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Just Three Words

Story ID:2403
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Writers Conference:$100 Prize - Shannon Hyle Memorial Contest – “For the Love of Books"
Location:Fort Lee New Jersey USO
Year:2006
Person:Joshie
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Just Three Words

July 1, 2005, I met my three grandchildren and my stepdaughter,
Heather, for the first time. She was having marital problems. We were
there to bring them back to New Jersey to live with us.

Ginny and I walked through the airport in Oklahoma. "There they are!" she said.

"Where," I asked, looking around.

"There!" Ginny pointed.

I saw a beautiful young lady and two boys - ages three and
five - the oldest two. They stared at me. Heather and Ginny hugged.
Ginny turned to the boys and opened her arms, "Joshie! Seth Man! I
missed you!"

They ran into her arms. It'd been a year since they'd seen
their Gingin. Her hugs were needed. Grandmother hugs are the best.
Ginny stood. Heather and the boys stared at me - the unknown grandpa.

Heather was polite, but I could sense the doubt. Who was this
man? I would have to convince her, I wasn't replacing her dad. Her
dad was in Heaven now. I was just a man who loved her mom.

Joshie and Seth were too shy to look at me. They stood,
side-by-side, their eyes passing from Ginny and Heather, with only
quick glances in my direction. Their eyes said it all, "Is that
our new Poppa?"

We shared hugs and went back to their house, where I met
Benny and his other grandma - Sonja. Benny was the youngest of
the three and even more afraid of me.

The next day, the older boys were doing flips over my lap
and laughing. Benny hugged Sonja, still scared of me. The following
day, we packed the kids in the car and headed for New Jersey.

My life changed. My house had been full of breakable and
memorable things. In a few weeks they were gone. I hid them in
closets and drawers. Our bedroom became a storage room. There
are only so many times you can tell a child not to touch something
before you realize, they can't help it. I packed it all away!

Ginny and I used to spend time talking or reading, when I
came home from work, but with the grandkids there, we would be
interrupted. It was a new life. The quiet times were gone.

A year later, Heather and the boys are leaving on a new
adventure. The boys were visiting their Dad in Oklahoma and
would join their mom in Idaho in a few months. Our house is
empty. We have our life again - or do we?

I was up at 5 AM to see them off on their trip to see
their Dad. Their bags were packed and loaded in the car. We
grabbed the last of their stuff, clamored down the steps,
and opened the car doors.

Benny and Seth jumped in, excited about the trip and
seeing their dad. I gave them the best hugs I could, considering
they were in such a hurry. Tears formed in my eyes. They'd been
a thorn in my side, but I'd grown used to those thorns.

I buckled Benny in his car seat, stood, and heard, "Poppa
Mike?"

I turned toward the voice. Joshie stood staring at me.
He'd snuck around the back of the car. "Yes, Joshie?"

"I love you."

"I love you too, Joshie," I said. Big tears began to
roll down my cheeks. "I love you too, buddy. I'll miss you.
Be a good boy for your daddy."

The car pulled away.

I went into the house and looked around. There were a
few small toys scattered about. A plastic block lay in a
corner. In the kitchen was a pack of Crayons. Behind the
sofa was a cart full of Leggos©.

My house was almost bare of their toys but full of
memories.

A few days later, I sat in the living room and noticed
the scratch marks on my teak coffee table. They were the
marks from a "Bob the Builder" plastic saw. When I first
saw those marks, I was so angry, I stomped out of the house
and took a long walk to cool my temper.

I thought of all the breakables hidden in closets.
Memories of a broken lamp, stomping feet, yelling, screaming,
crying, interrupted conversations, spilled drinks and sprayed
food flashed through my mind. It had been a rough year for me.
I had a hard time adjusting to having young kids in the house.

A little boy walked around the back of the car and
said, "I LOVE YOU!" The stress, cries, scratches on tables,
stains in carpets, tablecloths cut with scissors, screams,
nicks, marks, and broken furniture were forgiven.

Joshie, the one who was the most troublesome, made it
right. He was the middle child, struggling to be acknowledged
before his brothers. He said three words. That's all it took,
just three powerful words - I LOVE YOU!

Michael T. Smith