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Grandpa

"Benjamin remembers the old days and realizes a few facts"

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In a beautiful house on the outskirts of a large city, the six-year-old Benjamin was playing with his grandfather. Benjamin was the kind of kid who could never sit quietly. His active imagination made an adventure out of everything. That day, Benjamin was an Indian warrior, and his grandfather a cowboy who was taken prisoner and tied to a column in center of a room. Benjamin, with a feather in his headband, was dancing around the column to celebrate his victory over his grandfather.

Grandpa loved him very much and enjoyed any time they spent together. He eagerly took care of Benjamin every day, since his parents had to work. Despite aging making that harder every day, he never even thought of asking Benjamin’s parents to put him in a kindergarten.

Grandpa wasn’t very close to his own son. He and Benjamin’s father hardly spoke, and when they did, it was hardly about anything other than Benjamin. Although that made him sad, it was still better than nothing. So, when Benjamin’s father told him that they were moving away, he felt a deep sadness but decided to keep it inside himself and cherish the last day he spent with his grandson.

He had patiently taught Benjamin many things, including how to tie a knot, which Benjamin had just used to tie him up with a piece of rope he gave him. Grandpa was laughing with joy as he was watching Benjamin play, and thought to himself, “Even if this good boy is the sole positive result of my life, then my life is well spent!”

Suddenly they heard a honk. Benjamin recognized the sound. His father was there to pick him up. But since his father preferred avoiding an awkward encounter with grandpa who always invited him inside for tea, he just called his son with a car honk.

Excited to see his father, Benjamin said goodbye to grandpa, and ran for the door. Grandpa called him several times with a desperate voice, and he was still calling him when Benjamin closed the door. Grandpa was always worried about him, calling his name and giving him clear instructions to do things safely, so this time felt the same. Benjamin thought he couldn’t have anything important to say, and was eager to eat the pizza his father had promised him earlier, with ice cream after it. So, Benjamin just ignored his grandfather and jumped in the car.

His father didn’t want to waste time with the old man. He needed to explain their relocation to another city to Benjamin and answer his never-ending questions on the way, so he felt that was enough work and worry for one night, and just drove away.

Years passed, one after another. Benjamin’s life had many ups and downs. He had good memories of grandpa, but never visited or even talked to him. As more time passed, grandpa seemed like a distant memory of his childhood, which he could hardly remember. No one was willing to bring up grandpa as a subject anymore. As soon as Benjamin moved out of grandpa’s life, Benjamin’s parents stopped talking to him completely.

After forty years, Benjamin came back to the city where grandpa once lived. He was on a business trip and ended up there by pure accident. After attending to his business, he had a whole evening to himself, with nothing to do. This was a chance to visit grandpa’s house. He had become so distant from him that never even found out when grandpa had passed away, but knew grandpa couldn’t be alive after all those years.

Since there was nothing better to do, he decided to stop for a few minutes by grandpa’s old house to bring back some good memories. He went there but found the house deserted. It was clear that no one was living there, and had not lived there for a long time.

He entered the garden, remembering the games he had played in it with grandpa. His grandfather had never let him down when he wanted to play. Now that Benjamin was a middle-aged man, he could understand how hard that was for grandpa. They ran around for hours back then. Grandpa, despite the pain he felt in his ankles, and his weak heart, chased him around in the garden, during hot summers. That must have been hard for him, but the love he had for his grandson always overcame pain and tiredness.

Benjamin really wanted to enter the house, but the door was locked. He looked around, and a certain flower pot got his attention. He remembered grandpa telling him that was where he hid a spare key. It was unlikely that anything could be found there after all these years, but he decided to look. To his surprise, a key was there, and it opened the door.

Benjamin entered, and as he walked in, memories started to come back to him. It was as if nothing had changed from grandpa’s times. He remembered some objects and places, each bringing back memories.

He entered the kitchen and remembered how he used to make delicious cookies with grandpa. Then he visited the living room, remembering the games he had played there. The bedroom, now covered in dust, was where he listened to grandpa’s stories and slept soundly when his parents couldn’t pick him up at nights. He noticed that whenever he slept there, grandpa must have slept on the couch, which was hard for him, considering his back pain.

Benjamin regretted abandoning his grandpa. He wished he could see him for a few seconds to thank him and say goodbye, but that chance was missed years ago. All that love and care had remained unanswered. No one had bothered to call grandpa to see how he was doing, and he must have passed away without anyone by his side.

Benjamin felt very sad when he realized that. He thought searching the house may give him an idea of how grandpa lived after their departure.

None of the rooms he had visited so far could give him any clue. The furniture was from grandpa’s time. The only change he noticed in his surroundings was a layer of dust, which had gathered over years.

There was one final room to see. The room with a column in the middle. Benjamin and grandpa played most of their games there.

Benjamin went there. As he entered the room, the sight he witnessed almost made his heart stop. In the center, a human skeleton was tied to the column. The clothes on the skeleton were corroded, but he still managed to recognize their owner. This was grandpa who was left tied up when Benjamin left him, and he had died of dehydration.

Scratches on the column showed that he had struggled for days, trying to get himself out of the ropes, and must have suffered greatly before he submitted to death.

A great sense of guilt and confusion overcame Benjamin. “How is this possible? Someone should have noticed he was gone after forty years!” he thought to himself. But no one had. And who exactly could have been this “someone”? Grandpa’s own family had abandoned him, so who was there to notice it? Grandpa’s neighbors? Apparently, the neighbors were nice enough to not burglarize grandpa’s house, and had left his belongings intact. That was more than enough to ask and expect from them.

Benjamin hugged the skeleton and started crying. “I’m sorry, grandpa! I’m sorry!”

After a few minutes, he began thinking about what could be done about the situation. He thought of holding a majestic funeral, with piles of flowers, and inviting as many guests as possible. There he was able to tell everyone about what a good grandfather he had.

“Yes. That’s the least I can do. No matter how much it costs me, I owe much more to grandpa. I should tell everyone about him.” He thought to himself.

But then he realized a few facts. People could have asked him why he had abandoned grandpa for forty years. Who would even take him seriously, knowing he had left grandpa to rot all these years? What message could such a funeral send to the world? That the reward of kindness is being abandoned, dying in agony, and rotting like that?!

Benjamin was weighing options and analyzing possibilities in his mind when suddenly he came to a question which alone, putting all other things aside, formed his decision. The question was, “What was grandpa’s name?!”

In order to hold a funeral, one needs to know the name of the dead person. But he didn’t know that. The dead person was always called grandpa. Benjamin had never considered him as a man with a name. Why? Probably because everyone saw him as a free caretaker, cook, cleaner, teacher, bedtime story reader, and even a toy, but never an actual person with feelings and needs.

He realized the mockery that awaited him if he told someone that he was going to hold a majestic funeral and speak about the kindness of a family member who he didn’t even knew his name!

At the funeral, people would have probably asked about the cause of grandpa’s death. He could imagine the bursts of laughter that followed if he told the truth, and the fingers pointing at him, marking him as a hypocrite, who pretends to care about someone who he really never cared about.

With that realization, Benjamin’s sadness and regret went away. He came back to his senses. “Why am I hugging this skeleton?! It’s so dirty!” he thought as he let it go.

The house had already been abandoned for forty years. So, it could have remained abandoned for another forty years or more.

The whole house and everything in it were invaluable. They couldn’t be turned into money. The whole neighborhood was in decay and there was no customer for a half-ruined house. So, acquiring the ownership of grandpa’s house was more trouble than it was worth. Plus, it came with publicizing what had happened to grandpa, which would have surely damaged his reputation at work.

Benjamin didn’t want to waste time and money, and he certainly didn’t want to make a mockery of himself either. So, he decided abandoning the house in that state was probably the right move.

As he made his decision, he thought a little about karma and things like that. He wasn’t a superstitious man, but such things usually came to his mind every now and then. “What if I was in his shoes? What if someone abandons me like that? What if the others return my kindness with a cold heart?” he asked himself. But he immediately came back to his senses again, and realized that he can never be in such a situation, since he had never offered kindness to anyone. He didn’t care if his corpse was left on a cold floor either, so there was nothing to worry about.

Benjamin turned his back to grandpa’s remains and left. As he was walking out of the house, he thought, “Why bother myself about that old man? It wasn’t my fault he died there. I was merely a child, and not responsible for anyone’s life. His own son was responsible. His own son … my father … it has been a long time since I saw him. When was that? About two years ago, by his bed. Poor old man. He couldn’t even get up from his bed anymore and asked me to find him a new caretaker, after his last caretaker couldn’t tolerate his mistreatment and left. He also asked me to buy his medicine, which I … oh no!”

Benjamin realized he had forgot to do the things his father had asked him a couple of years ago. That sounded terrifying, because unlike grandpa’s house, his father’s house was expensive and full of valuables, and located where crime rates were constantly increasing. Remembering that, Benjamin ran for his car in order to get there as soon as possible.

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Written by Clara
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