The door was never shut. Inside was a curio of Granddad things. The room smelled Granddad, too – a clean yet musky, deep blue fragrance, like a mix of pipe tobacco, that he didn’t smoke, and aftershave. All of Granddad’s solid t-shirts with the chest pocket and his traditional winter flannels clung to that same scent.
There wasn’t much walking space in Granddad’s room. He commanded one cushy, swivel desk chair and there was usually an empty one next to him waiting to be warmed by a younger rear end, should we decide to join him.
It wasn’t that Granddad’s office work was all that interesting. He had stock tickers scrolling across an 8 inch TV screen and his computer monitor refreshed the stock values with every frequent mouse click. The appeal was simply being with Granddad. And the entertainment was posted on the walls, slung over the chairs, or set precisely on his polished, dark wood desk.
“Well, hi there!” Granddad would swoop me up in a bear hug and then set me down in front of him. “Just sit here with me a minute, I’ll finish this up. After lunch do you want to play a game of washers?” Doubtless washers was a wonderful idea but I would have sat next to Granddad all day.
While he was turned to me, after 60 seconds of silence, the computer screen began to swim with exotic fish. The small speakers let me listen to their bubbles pop. Granddad rarely changed his screen saver. Sometimes it was multicolored pipes that grew constantly, connecting to make giant abstract art.
To start with I would clamber up beside him, balancing on my knees in the second swivel chair. That way I could reach his gray, windup ducky. Just a cheap trinket, but as much a part of Granddad’s room as the carpet. As Ducky wound down, I slipped from my seat and practiced contorting myself to sit on the special “good posture” chair. It was built of two cushions at odd angles. You put your knees on the bottom support and leaned your tush back on to the second one. There was no back rest and as far as I was concerned the chair looked rather uncomfortable and useless.
Next I turned to the white board hung on the wall behind the door, at eye level for a seven-year-old. Red, green, blue, black and yellow dry erase makers perched nearby. Grandma was pretty trusting and as far as I remember none of us every ended up coloring on her walls or carpet.
On the wall on the other side of the door were collages of my mom and uncles. I was always impressed with how beautiful my mom was. The pictures of her before she met Daddy hardly seemed the same person.
Memories for every age hung on the walls of that room: The bird clock, that chimed with a different bird song every quarter hour, the 3D picture that I “got” several times but don’t remember what I saw and the funny one that depicted a million one-liners like, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” “flat as a board,” “time flies,” and “rat race.” I saw that picture 100s of times and I still find things I hadn’t seen before.
Granddad’s room had a private entrance since it was at the back of the house. It led to the back porch where Granddad and Grandma had a hot tub. Anticipation let me smell the chlorine water before I even opened the door. My sisters and I would don our swimsuits and grab the animal shaped rafts that Grandma kept for us. I loved the green and pink frog with buggy eyes and Jenny usually claimed the giraffe. We were generally clean kids, but Granddad had to shock the hot tub with an extra dose of chlorine after every visit. He also had to refill the tiny pool since we splashed most of the water out.
When our lips turned an iridescent blue, Mom always grabbed towels from the downstairs bath and came through Granddad’s door to find us. Then she would shuffle our dripping bodies back through Granddad’s room to the nearest bathroom.