Thursday, 19 September 2013

Hard Work

Two older couples in the cafĂ© strike up a conversation over the attempts by the grandchild of one pair to wipe their table clean. They joke about it at first, saying how maybe they should ask the baristas if they can’t get him a job, but then a melancholy note creeps in, as the other pair admit they have no grandchildren of their own. The would-be-grandfather’s voice. Faintly trembling.

The other couple, by way of appeasing this stiff-upper-lipped sorrow, reveal that they didn’t expect this one. He’s the offspring of a son, they say, who always liked girls, always liked girls, but who never before showed an interest in marriage or family. And then one day they got a phone call – the son asking how many grandchildren they had, and then correcting his mother when she claimed one digit shy.

And, two years after that one day, here they are, looking after him, on one of their precious trips out in town. They don’t say it begrudgingly, but perhaps there is relief in the other couple that they don’t have to do things like this. Although, perhaps it only compounds their sadness. Look what we’re missing, maybe they feel.

But think of what the actual parents are missing, they, both pairs, say. I remember my mother staying at home to look after me, recalls the wannabe grandfather, and the actual grandfather nods and says Yes, me too, but it’s all different now. Both parents have to have jobs. More’s the pity. She wants to stay home, but she can’t afford. They can’t, between them.

Well, when we were young you were brought up expecting to have to build things up slowly and steadily, weren’t you? But now they want a big house and two cars in the driveway right off the bat.


Sage nods from grey-hair and bald-head and blue-rinse alike.

We’re still building up to it, say the grandchild-less pair. Us too, say the others, the lucky ones whose lothario son finally blessed them with another kid to care for.  

That kid meanwhile just sitting there, wiping the table. He’s old enough to understand most of the words, but not old enough to understand what’s being said. He laughs, more to himself than to anything about the conversation. He smiles at the sweep of his cloth at its task.  

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