‘Hi, Grandpa. It’s Charlie.’
‘No, Grandpa,’ I shouted down the phone. ‘It’s Charlie.’
‘Charlie, Grandpa.’ Identity roulette was a regular feature of phone conversations with my Grandfather. With just one daughter and four grandchildren, Grandpa got it right eventually.
‘Joy, how are you, dear?’
‘Fine thanks,’ I surrendered. ‘You?’
‘Hmm? Oh, not bad, not bad.’
‘That’s good. If you’re home tomorrow, I’ll come and take care of your lawn. Is that okay?’
‘Hmm? Yes, that’ll be fine. I haven’t been down there for, oh, years.’ There was a slight hint of nostalgia in Grandpa’s voice.
‘You haven’t been where for years, Grandpa?’
‘It took a few moments to dawn on me.
‘Not Yallourn, Grandpa. Your lawn. I’m coming to mow your lawn.’
‘Oh. Okay then, Andrew. What time will you come?’
‘Does ten o’clock suit you, Grandpa?’
‘Hmm? Yes, that’ll be fine. Okay then, goodbye Charlie.’
As the doorbell struggled to play London Bridge, I found myself remember the day that I could ring the old bell without help. A surprised face appeared at the lace curtain beside the door.
‘Hello, Charlie! It’s nice of you to drop in,’ my Grandfather told me. ‘I’m expecting Andrew any moment. He’s coming to mow the lawn for me.’ Grandpa looked over at my car in the drive.
‘Andrew not with you, then?’
‘Andrew’s not coming, Grandpa. I rang you last night about the lawns. That’s why I’m here.’
‘Hmm? Oh. I suppose I had better put the kettle on, then. You have coffee, don’t you, Charlie?’
Grandpa shuffled off inside. Unloading the mower the boot of my car, I remember the standard of Grandpa’s barista skills. One cup of warm, milky coloured water with a slight coffee taste later, I fired up the mower.
Each time I came up the backyard, I could see where Grandpa had been painting the eaves when he fell off the ladder. Exactly why he decided that the house needed painting was a mystery. So was why he waited until he was ninety to attempt it.
Grandpa appeared at the back door.
‘Lunch is almost ready, Charlie. Come and wash up.’
Mowing Grandpa’s large yard had given me quite an appetite. I was looking forward to a cold meat with bubble and squeak, or perhaps a homemade pasty. My heart and stomach sank as Grandpa set a bowl of steaming, white stew in front of me.
‘Here you are. I can never remember who likes tripe and who doesn’t. ‘
‘I don’t mind it at all,’ I lied. It looks good. Thank you, Grandpa.’
After managing to avoid a second helping, helping. I headed out to mow the front lawn. I had almost finished when Grandpa waved from the front porch.
‘Your portable telephone was beeping, Charlie. I thought I had better bring it out. I don’t know about these contraptions.’
Unlike Grandpa, I knew exactly what the beeping meant. Grandpa had just handed me the smartphone when it rang.
‘Hello? Oh, hi, Ed. No, I’m…’ The phone beeped, and then went dead. ‘Stupid thing,’ I said to the phone.
‘What’s wrong with it?’ Grandpa asked.
‘The battery is flat. I’ll have to recharge it when I get home.’
Grandpa went back inside, while I finished mowing.
When I went inside, Grandpa was waiting in the lounge room.
‘Here you are, Charlie. Ten dollars for doing the lawns.’
‘Thank you, Grandpa. You don’t have to pay me, you know.’
‘Hmm? No, that’s quite all right. Oh, I almost forgot. I have something else for you. Here you are,’ he said, handing me a nine-volt battery. ‘You can have that for your portable telephone. That way you can call your friend back without having to wait for your battery to charge.’
‘Ah, thank you, Grandpa! That’ll be a great help,’ I managed to say with a straight face. ‘I’ll call him from the car.’
‘Okay then, Charlie. See you Sunday for lunch.’
Copyright © 2017 Bronwyn Joy Hansen. All Rights Reserved. Image; Copyright © 207 Hansen Family Archive.