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The Fourth Grandchild

Grandpa walks around in the morning in a grumbling daze, holding his iPhone playing WCCO radio three inches in front of his face. Grandma attempts to make plans with him for driving to his sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner, but he waves her off. He shuffles down the hallway to the guest room, followed by the clicking sound of paws on the hardwood floor.

This is not an attitude that has come with age. Grandma has told me many stories about him walking out on their friends after a heated argument, leaving her to mend the relationships. Raised in Minnesota, he has lived in Wisconsin for most of his adult life. This has created many very invested and very serious debates over the Vikings and the Packers, some of which Grandma believed were going to end the Thanksgiving dinners during which they took place. He adheres to the avoidance of many pet peeves, like the slamming of doors and criticisms of his cooking, and expects the same of the rest of the family.

But, like every grandfather, he has his soft spots. He opens his arms out wide whenever he sees my five-year-old cousin, Josh, who responds by throwing his arms around Grandpa’s knees. I have many memories of my brother and I sitting out on the dock with him at sunset, being praised for our fishing ability as we held up tiny Sunnies for him to inspect. He may mutter about all the calendars, Christmas cards, and slideshows Grandma makes out of family photos, but he pages through them diligently.

Grandpa’s relationship with his fourth grandchild, my family’s dog Duncan, is a running joke in my house. Last Christmas, we gave him a keychain reading, “I Love My Shi Tzu,” which he accepted with a huff. If Grandma is the first one in the house when they come to visit, my dog shoots right past her into the garage, darting between cars until he finds Grandpa. He sits at the old man’s feet as Grandpa unloads the car, Duncan’s feathery white tail waving in surrender. When Grandpa doesn’t return his gaze, Duncan sets his paws on his slacks, leaving two wet spots just below the knee. Grandpa picks up his bags and walks inside.

Duncan will persist through the rest of the night. Grandpa begins unpacking his suitcase and Duncan squirms uncontrollably, thinking he might be taken back with them to my grandparents’ house, where he can spend sunny days making pilgrimages out to the garden with Grandpa. Grandpa finds Duncan’s wiggly exertion completely unnecessary every time, ignoring him in an attempt to lower Duncan’s expectations.

Later, Grandpa sits in the living room recliner to meditate and poke at his iPhone. Duncan sets one paw on the side of the chair, the other leg curled to his chest. His buggy black eyes stare at his master with a look that could be trademarked by Hallmark. Grandpa returns his gaze for a second and tells him it ain’t going to happen.

“Grandpa, why don’t you love him?” I ask jokingly from the couch.

“I do love him, but I can love him from up here.” He says, looking down at my dog. He still uses the keychain, even if it’s only because he doesn’t want to hurt our feelings.



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