Everyone, except for me and grandma, thought granddad was crazy. I thought he was funny and grandma thought he was a genius. He would sometimes write: “Dear son, my memory is losing me, what are balls?” on the kitchen wall at dad’s house with a permanent marker. When dad shouted at him, he’d knuckle up and try to box him.
“Come on boy, if you can throw words like that at me, you can throw punches too. Come on, let daddy whoop your ass up like it’s ‘88 all over again,” granddad would say.
In 1988, when dad was nineteen he had started drinking. He came home drunk and got in an argument with grandma that ended with him saying “fuck off” to grandma. When granddad returned from his book-signing tour a week later, grandma told him what had happened and granddad went to dad’s room with a tray of eggs. He came out with a swollen lip and a blue eye.
“I thought it was just eggs being thrown around there but it turned out there was a serious fight. Your granddad had a swollen lip and a blue eye. We had to take your father to the hospital. In the words of your foulmouthed granddad, ‘he was fucked up,’” grandma said.
When I asked granddad about ‘88, he laughed and told me to never disrespect mom and then try to overpower dad when he tries to discipline me.
“If you do that, I’m sure he’ll fuck you up too, but not as much as I fucked him up. Oh I almost killed that boy,” granddad said. My grandparents told the doctor exactly what happened. They say my dad said he’d have done the same too if his son disrespected his wife like that. And even attempted to fight him when he tried to discipline him.
Though granddad annoyed mom and dad sometimes, they didn’t want him and grandma to stay alone or at an old age home. They loved their company but dad sometimes claimed that he loved grandma and tolerated granddad.
One thing the whole family had in common was we all loved granddad’s books. My parents and twin sister had read all of them. But I and grandma preferred to start a book and get the rest of the story from the horse’s mouth, and granddad hated that.
“I hate horses and I hate mouths, except for mine and my lady’s. And you call me both for giving you a summarized better version of a good story? Where’s the gratitude?” he’d say.
Granddad’s favourite quote was the title of one of his books ’Live until you leave or die until you die,’ and in that book he said “You can’t run from your body growing old and dying, but your mind growing old is a slow death that doesn’t catch up if you enjoy the little things like children do and cuss a lot.”
My favorite book by granddad was ‘My Forte,’ it was a true story about his relationship with grandma. He claimed that charming her was his forte and he’d do it even when he’s dead. On the book, on grandma’s first birthday after granddad had died, she sees a unicorn taking a shit while she’s watering her garden. And she just knows it’s him.
“From the moment we met, I’ve done everything I could to impress her but she’s never as impressed as I want her to be,” granddad said.
“He said he wants me to be so impressed with him, that I abandon my Christian beliefs and tattoo his name on my skin. I told him I won’t do that until he goes to heaven and asks God for permission, and he promised he will,” grandma said.
Grandma loved My Forte too and she agreed that granddad’s forte really was sweeping her off her feet; she said everything written on the book was true except for him dying and the unicorn defecating in her garden on her birthday.
Granddad died at age 82 when grandma was 79 and only dad cried at the funeral but later claimed that a fly flew into his eye. “I saw it, it was a big blue one, it was wearing a nice red belt,” grandma said when I told her what dad said.
Everyone who had read My Forte waited for grandma’s birthday. Thousands of people all wanted to be where she was so they would see the unicorn. I doubt they believed there’d really be a unicorn but everyone just wanted to be there. They wanted her birthday to be a huge event at a stadium somewhere. And air it live in different channels. We were willing to pay for all of that but dad refused. He wanted it to be a family function.
“Sweetie, these people loved your father, they love his work, these people love me, they love us. We have to at least allow them to watch from their homes,” grandma said, and dad finally agreed to have a small camera crew in the house for the party.
The party was great. Grandma had a lot of fun watching dad trying to keep the few people who were invited to the party away from her. They wanted to hug, kiss and take pictures with her. To avoid fans flooding grandma with too many gifts, dad posted on granddad’s blog that whoever wants to send her a birthday gift should donate to charity using her name.
Later in the afternoon, dad pushed grandma’s chair to the garden and gave her a hosepipe. Everyone stood behind her quietly as she began to water the garden. It was what everyone wanted to see and when they saw it, they weren’t as excited because they knew there wouldn’t be a unicorn.
After a minute or so of watching grandma water the garden, people started applauding, signaling that she should stop, but she didn’t. They stopped clapping their hands and continued to watch her with tears growing in their eyes from realising that she really believed there’d be a unicorn.
Mom, in tears like everyone else, gently pushed dad to go and stop grandma. When dad got to her and tried to take the hosepipe, she said, “Don’t, the unicorn is coming, he promised, he always keeps his promises.” Dad looked back at everyone with teary eyes and then tried to stop grandma again.
“Mom, please,” dad said.
“60 years… for 60 years he never lied to me. You don’t know him, the unicorn is coming,” grandma said.
Dad stood next to grandma looking at the garden. It was a few minutes but it felt like hours in that sad silence. And then he began to walk towards the garden. People’s faces began to light up; I knew what they were thinking but was sure my dad wouldn’t do something like that. He got to the garden, took off his pants and took a shit. Everyone went wild; laughing, cheering, hugging and kissing grandma. I laughed so hard I missed the critical part. I did see shit come out of his ass but I didn’t see if he wiped or just put his pants back on without wiping.
When I asked him later, he said he did neither of that. He said he just sprinted across people with his pants on his knees and went to the toilet. His shit was never recovered. Even the video didn’t show where it went, as soon as it came out of his ass there was too much chaos and nothing was clear.
Grandma says that was the best day of her life and from that day on, she called dad “The Unicorn,” and we all did too when he wasn’t around. The sales of granddad’s books increased unbelievably and The Unicorn took all the money. Grandma said he needed it to buy a lot of pants so people never see his ass again.
And now, four years later, my 83-year-old Christian grandma has a tattoo on her shoulder; it reads “Jonathan is bae.”
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