Hidden Love – Chapter 7 and 8
The weekend was finally approaching, and Paul was finishing several earnings reports when his office phone rang.
“Central Bank, Paul Walker speaking. May I help you?”
“How’s my favorite grandson?” Paul relaxed and smiled.
“I’m doing well, Nana. How are you?”
His grandmother’s voice was filled with warmth. “I just wanted to see how you were doing. After all, you can’t find a girl if you stay hunched over all that paperwork. You need to get out and get some fresh air, too. And, uh, I wanted to let you know that Millie and I are going on a short trip.”
Paul sat up. “A trip?”
“There’s an Atlantic City bus tour leaving next week, and Millie and I signed up for the trip. I’m hoping to see some old friends, and the tour operator said this trip was for single seniors.” Her voice squeaked, and Paul chuckled.
“Are you looking for another husband, Nana?”
There was a sputtering sound on the other end, and his grandmother replied, “N…now why would I look for another man when I have you?”
It amused Paul to think they were looking at their own lives instead of eyeing Paul’s bachelor status, so he relented.
“Is there anything you need me to do at your house while you’re gone?”
“Bless me, Paulie, yes. Can you make sure that the flowers are watered? I’ve already talked to Mr. Moore the postman to hold my mail and newspapers. I’ve gotten a feeding tab for my fish tank, so that should be fine.”
“Okay, Nana, when do you leave? And do you need me to drive you to the bus station?”
“No,” was Nana’s quick reply. “And we are leaving Thursday.”
“Okay, shall I take my best girl out to dinner on Wednesday then?” Nana laughed.
“Absolutely. I want to show everyone what a fine grandson I have.”
~ ~ ~
Wednesday evening found the pair at Italian Bistro on Waltham Woods Drive, munching on antipasti as they waited for their entrées. Nana was unusually quiet, and was rubbing the edge of her wineglass with her finger.
“Paul,” she began, “did I ever tell you about my high school days?”
Paul looked at her. She seemed unusually nervous. He shook his head.
“I know you grew up in a small town in Indiana, and moved here after high school,” he said, “but I don’t know much of anything of your time there.”
“Believe it or not, I was Homecoming Queen in my senior year,” she began, “It was a giddy time for me, and I fell for the town bad boy. He was two years older than me, working as a mechanic and handyman. We had secretly been going steady for several months before your great-grandfather found out. He was so angry; I guess he thought that I would get in trouble. But Bill, in spite of his reputation, was nothing but a gentleman with me.” She paused reflectively.
“You know, they say girls always want bad boys who would be good only to them. Bill was just like that; even though he worked with his hands, he was never rough or mean.”
“What happened after your father found out?” Paul asked gently. His grandmother sighed.
“About that time, Bill got his draft notice. He joined the Navy Civil Engineer Corps because of his background, and became a Seabee.”
The waiter arrived with their entrées: veal piccata and gnocchi with meat sauce, and there was a comfortable silence while they applied themselves to their meal.
Paul knew a little about the Seabees. Shorthand for “Construction Battalion”, they began in the early part of the War, building living quarters, bridges, and runways, often under fire as the ground troops continued to defend the hard-won ground. To this day, they still existed, providing humanitarian aid to such disasters as Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
After a few minutes, his grandmother continued.
“When he entered the Seabees, he was one of the youngest they accepted, since they wanted experienced men. Did you know the average age of a Seabee during the War was 37? He was an amazing man.”
Paul asked, “What happened to you two?”
She took a sip from her wineglass before answering.
“After he was sent to Davisville, Rhode Island, we kept up a correspondence. When he was shipped to the Pacific, it was harder to keep up. He was island hopping, you know, building as they went along. Then my father got the job offer here, and we moved within a month after I graduated high school. I received another letter forwarded from him, then nothing further.” She looked down at her meal, then up at her beloved grandson’s face.
“I met your grandfather here, and made a home and family in Maryland. And I don’t regret a minute of it.”
“What made you decide to tell me about this now?” Paul questioned curiously. Nana picked up her fork and toyed with her grilled squash.
“I guess I was just feeling my years a bit, and wanted to reminisce. Don’t worry, I won’t turn into some weepy old woman.” She smiled and Paul chuckled.
“So, are you all packed and ready to go?”
She smiled. “Yes, and I can’t wait to start this adventure.” Paul scoffed.
“You’ve been to Atlantic City several times before. It can’t be that much of an adventure now.”
His grandmother laughed, and he saw a hint of the young girl she used to be.
“Everything can be made into an adventure, even at my age!”