”
“You weren’t no premature birth; in fact you were three weeks late.”
“Why are you telling me this, now?”
“Because I thought you’re old enough now to hear the truth; old enough to handle it.” The blood had drained from my face. His face saddened. “Maybe I was wrong? I’m sorry.” That was also the first time I had ever heard him apologize.
“No, you’re right. You’re right and I’m the one who should be apologizing.”
“You sure?” He held up his empty glass. “I think you need one of these; a strong one too. Hell, you’ll be turning twenty next year.” He lumbered off towards the kitchen and the pantry where his secret stash was hidden. “Shit, knowing the kids of today, you’ve probably been into the jungle juice plenty already. Living on your own you’ve probably even been plastered a few times as well?”
I stared at, but never saw the chess board and pieces in front of me. I was still deep in thought when he placed a glass in front of me. “Here, that’ll put the color back in your cheeks in no time. And don’t let me ever catch you having it with any goddamned apple juice either.” I laughed before taking a long draft. He sat down and stared me square in the face before saying, “So, being something of a little bastard yourself, I thought it time to educate you. So now do us all a very big favor - try not to keep up the family tradition, you hear? When you feel your loins aching, you should have no qualms, no embarrassment, and definitely no second thoughts about grabbing that snake of yours and milking it dry. You’ll be surprised how different the world will seem after that. You may even have the nerve to tell the most beautiful woman in the world to go screw herself.” I choked on my drink. He pointed a finger at me again. “Married women!”
“What?” I asked regaining my breath and composure.
“Biggest problem in the world. Trouble with a capital T. Don’t be chasing after any, and if any come chasing after you – be sure to take my advice. Screwing a married woman might sound all exciting and make you feel good, but afterward you’ll end up feeling like a heel. Take my counsel, nothing will remove the rose-colored glass from in front of your eyes faster than a quick trip to the nearest bathroom. Tell them you need to relieve yourself. No lie in that. They’ll never know you’re not talking about taking a piss.” He pointed to the front of my trousers. “I know it’s gonna be a difficult thing to do, but you’ll thank me in the end. Trust me. Proverbs; chapter 6 and verse 32 – ‘He who controls his male member is better than a mighty man who conquers a great city.’”
“It actually says that in the Bi…”
“No, but it damn well should!”
We both laughed and my grandmother shouted from the kitchen, “Are you telling the boy some of those unsavory jokes you’re always hearing down at the club?” We laughed even louder.
In my first life I had spurned those words, buried them beneath a promiscuous lifestyle – perhaps deathstyle would be a more appropriate term. I learned my lesson the hard way, but unlike many others, I have a second chance to do right this time round – Second chances!!!
I had told my grandfather later as he was leaving that he should start taking half an aspirin each morning and evening. He said that it sounded like a crazy idea. “I take a pill when I’ve got a headache – not before.”
I told him that it would help to thin his blood, but he just grumbled and said, “That’s why there’s whisky.”
So I asked, “When was the last time you had a thorough checkup?”
“What are you suddenly so concerned about my health for? This body of mine’s still got a good many years service left in it. There’ll still be plenty of opportunity for you to kick my butt at chess.”
Sometimes it’s not always easy to apply those second chances, especially when it’s not directly in your power to do so. Maybe it was just fate’s way of telling me that I’ve already caused enough damage to this timeline by trying to force those second chances on the naïve and unwary. In any case, I would only be postponing the inevitable (That is, the inevitable for the rest of humankind – not for Cornelius Crane. When it comes to fate – I’m pretty much in control of mine. At least I strongly believe this to be the case. If not – only Time will tell!).
As I have already mentioned - My grandparents, especially my grandfather, will be sorely missed.