My grandfather tucked me into bed one day. The big fuchsia comforter matched the rest of the fuchsia walls. To this day I still shudder when I see that color. There was way too much of it at my grandparent’s house.
I asked my grandfather for a bedtime story. In reality I was just trying to eke out a few more minutes of consciousness, but what he left me with is this:
“I don’t have a story to tell you, but I have a three pieces of advice. First, always eat your vegetables. It will impress your future wife that you are more than a carnivore. It will probably be the first time she meets such a man, and that will keep her interested. Second, always finish whatever you are drinking. If you do you will impress your future wife even more. She will know intuitively that you will get things done, and you won’t put off things just because you were happy with how they are now. You made a commitment and you followed through till the end. Lastly, always volunteer to do the dishes. If you do, your future wife will know you will be a partner in everything you do together. She will know you are a strong believer in sharing all burdens, to make them lighter for you both.”
Once grandpa was finished he looked at me, waiting for me to say something. Being only seven at the time, I tried to figure out what he was talking about. Finally I just agreed. “Okay Grandpa. I will begin tomorrow.”
The old man smiled a broad smile and rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “Don’t let me down, boy.” He patted me on my head. “You make sure you do that.”
Many years later, while getting ready for my wedding, my grandfather came in to see how I was doing. I gave him a huge hug. “Grandpa,” I said. “That advice you gave me so many years ago, you were right.”
My grandfather looked at me weirdly. “What advice was that?” he asked.
“You told me when I was seven that I should always eat my vegetables. It will impress my future wife, and keep her interested. Second, always finish whatever I’m drinking. She will know intuitively that I’ll get things done and won’t put off things. I will follow through till the end. Lastly, I always volunteer to do the dishes, letting her know you will be a partner in everything we do together. She knows I believe in sharing all burdens, to make them lighter for both of us. That last part really sealed the deal. Without your advice, Amanda and I wouldn’t be getting married today.”
My grandfather looked off into space, trying to remember when he had given such sage advice. He then started laughing so hard I thought he was going to pass out. When I finally steered him to a chair and got him a drink of water to help him catch his breath, Grandpa had me kneel down next to his chair. He leaned over and patted me on my head, just like that night twenty years earlier.
“Do you remember now?” I asked him.
“Yes my boy, I do,” Grandpa said. “And that advice is the reason why you’re getting married?”
“Yes Grandpa,” I said. He threatened to begin laughing, but I stopped him with my stare. “What’s so funny?”
“I told you to eat your vegetables,” Grandpa said through a toothy grin.
“Yes, Grandpa,” I replied.
“I told you to drink all of your drink,” Grandpa said as the grin got larger.
“Yes, Grandpa,” I replied getting more annoyed.
“I told you to do the dishes,” Grandpa said, slapping his knee.
“Yes, Grandpa!” I exclaimed. “I just told you that.”
“Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your grandmother was getting flustered at your eating habits. She bet me I couldn’t make you eat all your vegetables and drink all your drink. If I lost I had to paint the barn that ugly fuchsia color she loved.”
“This was part of a bet?” I asked, the color draining from my face. “Wait, what did you win?”
My grandfather blushed a little and made an almost impossibly large grin.
“Grandpa! No way!” I said, sinking the rest of the way to the floor.
“Best damn week in a long time,” he said with a little bit of longing in his voice.
“All this time,” I said, shaking my head, smooshing my wedding haircut into the thick pile carpet behind it. Then I had another thought. I sat back up and looked at the man who used my naiveté to get lucky with my grandmother. “You also made me promise to do the dishes. I’m almost afraid to ask this, but what did you win from Grandma for getting me to do that?”
Grandpa waved me off. “Grandma never bet me anything about doing the dishes.” I was relieved, but confused. Grandpa then continued. “It was always my chore to do the dishes after dinner. I just wanted a break.”