I took a little trip the other day. It wasn’t in a car, or on a bike. I didn’t even walk. It was a trip through time, you see, and to take it, I only had to sit comfortably on my Grandfather’s couch. I’ve read that time travel really is possible, if only you could travel at the speed of light, or drop through a wormhole, or perhaps step into one of the innumerable parallel worlds that are said to populate the universe. I didn’t have to do any of those things. In fact, I didn’t even have to move.
Grandpa sat grinning at me from his easy chair. His head bobbed slightly on his frail neck. His sparse white hair spun like gossamer from above his ears. He didn’t look like he commanded a time machine, but he was nevertheless in charge of this journey.
Grandpa spoke and off we went. It was the early 60′s and we were seeing my Dad. Darrell was his name. He’s been looking at me from black and white photographs for as long as I can remember: here he is in a plain white t-shirt and tough guy shades; there again, he’s banging a guitar like Elvis, wearing his jeans rolled up at the cuffs with that damn t-shirt. My Mom’s in that one, on her knees next to him with her arms outstretched, acting like a weepy teenager with front row seats: two dumb kids acting up without a care in the world. But these were only photos. Me and Gramps were going back to see the real thing.
Here was Grandpa and my Dad, lingering at a car lot in Southern California. Dad had his eye on a 40-something Chevy coupe. He wanted it, but he didn’t have the money.
“The guy said, take it anyway,” Grandpa said. “I told your Dad, you won’t take it until you have the cash.” Grandpa laughed at the memory. Dad busted his ass for two more months, cleaning canvas bags in some factory, but he finally collected what he needed and bought the car.
“What’s he do when he gets the car?” said Grandpa. “He puts these huge mufflers on it, then lowers the front and raises the back. Bounced all over the place. Lord.”
“Gramps,” I said, “Didn’t you and Grandma take that thing to the store once and break the eggs on the way home?”
Grinning , Gramps said, ”That’s what I told your Dad.”
Grandpa steers the time machine elsewhere…or else-when? We’re in a courtroom. Dad is standing dejectedly before the judge, Grandma by his side.
“Your Dad got a speeding ticket not a month after he jacked up his car,” says Gramps. “When they went to court, I told your Grandma to tell the judge to throw the book at him. The judge says, two months with no driving or 6 months only driving to work. Your Dad took the two months. He never got another ticket.” Grandpa laughed again. “He said, Dad, you go over 30 miles an hour on that street all the time. I said, yes, but they can’t hear me a mile away.”
Grandpa was silent after that–our trip was over. He sat in his chair with his eyes closed, a wistful smile on his lips, his face glowing with bittersweet memories of a son long dead. Time eventually steals away all that we hold dear. But sometimes, if we’re quiet (and we throw in with a good skipper), we can get back a little of what was lost. When we do, we find we never really lost the most important thing of all: love, the essence of every bond that really matters and the one thing that time cannot diminish. See, Dad may be dead and buried, but he is alive in the time machine that beats in Grandpa’s chest.
You have but to close your eyes and Grandpa’s heart will take you wherever you want to go.