By D W. Steep
“My other grandpa has a plane,” said my six year-old grandson, Eric, as we strolled along San Francisco’s Pier 39. “He let me sit in the pilot seat and hold the steering wheel when we were flying way up high.”
“The control column,” I corrected.
“Planes have control columns; cars have steering wheels, Eric.”
“Whatever, it was fun!”
“Look at the boats!” I blurted, in an effort to distract him from once again meandering down Other Grandpa Lane.
“My other grandpa has a boat!” he shot back. “He takes me fishing all the time, and he even lets me sit in the captain’s seat and drive it!”
“Navigate it,” I corrected.
“You don’t drive boats, you navigate them, Eric.”
“Whatever, it was fun!”
Mercifully – I don’t get to see my little grandson Eric too terribly often. Only once a year now – and apparently for no other reason than his being able to update me on Other Grandpa’s latest over-indulgent spoil the brat spending sprees. The man designed a computer chip somewhere around 1975, and has since become, or so I call him — The Geek Tycoon.
“Would you like to visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, “I already went to the Ripley’s in Florida, with my-
“Other grandpa,” I interjected.
“Yep … hey, can we go on that pirate ship over there, grandpa?”
“Of course we can, Eric,” I replied. “It’s my pirate ship.”
“No way!” he spluttered, his little eyes now bulging with excitement.
It was precisely that excited look in his eyes, I now know in hindsight, which led me completely out of character and down that deep dark ugly road for which I then took. “Yep, it’s mine,” I repeated, adding with a sweeping wave of my arm, “in fact; all these boats are mine, Eric. Didn’t you know that?”
“No way!” he gushed.
“Way,” I assured him, before taking him by his little hand and leading him aboard the old schooner he’d innocently mistaken for a pirate ship. “I bet your other grandpa doesn’t have a pirate ship like this,” I boasted, while purchasing two tickets.
“You shouldn’t lie to him like that,” whispered the nosey ticket seller.
“Mind your business, lady,” I hissed. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“If this is your boat,” said Eric, with a tug of my hand, “how come you have to buy tickets, grandpa?”
“Yeah, grandpa,” mimicked the ticket seller, who was rapidly working her way towards walking my pirate ship’s plank.
“Because, Eric,” I carefully explained, while pointing out the ticket seller. “If grandpa doesn’t buy tickets, this nice lady won’t have enough money to buy more bleach for her hair.”
I won’t repeat what the woman said, suffice to say — I was forced to cover Eric’s ears as we hastily skedaddled to the top deck of my pirate ship. “Wow!” bellowed Eric, as took in the entire panoramic scene from on high. “This is my grandpa’s pirate ship!” he then proudly boomed, while pointing me out to a group of Japanese tourists, who then surrounded and proceeded to blind me with a seemingly endless stream of camera flashes.
God bless the language barrier, for there was nothing but broad smiles and indulgent nods as I recounted for them, within earshot of my grandson, my many pirating exploits.
“Did you really do all those things that you told those people on your boat about, grandpa?” said Eric, as we climbed into the car at day’s end.
“Most of them,” I replied.
“Did you really discover California?” he pressed.
“Ah …well,” I stammered, “not all of it.”
“Did you really sink the Spanish Amanda?”
“Armada, the Spanish Armada, and yes — I did. But when we get home, we can’t tell grandma about any of these things, okay?”
“Why not, grandpa?” he asked.
“Because grandma had relatives on the Spanish Armada and we don’t want to make grandma sad, now do we?”
“My other grandpa has a really big house in Spain!” he blurted. “Last year he took me and mommy-
“I have a really big house too!” I interrupted, right after having made the mental note that our next day’s activities would include a visit to San Simeon’s, Hearst Castle.