Rewriting the Script
Rewriting the Script
Every summer, Dad and I went to West Virginia to visit Grandma Ruth and Granddad Everett and to go back to the place where he and Mom first met. Sometimes Mom would take the ride with us, but most times she didn't. There was no air conditioning in Dad's burgundy Firebird, and the ride could be uncomfortable. Other times, Aunt Myrna, Aunt Tricia, cousin Nikki, cousin DJ, cousin Lorenzo, cousin Monica or cousin Doris came along, and I'd just listen to them talk and tell jokes. The best times were when it was just the two of us, and I'd watch Dad as he listened to Anita Baker or Phyllis Hyman, bopping his head to the beat and drumming the steering wheel in rhythm to the bass, his voice bellowing over the hook. I marveled at him from the back seat of the car. His small afro, towering frame, and strong hands with bits of dried concrete still embedded under his fingernails, made me feel secure in his strength.
Dad rarely got mad, but when he got mad, he really got mad! It usually had something to do with the dog chewing the stuffing out of the sofa or eating our fake potted plants, but other times it had something to do with white people. Dad leaned across Aunt Myrna, who was in the passenger seat on this trip, and told her to roll down her window. She looked at him, trying to discourage him from doing whatever it was that he was about to do; then realizing that it was no use, she rolled it down so that he could talk to some white man. I couldn't tell what the white man was saying, just Dad encouraging him to pull his truck over so they could discuss it further. He did. And Dad did. Even though I was three and couldn't articulate my feelings very well, I was nervous for Dad. I wasn't sure what that white man was going to do to him. I peered from the back seat and through the front window, watching Dad trudge up the gravel shoulder to the driver's side of the truck. A white finger came flashing in and out of the truck, pointing at Dad. Then came the guy's head. His longish, dirty blond hair tossed about as he quickly tucked his head back and forth out the window. Soon after, Dad reached in and punched the guy. The truck took off and swerved in response to the blow Dad had just given him. He walked back to the car, got in and didn't say a word about the incident after that. I smiled the rest of the way to West Virginia.
When the Firebird crackled slowly over the unpaved road in front of Grandma and Granddad's small, blue house, they were already at the front door watching. Dad pulled up and maneuvered his car into a makeshift space right behind their light blue Cadillac in front of the concrete gate. Whenever anyone came into town, you could be sure that everyone knew about it before you got there. A few people always had their doors open, lingering about to see who it was. I got out the car, said hi to Grandma as quickly as I could, trying hard to avoid her gummy, wet kiss and not wanting to wait around to see if she had her teeth in or not. I darted inside ahead of everyone else and made my way around the six-room flat. A bunk-bed was tucked away just to the left of the door, and once you passed the partition at the doorway, the house opened up into the living room, two connected bedrooms, a bathroom, a small dining room, and a small nook attached to the kitchen. Grandma's bedroom had the wigs she wore to church, small bottles, and not-so-small bottles of perfume, huge earrings with the clamps on the back, rings that looked like they hadn't been cleaned in years, and other trinkets, pouring out of her jewelry boxes.
I liked Granddad more than I did Grandma. It was just that Granddad intrigued me more because he didn't talk so much. And I never heard people talking about him. Each time I'd visit, the sofa was draped with a new crochet he had just finished working on, or something in his rocking-chair that he was in the middle of starting. His Bible was nev