When I was in sixth grade, at the end of every day I walked the fifty feet to the parking lot to look for my grandfather’s baby blue station wagon. Most days, he would come pick me up from school. One day in particular, I didn’t see his car, so I caught the bus. The ride home only took ten minutes, we didn’t live far from the school. When I walked through the front door into the kitchen, my grandmother asked, “Where’s your Paw-Paw?”
I could feel my confused expression imitating hers. “I don’t know. I caught the bus.” My grandfather had retired due to heart attacks and strokes, and the flash of panic that briefly stole across my grandmother’s features was not lost on me. For a twelve year old, I was incredibly observant. The next half hour of my life dragged on endlessly as we waited to find out what happened to him. Maw-Maw had called one of my uncles to go find him, hoping that they wouldn’t find him in a ditch.
The knot in my throat didn’t budge when he walked through the door, even though I knew he was okay. What came next nearly killed my little heart. To this day, two decades later, I still feel that knot when I think about it. He had been waiting for me in the parking lot at the school, somehow I’d missed the car when I looked for it. With his six foot plus frame, it only took a second for his single stride to bring him across the room to me.
He dropped to his knees in front of me and grabbed me in the tightest hug he could manage without injury. When he pulled back, I saw his tears. He held me by my shoulders and said, “Don’t you ever scare me like that again.” I never did.