The Wand


Roy Lobenhofer

Chapter I – Burying Spooky … 2

Chapter II - Changes … 7

Chapter III - Learning … 12

Chapter IV - Betty’s Mom … 19

Chapter V - Going to Church … 25

Chapter VI - Boy Friends … 31

Chapter VII - Dinner at the Davidsons … 37

Chapter VIII - Visit from Julie … 43

Chapter IX - A Full Weekend … 49

Chapter X - Summer Turns to Fall … 56

Chapter XI - More Changes … 61

Chapter XII - Big Troubles … 68

Chapter XIII - Julie’s Rush to Judgement  … 73

Chapter XIV- Goodbyes  … 79




Chapter I – Burying Spooky

The day was fitting for the job they had to do. It was gray, chilly, and not raining enough to be called a drizzle but more like a light mist. In other words, it was miserable! The teenage girl wore a hooded raincoat and carried a wooden box. It was hard to say for sure with the mist, but it looked like she might be crying. The old man also looked like he may have been crying but was trying hard not to show it. He wore a jean jacket with a hand trowel sticking out of the pocket. They walked side by side not saying anything. The only noise came from their feet making squishing sounds in the mud.

They were walking in a forest preserve just outside of Chicago which would have been busy had the day been nice, but not where they were walking. Today the whole park was almost completely deserted. They didn’t seem to be following any known path. The old man’s head was mostly looking down, but occasionally he’d look up, assess where they were, and occasionally make a minor adjustment in their direction.

The girl finally spoke. “Grandpa, how did you find this place?”

The old man, her grandfather, looked startled when she spoke almost like he had forgotten she was there. “Oh, I thought I told you. I used to live around here when I was a kid. This had become a forest preserve some time before that and we kids found this deserted cabin. We played in it a few times back then, but the word was it was haunted so the other kids pretty much stayed away. I didn’t believe the haunted stuff. So, I’d come around occasionally by myself. Since I don’t have a backyard anymore, I couldn’t think of a better place to bury Spooky than by an old, haunted house.”

“I thought you said the house was gone.”

“Oh, it is. You’ll see in a minute, we’re almost there.”

The woods seemed almost thicker for the next few steps, then suddenly, the trees were much smaller. The old man nodded and said, “Oh, here we are.”

The girl poked her head out of the hood, looked around, and said, “How do you know, Grandpa?”

“See that pile of stones over there, Betty?” he said pointing at a small pile of stones in a relatively clear area between the young trees. “That used to be the fireplace.”

Betty looked skeptical where he pointed and shrugged her shoulders. “If you say so. It doesn’t look like a fireplace to me or a house.” She paused and looked at her grandfather pleadingly. “Grandpa, I’m getting cold.”

The old man nodded and walked to the pile of stones, took the trowel out of his pocket, and dropped to his knees. “Burying my old, black cat in front of the old fireplace seems right, doesn’t it? It might keep him warm if you believe in that kind of stuff.” He started digging with the trowel.

Betty looked sadder and colder just standing there holding the box. “You had Spooky for a long time, didn’t you, Grandpa?”

The grandfather kept digging as he said, “Yes, I got him the year after you were born. He kept me company after your grandmother died. He was a pretty good cat. It’ll be hard to replace him.”

Betty looked up, “Are you going to replace him?”

The grandfather didn’t look up from his digging, “Most likely, but not right away. I can’t see myself living all alone. Cats aren’t like having someone really living with you, but they aren’t a lot of work.” With that he looked questioningly at the hole he’d created and changed the way he was digging. Because the dirt was wet and there weren’t any trees near what was the fireplace, he’d be taking good size chunks of dirt with each dig into the earth. Now he started probing more carefully, “I wonder what this is?”

Betty peered into the hole and said, “I don’t see anything. What do you see?”

“I’m not sure. It looks like someone has already buried something here.” With a little more careful digging the grandfather soon pulled out what looked like a piece of rolled up fabric. Because of the depth of the hole, the fabric didn’t look all that wet.

Betty looked excited, “What is it?” As the grandfather laid the roll of fabric off to the side and went back to digging, Betty asked, “Why don’t you open it?”

“Let’s get Spooky taken care of first and then we’ll see what we found. Hand me the box, please.”

Betty handed him the box and then shook her hands as they’d become stiff from holding the box in the same position for such a long time.

The old man gently put the box into the hole and started putting the dirt on top. It didn’t take long and all that was visible of the hole he’d dug was a rounded spot of fresh dirt. He patted the dirt with the back of the trowel and then grabbed a couple of the bigger rocks from what he’d claimed was the fireplace and put them on top of the mound. He struggled to his feet and looked at his work for a few moments and then nodded his head as the rain picked up. There were dark patches at his knees from the moisture soaking through his jeans.

He looked at Betty and said, “How about you bend down and pick up our mystery package. We’ll take it to the covered picnic table by the car and open it where we won’t get soaked.”

Betty grinned and got a little twinkle in her eye as she teased. “Bending down getting too much for an old man, huh Grandpa?”

The old man took a playful swing at her and didn’t come close. “I saw you shaking the stiffness out when you gave me Spooky. A young squirt like you shouldn’t be getting stiff from that little bit. Keep it up and by the time you get to be my age, you won’t be able to move.”

Betty swung her hip into her grandfather as they started walking back the way they’d come. He staggered a little, but it wasn’t long before he swung his hip into Betty and made her stagger. She looked at him and said, “Oh, it’s going to be like that is it?” She swung her hip again at the old man and it hit, but this time the short, stocky old man was ready for it, and it didn’t stagger him at all.

After a few more squishy steps, Grandpa tried again to throw a hip into Betty. This time she too was ready and danced away and giggled. “Too slow old man!” Then she ran up and gave him a hug. He returned the hug, and they trudged on with his arm over her shoulder.

In a couple of minutes, they were at the picnic table under the shelter. They brushed the drops off their outer clothes and Betty put the rolled-up fabric on the table. They sat and Betty said, “Grandpa, what do you think it is? Do you think it’s a treasure map?”

“I think we’ll have a much better idea of what it is when you open it up. Right now, it just looks like a rolled-up piece of very old carpet. Since it looks that old, be careful as you’re opening it.”

“You’re going to let me open it?”

“Why not?” He said winking at Betty, “If it’s got some sort of yucky fungus, you’re younger and can fight it off better than me.”

Betty pulled her hands away from it. “Oh, do you really think there might be something bad inside?”

“Do you really think I’d let you open it, if I thought there was anything bad inside? I might tease you now and then, but you know I’d do anything so you wouldn’t get hurt, but if you want, I’ll open it.”

Betty pulled the package closer and shook her head. Then smiled warmly at her grandfather and started to unwrap the tightly wound carpeting. There was twine wrapped around each end of the roll and she was struggling to untie it. Grandpa pulled out a pocketknife and easily cut through the twine. Betty looked up at him, smiled and then started unrolling the fabric. In a couple of moments, it was revealed there was nothing in the package but a stick. Betty put the stick aside and started studying the fabric. After a few moments of staring at both sides of what looked like a piece of thread bare carpet, Betty said, “I don’t see anything, Grandpa, do you?”

Grandpa shook his head. “I don’t see anything on the carpet, but it doesn’t make sense that there would be anything on it. Afterall, when’s the last time you wrapped something, and the gift was the wrapping paper. Is there anything on the stick?”

Betty picked up the stick and started going over it very carefully. The stick was about 6 inches long and very straight for a stick, but it didn’t have any bark on it.  “I don’t see anything on it, but it doesn’t look like a regular stick. It’s too smooth. Almost like it was sanded or something.”

She studied it some more and then handed it to Grandpa. He too examined it very carefully. Suddenly the frown on his face changed to a broad smile, “I know what it is!”

Betty got an excited look and said, “What, Grandpa?”

He picked up the stick holding it at the thicker end in his right hand and a finger of his left hand on the tip. “It’s an old-fashioned granddaughter tickling stick!”

With that he flicked the stick toward Betty’s midsection. They were both shocked when sparks flew out of the stick. The sparks missed Betty but they both were speechless as they stared at the stick.

Grandpa recovered and he looked anxiously at Betty, “Are you okay? The sparks didn’t hit you, did they?”

Betty looked up from the stick at Grandpa, “How did you do that?”

Grandpa ignored her question as she had ignored his. “Are you okay?”

Betty bobbed her head up and down, “I’m fine. Nothing hit me, but how did you do that?”

Grandpa seemed satisfied Betty was all right and returned his stare to the stick. “I don’t know what I did, much less how I did it.”

He laid the stick on the table and Betty picked it up and started waving it around, but nothing happened. She tried jabbing with it, giving great swoops with her arm, pointing it and giving a flick of her wrist, but nothing happened. She looked disappointed. “You try it again, Grandpa.”

Grandpa picked it up and looked at it and then gave a flick of his wrist making sure the stick was pointed far away from Betty. Once again sparks shot out of the tip. He once again studied the stick, gave the flick of the wrist, and watched as sparks shot out of the tip. This time it appeared there were more sparks than before. He handed the stick back to Betty and said, “Try it the way I did it.”

Betty did try it that way a number of times with no results and then handed it back to Grandpa. He tried it once more and at once got sparks shooting out. Betty tried several different ways of swinging and pointing the stick with no results. Finally, she put it down, looked very sad, and said, “I’m a muggle!”

Grandpa looked at her as if she had said something in a foreign language. “You’re a what?”

Betty looked patronizingly at him and explained. “I must be a muggle, you’re a wizard, and that’s a magic wand.”

Grandpa did a double take looking at Betty. “Where did that come from? How is it I’m a wizard and that’s a magic wand, and what the heck is a muggle?”

Betty gave him a look that teenagers have perfected when talking to adults about things that make obvious sense to them and then said very rapidly, “A muggle is a person who doesn’t have magic powers. You get the sparks to come out of the wand just like Harry Potter did when he was trying out wands in the first book; therefore, you must be a wizard and that must be a magic wand. What I don’t understand is why I don’t have magic powers if you do. I thought magic powers were passed from one generation to the next.”

Grandpa shook his head. “About the only thing I got from that was Harry Potter. Wasn’t he the boy in those books and movies a few years ago?”

Betty nodded. “Yes, and he was a wizard, and you must be one too.”

Grandpa looked at Betty very questioningly, “I don’t know where you came up with that stuff, but it’s time for us to go home, get dry, and we’ll figure this out later.” With that he stood up, wrapped the stick back in the carpet remnant and started walking towards the car.”

Betty was still looking sad, “I don’t get it, I should have the magical power too.”

Grandpa looked back over his shoulder. “I’m not saying I have any magical powers, but if you don’t, maybe you’re not old enough.”

Again, Betty gave the withering teenager look, “They were a lot younger than me when they were doing magic in the books.”


Chapter II - Changes

Grandpa and Betty drove home in Grandpa’s ten-year-old car. The car was well kept, and the heater worked well enough that by the time they got to Grandpa’s apartment the chill from the weather was gone. Leaving the car Betty skipped up the steps while Grandpa trudged up using the railing extensively. Betty waited at the top of the stairs. She said teasingly, “Need help, old man?”

“I hope I live long enough to see you start getting old, you young whipper snapper.” Grandpa retorted making a playful swipe at Betty which she easily dodged.

Once inside and coats off, Betty asked, “Can I see the wand for a second?”

Grandpa who had been carrying the wrapped wand in his jean’s jacket pocket handed it to Betty. She unwrapped it and immediately took off to the bathroom. Grandpa heard the door lock. He wasn’t surprised at that. He thought he could use the facilities as well with all the water they’d been dealing with. Then he heard Betty saying something. She repeated it a couple of times and then opened the door again. She looked disappointed, handed the wand to Grandpa, and said, “You try it.”

“Try what?”

“Go into the bathroom, lock the door, point the wand at it and say alohomora.”

“He played for the Cubs a couple of years ago - centerfield, good field, no hit as I recall. Why would I point the wand at the door and say his name?” Grandpa said with a questioning look on his face.

Betty who was also a Cub fan said, “That was Albert Amora not alohomora. Alohomora is the only spell I can remember from the Harry Potter books right now. It unlocks things. Let’s see if it works for you.” With that she started pushing him into the bathroom.

He did what he was told, but as soon as he said alohomora the lock on the door clicked open. Looking amazed, he opened the door and saw Betty looking disappointed. She said, “It’s true. You’re a wizard, and I’m a muggle.”

Grandpa put his arm around Betty, gave her a little hug and said, “But, you have a very cute mug for a muggle.”

Betty pushed away from him. “Oh, Grandpa!”

Grandpa nodded. “Okay, you still don’t like my humor. How about you go and warm some milk for cocoa while I use the bathroom for something other than unlocking the door. Then we’ll talk about what we’re going to do with this wand thing.”

A couple of minutes later they were sitting at the kitchen table, cups of cocoa in front of them and the wand laying in the middle of the table. Grandpa said, “You know, I’m not very comfortable with this whole thing. I think we need to do a little investigating before we talk to others about this wizard and muggle thing. Can we keep it between the two of us, at least for right now?”

“If that’s what you’d like, Grandpa. I can’t see the problem with not telling my dad about it. It’s not like we’re hiding something bad from him.”

Grandpa smiled. “I guess the first thing I should do is get the Harry Potter books and read them to see what I can learn about this being a wizard thing. How many books were there, five?”

Betty shook her head. “There were seven in the original series, but she’s written other stuff since then. You’ve got quite a bit of reading to do. I think I’ll reread them myself and maybe watch some of the movies again.”

Grandpa drained the last of the cocoa from his cup and nodded. “Okay, we better get you home to your dad before he thinks I kidnapped you or something. While you finish up, I’ll get on the computer and order the first book for my Kindle. What’s the name of the first book?”

With Betty saying it was The Sorcerer’s Stone, Grandpa went to his office, booted up the computer, and ordered the book. Then it was back to the kitchen, help Betty into her coat, and get back into the car.

If the traffic was light, the drive to Betty’s and her dad’s house would take about 20 minutes. Grandpa usually tried to take this car time to talk seriously with Betty. While she seemed to be a happy enough kid, she hadn’t had the easiest of lives so far. Her early years were pretty normal, but just after her seventh birthday her mother suddenly left. A young girl being raised by a single dad was not the ideal situation. Talking with a 75-year-old grandfather wasn’t the same as talking to a mother, but at least it wasn’t talking to a father. She now was 16, perhaps a little shorter than average, and had a sturdy build. Grandpa thought the pixie style haircut of her reddish-brown hair framed her face perfectly, and it fit her personality. Needless to say, the grandfather thought his granddaughter was cute. While Betty didn’t think so, most other people would agree with him.

Grandpa kept his eyes on the road as he asked, “So how’s it going?”

Betty looked out her side window and gave the famous teen response. “Fine.”

Grandpa nodded, knowing it was going to be one of those days when he had to find the right topic before Betty was going to be interested in talking. “How’s the driving practice going?”

Betty continued to stare out the side window, “Fine.”

Grandpa was quiet for a few moments and then tried, “Your dad giving you grief about anything?”

Betty didn’t move except to say, “No, he’s cool for now.”

Grandpa shrugged his shoulders and continued to drive without asking further questions.

A couple of minutes later Betty turned and looked at Grandpa. “I’m worried about Dad!”

Grandpa looked surprised and responded with, “Worried about what?”

“It seems he’s working all of the time. He never has any time for anything fun. The only time he tries to have some fun is when I nag him. Then his phone is always ringing, and he always answers. We don’t have any time together, and he’ll never find another wife if he doesn’t even have time for me.”

Grandpa took his eyes off the road for a moment, looked at Betty, opened his mouth, shut it, turned back to the road, and said, “Wife? I didn’t know he was looking for a wife!”

Betty responded very firmly, “He’s not and that’s a problem!”

Knowing he had to tread carefully so Betty wouldn’t shut down again, Grandpa tried to find a very non-judgmental tone. “Why do you think that’s a problem?”

Betty gave the teenage look of disbelief at such stupidity. “He needs someone. I’m sixteen now and I’ll most likely go off to school in a couple years. Then he’ll be all alone. He’ll never stop working. He’ll be old and alone.” She looked like she was going to say something else but stopped herself.

Grandpa glanced over, and said, “Like me.”

Betty looked like she was going to cry. “I’m sorry, Grandpa. I don’t know what I was trying to say. I’m just a dumb kid. Please forgive me!”

Grandpa reached over and patted her knee. “There’s nothing to forgive, Baby. Living alone is not for everyone, but it works for me. It does get lonely at times. Your grandmother and I had almost 50 years together. I’m so set in my ways I’d never find another woman who’d put up with me. Maybe you’re right about your dad needing to find someone else. But, what about your mom?”

Betty shrugged her shoulders. “Let’s face it, she’s gone. We hear from her once or twice a year. She tells me how wonderful everything is, and she’ll see me at my next birthday or at Christmas, but it never happens. I don’t think she was cut out to be a mother or a wife. At least not a wife to someone like Dad.”

With that Grandpa pulled the car into the driveway. He looked over at Betty and said, “Before we go in, I’ve got a very serious question I have to ask you.”

Betty looked at Grandpa very seriously. “What’s that?”

Grandpa grinned and asked, “Now that I’m a wizard do I have to grow a beard?”

Betty broke into a big smile, said “Oh, Grandpa!” and hit him on his shoulder.”

With that they went into the house, where Ben, Betty’s dad greeted them. Ben was just under 6 feet tall, stocky, and had a graying beard. He had glasses on his forehead. He gave Betty a big hug and said, “I just beat you home. Did you have fun?” He paused and then corrected himself. “Wait, you were planning to bury Spooky today. That wouldn’t have been fun. Did everything go all right?”

Betty nodded. “Grandpa took me to this place in the forest preserve where he played as a kid. He said it used to be a haunted house, but all that was left was a bunch of rocks that was the fireplace. At least that’s what he said. It just looked like a pile of rocks to me. But we got Spooky buried without any problems.”

Ben picked up Betty and spun her around. “That’s good. I had an interesting day today as well. There something I’d like to talk to you and Grandpa about.” Ben looked at Grandpa. “Dad, can you stay for dinner? We’ll get some pizza in.”

Grandpa nodded. “I was most likely going to pick up a pizza for myself. I’d most likely rather eat yours anyway!”

Ben and Betty got busy taking care of “things” while waiting for the pizza to be delivered. Grandpa pulled out his smart phone, found the Kindle app, and started reading the Harry Potter book. Once the pizza arrived, the three of them sat around the kitchen chatting about little stuff until they had their fill. Then with the pizza remains put in the frig, Ben said, “Well, I’d better get it out in the open so we can talk about it at least. I was offered a promotion to Division Manager today.”

Grandpa clapped his hands. “That’s great, Son! Congratulations!”

Ben continued. “Easy with the congratulations, there’re problems that come with it.” He paused and looked at Betty. “One of the problems is that I’m going to have to straighten out the plant down in Moline. While the job will be here eventually, I’ll have to be down there for a while. From what I’ve seen, it’s a real mess. I’m guessing it’ll take me close to a year to get it straightened out.”

Betty whined, “I don’t want to move to Moline! All my friends are here. I know my teachers, I like most of them, and Grandpa’s here. This sucks!”

Betty made a move as if to get up from the table when Grandpa put a hand on her wrist. “I don’t think your dad is finished. How about letting him finish before you go storming off?”

Ben looked at his father. "Thanks, Dad." Then he turned to Betty, "I knew you wouldn't like the idea of moving, and I'll turn down the promotion if we can't come up with a plan that you think will work. But I do have an idea that I think you might think will work. I know it wouldn't be fair for you to move to Moline for a year or two and then move back; therefore, my plan doesn't involve you moving at all.

Ben continued. “The company has agreed to cover getting an apartment in Moline for me to use until I get the plant straightened out; so, I wouldn’t have to sell this house. On the flip side of that, there’s no way, you’re old enough to stay up here by yourself when I’m in Moline for extended periods.”

Betty started to say something, but Ben just held up his hand, and looked at Grandpa. “And that’s where you come in, Dad. I know you haven’t been really happy with the apartment you’re in and your lease is just about up. I was hoping you’d move in here, at least while I need to be down in Moline regularly. You know I have a cleaning and landscape service, so that won’t require you to do that stuff. As far as cooking goes, we already go out or carry-in most of the time, so that won’t have to change. Also, since someone has been doing so well with her schoolwork and driving lessons, I thought I’d get her a used car, so you won’t have to chauffeur her around.”

Grandpa was looking skeptical and Betty excited, but Ben forged ahead. “Moline isn’t that far away. I can drive there in about two and a half hours. That means if there’s something special going on after school, I can get back up here. After all, I’ll be the boss. I can leave when I want. I’m also planning to be back almost every weekend.” Ben looked at them both and finished with, “Well, what do you think?”

Betty spoke first, “Can I get a convertible?”

Ben replied, “We’ll see.”

Grandpa was silent. Ben looked at him and waited. Betty turned to him and said, “I think we could do this, Grandpa.”

Grandpa remained silent for a few moments longer and finally said, “It sounds like a very reasonable plan, but I’m skeptical. Ben, you know you were mostly raised by your mother. I was there, but generally she set the tone. She also said it was lucky you were a boy. She said if you were a girl, she would most likely be visiting one of us in jail for killing the other.” Grandpa then looked at Betty. “You know I love you more than anything and I think we get along very well, but that’s a grandparent – granddaughter thing. I’m afraid our relationship might be ruined if it becomes a responsible adult – teenage girl thing. I’d hate that!”

Betty looked earnestly at Grandpa, “Well, we just won’t let that happen!” She thought for a moment and then got a twinkle in her eye. “If you’re willing to put up with responsible adult – teenage girl, I’m willing to put up with responsible teenager – grumpy old man.” With that they all started laughing, and Betty added, “Besides, it will allow us time to work on our special new project.”

Ben asked, “What special new project?”

Betty quickly responded, “It’s a surprise.”

Grandpa while still smiling, looked a little concerned, “We’ve got details to work out, but it seems we have a plan."

Chapter III - Learning

Two weeks later; Betty was back at Grandpa’s apartment. There were empty boxes scattered about, but Grandpa and Betty were seated at the kitchen table again drinking cocoa. Grandpa was shaking his head and looked tired and complained, “I’m getting too old for this packing stuff.”

Betty looked around and said, “It looks like you’re almost done. How’s the reading going?”

Grandpa laughed. “This J.K. Rowling writes good stories, but I question her ability to write an instructional book about how to become a wizard. The only thing I’ve been able to do with the wand so far is produce sparks and open locks. I’ve tried some of the spells in the books, but none have worked. Of course, I don’t think her intention was to write an instruction manual, but it would have been nice…”

Betty grinned, “I don’t think she ever claimed to be an expert on witchcraft. I’d bet she’d be shocked to learn the alohomora spell works, but there’s no denying you got some sort of something with that wand. Along that line, I was watching one of the movies last night and I had an idea. Dumbledore was cleaning up a mess and he didn’t say anything. He looked like he was directing an orchestra, and the things just went where they were supposed to go. It looked like he was just thinking about the spell. The words weren’t that important. Why don’t you give that a try?”

Grandpa looked skeptical. “Let me get this straight, you want me to think about stuff and wave the wand like I’m directing it to happen,”

Betty smiled sheepishly. “It wouldn’t hurt to try.”

Grandpa nodded, put an empty box on the table, opened a cabinet door, eyed the contents, pulled out the wand, pointed it at the cabinet, scrunched up his face like he was thinking hard, and grandly moved the wand, so it was pointing at the box. They were both shocked to see everything come flying out of the cabinet towards the box. Once everything was in the box, Betty ran over to look in it. “Next time, Grandpa, think a little about how the stuff will fit in the box. This looks like you just dumped what was in the cabinet, not really packed it.”

Grandpa looked into the box and nodded again. He then set another box on the table, opened another set of doors and soon the contents were flying into the box. This time when it was full, Betty looked inside and nodded. “Much better!”

With that Grandpa got a twinkle in his eye and pointed the wand at the boxes. The boxes closed themselves and then flew to the floor by the door stacking themselves. Grandpa said, “I think packing just got a whole lot easier!”

It wasn’t long before all the cabinets were cleaned out and Grandpa and Betty were again sitting at the table. Grandpa asked, “You set for your driver’s test yet?”

Betty smiled nervously. “We’re going Tuesday morning. If I pass, Dad says we’ll go car shopping on Saturday.”

Grandpa leaned back in his chair. “I’m sure you’ll pass. The guys are supposed to be here Wednesday to put all this stuff in storage, and your dad is planning to go to Moline on Sunday so he can be at the plant for start-up on Monday. We’ve really got a lot of changes to deal with. Are you up for it?”

Betty teased, “The teenage girl and grumpy old man will make it work.”

They raised their cups and clinked. Then they rinsed their cups and the pan the milk had been warmed in. Grandpa looked around and appeared to remember something. He went to the frig, took out the bottle of milk, which was the only thing left in it. He shook it to test how much was left in it, looked at the date on it, and poured it into the sink.

Betty said, “We’d better pick some up on the way home. We were low this morning, and Dad certainly won’t remember to pick it up.”

Grandpa nodded as he picked up the one box they were taking with them. With that Betty’s cell phone rang. She looked at it and answered, “Hi, Dad. What’s up?” There was a pause and then she said, “We’re just leaving. We’re going to stop to pick up some milk and be right home. You order the pizza, and we should be there about the same time it gets there.” Again, there was a short pause before she said, “Love you, too.” and ended the call.

They were in the car again and Grandpa was hoping for serious conversation again. “Everything still cool?”

Betty looked pensive and said, “You’re going to miss these drives, aren’t you, Grandpa? This is the time you try to get serious with me.”

Grandpa laughed, “Oh, you had that figured out, too. How old are you anyway, 16 or 60?” He paused and then continued. “No, I don’t think it’s that. I think the problem is I’m not as subtle as I think I am. Your grandmother could read me like a book and so could my mother, and apparently you can too.”

Betty grinned and said, “Don’t forget about the milk.”

Grandpa said, “Gotcha.” and pulled into the convenience store parking lot. While it was only a little after 5, it was dark outside, but the store was well lit. Grandpa and Betty got out of the car and went in. It appeared there were no other customers in the store. Grandpa knew the young clerk sitting at the front counter reading a textbook. He looked up as they entered. Grandpa asked, “How things going, Junior?”

Junior replied with the favored teen response. “Fine.”

The milk cooler was in the far corner of the store, and Grandpa and Betty headed that way. Just as they turned the corner down the aisle, they heard the door open again. They went ahead to get the milk and were on their way back when they heard someone with a strained, excited voice say, “Give me the money or I’ll blow your head off.”

Grandpa peered around the corner to see a young man waving a gun at Junior. The man was maybe a little older than Junior, and his eyes were very red. Junior looked frozen with his hands up staring at the gun. The robber was looking more agitated as Grandpa handed the milk to Betty and took out the wand. Grandpa pointed the wand and quietly said, “Expelliarmus!”

The gun shot out of the thief’s hand and landed next to the door. Junior and the thief looked confused. The thief looked at his hand, then at the gun on the floor, and then back at his hand. He started to go for the gun again when Betty whispered, “Petrificus Totalus.”

Grandpa looked at her questioning, then the look changed to one of understanding. He once again pointed the wand at the robber and said quietly, “Petrificus Totalus.” With that the young man jerked to attention, became rigid, and fell backward. Grandpa winced when he heard the head hit the floor.

With that another customer came in the front door. Grandpa stepped back towards the cooler, put the wand away, took the milk from Betty, and mouthed, “Follow my lead.”

He rushed around the corner and asked, “What’s going on? I heard a bunch of noises. Are you alright, Junior?”

Junior was still speechless, but the new customer said, “It was amazing. I was just about to come in when I saw that kid pointing a gun at Junior, then his hand jerked and the gun went flying, then he dropped like he was shot. I called 911 and the cops are on their way.”

The police did get there a couple of minutes later. By that time, Junior was getting his act back together and confirmed what the customer had said. The police questioned Grandpa and seemed satisfied he and Betty couldn’t provide any new information.

The thief was coming out of the spell, “I don’t get it. Something knocked the gun out of my hand, but I never saw anything. Man, my head hurts!”

The police officer looked at him and said, “He looks high enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d seen the Easter Bunny kick the gun out of his hand.”

Grandpa asked if they could get going. The police checked with Junior that there was surveillance at the counter, double checked Grandpa’s information and sent them on their way.

They got in the car and Grandpa asked Betty, “You did call your Dad to let him know why we’re late, right?”

Betty giggled a little. “Yeah, he wants to hear all about it when we get home.” They looked at each other and started laughing. Betty added, “That was wild!”

Grandpa was still laughing. “I don’t think we’ll tell him ALL about it. How did you remember that Petrificus Totalus spell? If Harry Potter wasn’t running around saying Expelliarmus all the time, I’d never have even remembered that.”

Betty shrugged her shoulders, “I guess I felt so bad for Neville when they did it to him in the first book, it stuck in my mind.”

Grandpa shook his head. “I felt sorry for him too, but I guess not enough to remember the spell. I’ve got to concentrate more on remembering this stuff.  By the way, we need to get serious about what we are going to do about this magic stuff. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t think crime fighting is the direction I want to go!”

With that they started laughing harder.

Once home, the pizza was a little colder than normal. Of course, it didn’t help they had to tell Ben about their experience with the criminal element. They didn’t mention the magical part of their experience.

After that, time seemed to fly for the next few weeks. Grandpa’s apartment was emptied, and items not needed at Ben and Betty’s placed in storage. Betty passed her driving test, and Ben bought her a used, red Hyundai Accent. It wasn’t a convertible, but she loved it. Ben developed a routine of leaving Sunday afternoon to drive to Moline, calling at 6:30 every night, and getting back home around 8 PM on Friday night. They’d have pizza together, catch up briefly on how things went during the week, and then Grandpa would stretch, fake a yawn, and tell them it was time for him to head off to bed. That was usually about 10. While Grandpa usually stayed up until midnight, he thought Ben and Betty needed time to catch up privately. Saturdays had Ben catching up on things around the house and doing his laundry. Sundays usually were a late breakfast – sometimes at home and sometimes at a local restaurant, then Ben would pack up for the week, and head south.

It was late May when Grandpa and Betty were standing on the driveway as Ben left for the week. Betty looked up at Grandpa, and asked, “What do you think if we go to church next Sunday?”

Grandpa looked at Betty with a quizzical expression, “What’s going on with that? Your grandmother and I used to go semi-regularly, but since she died, I don’t think I’ve been to a service since her memorial. I don’t recall you ever going to church. We raised your dad going to church, but after he married your mom, I don’t remember him talking about going. Why the sudden interest?”

Betty shrugged her shoulders. “Some of the girls at school were talking to me about the number of single women that go to the churches they go to. I know Dad isn’t going to meet any women going to bars and there aren’t many women in the plant here. So, I can’t imagine there will be a lot down in Moline either. It seems to me a church would be a good place for him to meet some nice woman.”

Grandpa looked at Betty questioningly and asked, “Did we ever tell you your grandmother and I met at a church young adult event?”

Betty said, “I do remember that being mentioned.”

Grandpa nodded, “When we were your age, churches used to have very active young peoples’ programs. Some religious stuff but mostly social. I wonder if they still do that?”

Betty tried to act nonchalant, “According to my girlfriends, some of them do.”

Grandpa nodded knowingly. “Okay, sounds like a plan. Do you want to go to the church Grandma, and I went to, or do you have another in mind?”

Betty smiled. “Why don’t we start there and see if it fits. Hey, let’s go in and work on spells. Homework is pretty well over for the year. If we’re going to make you into the next caped crusader, you’re going to need something more than Expelliarmus.”

Grandpa swatted at her and as usual she dodged it easily. He said, “I thought we decided that was not the direction we were going to take this!”

Betty bounced into the house, saying over her shoulder, “Well, we haven’t come up with anything else.”

Grandpa trudged after her. “Hey, don’t forget, I’m retired.”

Betty still looking over her shoulder said, “Oh, I don’t think you’re retarded.”

Grandpa made as if he was going to chase her, but she was long gone before he even made the first step.

They stayed up later than usual that night. After re-watching “The Prisoner of Azkaban” movie for the umpteenth time, they sat drinking their favorite cocoa at the kitchen table. Grandpa shook his head, “You know, the Weasleys seem like a genuinely nice family, but I’m beginning to understand why they aren’t rich. This magic stuff isn’t very practical.”

They sat in silence for a while. Betty made a snorting laugh, “Do you know how dumb that sounds – magic isn’t practical?”

Grandpa laughed as well, and added, “It does sound dumb, but it’s the truth. What can I do with magic that’ll help people? Full body binds are great for holding thieves until the police come, but beyond that, what good can it do? I suppose I could help locksmiths open doors, but that really doesn’t sound all that helpful.”

Betty got serious and thought about it for a while before saying, “I hadn’t really thought about it, but all the stuff they do really isn’t of much value in the real world.” She paused, “Hermione’s time turner could come in handy, I suppose.”

They laughed at that and then just sat sipping their hot cocoa until both cups were empty. Finally, Grandpa said, “It doesn’t look like we’re going to figure this out tonight. You’d better get off to bed, it’s your last week of school and we don’t want you late again.”

The next morning Betty flew into the kitchen running late as usual, she grabbed a power bar, and was out the door after giving Grandpa a peck on the cheek. Grandpa heard her car start and then a strange noise. He waited a second and was starting to get up when Betty came dashing back in the door. She was crying, “I killed it!”

Grandpa was on his feet, heading for the door when he asked, “What did you kill?”

Betty sobbed out, “The mailbox.”

Grandpa slowed a little but continued outside. Indeed, the mailbox was lying on the ground and Betty’s car was parked half in the street and half in the driveway. It was plain from the scratches on the car that she’d hit it with the right rear side of the car. The car had some dents and scratches but appeared to be all right to drive. The mailbox, however, was horizontal.

Betty was still crying, “It’s my fault, I was trying to open the power bar and I jerked the wheel. I’m so sorry! What can we do?”

Grandpa gave her a hug. “I’ll take care of this. Get your act together and get to school. We’ll see what needs to be done about the car when you get home. In the meantime, I’ll take care of the mailbox.”

Betty wiped her eyes, got in the car, and drove off slowly. Grandpa watched her drive off and shook his head. He then stared at the fallen mailbox for a few moments. Suddenly his face showed he had an idea and went into the house. He was back out in a couple of moments with the wand. He looked up and down the block to make sure no one could see what he was about to do. He then pointed the wand at the fallen mailbox and said, “Repairo.”

Grandpa smiled broadly as he walked back in the house. The mailbox was standing at the end of the driveway exactly as it was a half hour before.

When Betty arrived home from school, she was delighted to see the mailbox looking as good as new but was surprised to see Grandpa’s car on the driveway. He usually kept it in the garage. She went inside and Grandpa told her to pull the car into the garage. She did.

After closing the garage door, she and Grandpa stood looking at the damage fender. Betty started getting teary eyed again as Grandpa ran his hand over the scratches and dent. “Oh, Grandpa, I’m so sorry! My beautiful car is ruined.”

Grandpa tried to look stern as he said, “It’s not ruined, but you do have to be more careful when you’re driving. You could have easily hit something far more important than the mailbox! Promise me you’ll be more careful.”

Betty hugged Grandpa and teared out, “I do! I do!”

With that Grandpa pulled out the wand, pointed at the fender and said, “Repairo.” Almost instantly the fender was like new.

Betty looked amazed! She ran to the fender and ran her hands over the surface. As there was nothing to feel, she smiled broadly, and tears were welling in her eyes.

Grandpa looked down at Betty and said, “I think we’ve found something practical magic can do.”


Chapter IV - Betty’s Mom

The next couple of days Betty spent after school going through the house trying to find broken stuff. Once found she’d happily bring it to Grandpa, he’d use the wand to repair it - most of the time. They made a discovery not too far into this project. For the wand to repair items, all the parts needed to be present. If the least little piece was missing, pointing the wand and Grandpa saying Repairo resulted in absolutely nothing happening. The pieces present would remain where they were; however, add the missing piece, say the word and the pieces flew together with amazing speed.

Grandpa and Betty talked about that one evening. They had been talking about starting a repair business, but Grandpa realized he really didn’t want to get tied down to a job again, even if it was just pointing the wand. The wand didn’t take care of getting the customers or doing the paperwork that businesses need. Fixing the stuff would have been fun, but the rest of it would have been work. They’d also found that Repairo didn’t work if a missing part was replaced with a new one. How do you explain that to a customer?

Once it was decided a repair business wasn’t in the cards, Betty decided to try to figure out when or where Grandpa’s magical abilities came from. “Grandpa, do you remember doing anything magical when you were a kid?”

Grandpa thought for a while and finally said, “You know I can’t think of anything like what J.K. Rowling said happened with Harry Potter or Tom Riddle as a kid. No making glass disappear or anything like that. While I was a pretty easy-going kid, I’d get mad at my playmates like everyone else that age. So, I’d think if something were going to happen it would have been during one of those times, but I can’t remember anything.”

Betty looked puzzled, “How about later on?”

Grandpa shook his head, “Not that I can think of. I was just a normal guy through the years. The only thing at all magical was that everything always seemed to work out. I went through some tough spots like everyone else. I was engaged to a girl once, who dumped me. That tore me up pretty bad for a while, but it wasn’t long afterward I met your grandmother and realized the girl did me a great favor by dumping me. Do you think that was magic?”

Betty shrugged her shoulders.

Grandpa continued, “In retrospect, I’d say the most magical thing about my life was how everything always seemed to work out and I credited your grandmother for most of that. I lost jobs but we managed to get through. Was that magic? I always credited your grandmother for being able to pinch pennies to get through those times. Your dad was never that much of a problem with anything – he always got good grades and never got into trouble. Was that magic? Again, I always thought it was because your grandmother did such a great job raising him. The one really bad thing I can think of that didn’t work out in the end was your grandmother dying.” He paused for some time before going on. “I suppose if I look at it the right way, even that worked out. Her heart attack took her very quickly. She would have hated being a burden on anyone, and she knew how uncomfortable I was dealing with situations like that.” Again, Grandpa paused for a long time. As his eyes became moist, he looked down and softly said, “I still miss her so much!”

Betty reached out and touched Grandpa’s shoulder and decided to change the topic.


The next day when Grandpa went out to get the mail among the usual myriad of ads was what looked like a card addressed to Betty. The return address showed it was from her mother. He put it on the kitchen table for when she got home from school.

The card wasn’t opened immediately when Betty got home. She burst through the door with more exuberance than usual. “Grandpa, Grandpa! Would you believe it, I got a part time job for the summer! I can’t believe it! It’ll be so great!”

It wasn’t hard for Grandpa to get caught up in Betty’s excitement. “That’s great! What are you going to be doing! Tell me all about it!”

Betty opened the frig, took out a soft drink, opened it, plopped down in her chair at the table while rapidly saying, “It was the luckiest thing. Last week I was telling Sara, she’s my best friend, you know, that I wanted to get a job this summer to have more spending money. You know, Dad and you said it would be a good idea to get a summer job, but they’re so hard to find, especially for someone who’s only 16. Anyway, I told Sara about wanting a job and she said she had an idea and she’d talk to her mom about it. You know, Sara got a summer job even though she’s just 16 too because her mother is some big deal at the park district, but I wasn’t sure Sara would remember because, well, she’s my best friend but she doesn’t always remember stuff. Anyway, this afternoon after 8th period she asked me if I’d be interested in a job as lunch relief at the swimming pool. Duh! Would I be interested! I can’t imagine her thinking I wouldn’t. It’ll be really great! I’ll only work from 11 to 1 Monday through Friday. So, it won’t be a lot of money, but it’s something and besides, I get a free pass to the pool. Won’t that be cool? I hear a lot of the guys from the swimming team hang out at the pool, isn’t that cool? Anyway, I couldn’t wait to get home to tell you. Isn’t that great!”

She stopped talking, took a sip from the soft drink can and looked at Grandpa. He paused and started laughing. “You said all of that without taking a breath. Let me guess, you’re excited about the job?”

Again, there was the withering teenage look accompanied by a playful swing at Grandpa’s shoulder. While Betty always danced away from Grandpa’s playful swings, Grandpa typically let Betty’s land. They never had enough force to do anything but make a little noise. He asked, “Did you find out how much you’re going to get paid?”

Betty shrugged her shoulders. “Sara said it was minimum wage. I’m not sure what that is, but with all the other nifty parts that’s not important.”

Grandpa was still chuckling from Betty’s first outburst, “At your stage of life, I guess, it’s not all that important. I’m happy you’re so excited about the new job. It sounds as if you’re going to have a blast this summer!”

Betty nodded enthusiastically, “The way I have it figured is that I’ll sleep in, go do my shift and then swim in the afternoon. If the weather’s nice.”

Grandpa gave her a hug and said, “And if the boys are cute.”

Betty tried to swipe at Grandpa again but since he had her in a hug, she couldn’t pull it off.

Still hugging her he said, “It looks like a big day for you all around. It looks like there’s a card from your mom.” He nodded towards the table and let Betty go.

Betty looked at the card laying on the table. The smile was already gone from her face, replaced by a look of resentment. “I’ll bet my loving mother has finally remembered my 16th birthday. It was only last month. I wonder what her excuse will be this time?” Even with that question, she made no move to get the card.

“The way I see it, there’s only one way to answer that question right now.” Grandpa said as he pushed the card toward her.

Even with Grandpa’s encouragement Betty wasn’t in a hurry to open it. She did pick it up and look at the return address and postmark. “That’s interesting. Her return address is in California, but the postmark is Las Vegas. I wonder what’s that about?”

She looked at Grandpa, who shrugged. Then, finally, Betty started opening the envelope. As expected, it was a card; however, inside the card was a letter. When Betty started to unfold the letter, a Kohl’s gift card fell on the table. Betty ignored it and read the handwritten letter quickly. She then folded it back up, put it back with the card, and put both back in the envelope they came in. She put the card back on the table and the gift card on top of it.

Grandpa couldn’t read the expression on Betty’s face. It looked sad, angry, and disgusted all at the same time. He looked at her for a couple of moments thinking what he should do. He opened his arms and Betty flew into them. Betty didn’t cry but merely held on tightly. It seemed like they just stood there hugging for a long time, before Grandpa finally said, “Well, it looks like you might be able to get a new swimsuit at Kohl’s.”

Betty didn’t let go, but looked up into Grandpa’s eyes and said, “She’s such a bitch!”

Grandpa didn’t let go, but said, “Now Betty, you know your mother has had some problems. You should take that into account before you judge her.”

Betty didn’t try to pull away but talked into Grandpa’s chest. “You know what she said?” Betty didn’t wait for a response but continued on, “She first apologized for being late with my birthday card – it seems time just got away from her. Then she tells me how much she loves me and that she’s always thinking about me. What bull! She’s always thinking about me but forgets my birthday. Who does she think she’s kidding? How can you be always thinking about someone and forget her birthday? She was there, wasn’t she? Giving birth is supposed to be a memorable experience, isn’t it?”

Betty still wasn’t crying, and Grandpa could sense her relaxing a little. “Your mother was one who lived in the moment; she didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past or the future. I don’t imagine she’s changed that much. Sometimes, I was envious of that. I spend far too much time worrying about what happened or what’s going to happen.”

Betty pulled partially away from Grandpa. Just enough so she could look him in his face but not so that she was out of his arms. “Do you know what else she said?” Again, she didn’t wait for a response, but continued. “She said she felt sorry for me being raised by my dad. She said a girl needed a woman to teach her the ways of the world.”

Grandpa nodded, “It’s something your dad and I have talked about. There are things you most likely should be talking about with a more mature woman. You had your grandmother for a couple of years, but since she died, you haven’t had anyone.”

Now Betty pushed away and had a glint in her eyes as she looked at Grandpa. “You certainly don’t think my mother’s a mature woman worth listening to, do you? Besides, shortly after Mom left, that nice old lady Mrs. Lindquist down the street stopped me when I was going by. She’d heard about Mom and told me that if I ever wanted to talk about anything to stop by. She’s a nice, old lady. I usually stop by her house once a week or so, just to chat with her.”

Grandpa grabbed Betty by the shoulders and tried to look stern but failed miserably, “What are you talking about that nice old lady, Mrs. Lindquist? You know that old lady is at least 10 years younger than me. If she’s old, what does that make me?”

Betty regained her normally light mood as she dodged out of Grandpa’s grip. “Let’s see that would make you ancient or maybe prehistoric.”

Again, Grandpa made as if he was going to grab Betty and said, “Young whipper snapper.”  But, as usual, she danced away. Before going to her room, Betty picked up the card from her mother to take it upstairs. Grandpa watched her expression change from the happy one from teasing him to one of anger and resentment as she headed up the stairs.

Grandpa made a mental note that he and Ben needed to do some serious talking about Betty’s mom next weekend.


Ben and Grandpa were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee early Saturday morning. As was the weekly routine, Friday evenings were for Ben and Betty to catch up. Saturday mornings while Betty slept in, as teens seem to like to do, Grandpa and Ben did the other half. Grandpa like many retired businesspeople was fascinated with how things were now and how they compared to things “in their days.” They’d covered that with talking about how the “fixing” of the Moline plant was going when Ben asked, “What’s this church thing Betty’s talking about?”

Grandpa shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not sure whether she’s trying to find a boyfriend or whether she’s trying to find you a new wife. She hit me with it this week out of the blue. According to her, she’s worried you don’t have the opportunity to meet nice women and church seemed to her a good place. However, it seemed to me, there was some thought it might be a good place for her to meet someone as well.”

Ben frowned, “That makes it a tougher call. If it were just for me to find a wife, I’d scotch the whole idea right away. Betty’s right, I don’t meet many eligible women. Between spending about 12 hours a day at the plant and driving up here on the weekends, there’s no time for it. On the other hand, that also means there’s no time to be dating. Besides, I already have a wife - sort of.” Ben paused and then continued, “But, not having a mother does curtail some of the social activity a teenage girl would normally have, I suppose. I guess if her motive is to meet more people, I’d be a lousy father if I didn’t go along. So, I guess we’re off to the old church tomorrow morning. I wonder how Betty’s gonna like this when she realizes she’s going to have to get up earlier than usual?”

Grandpa grinned a little, “I guess we’ll find out how good of an idea she thinks it is in the morning.” He paused and his face got serious. “Have you thought about that business of still having a wife?”

Ben’s frowned returned, “I can’t say I have. Why, what’s going on?”

“Did Betty show you the letter she got from Julie this week?”

Ben continued frowning. “She told me she got a letter from her, but she didn’t show it to me. Why?”

Grandpa shrugged, “I didn’t read it either, but it seemed to upset Betty. Betty resented Julie insinuating she missed her, but it did get me to thinking. Have you investigated your liability for her actions? In my old fashion ways of looking at things, if she’s does something that would get her sued, you could be on the hook.”

Ben thought for a moment. “You know you’re right. Now that Betty’s driving and I’m doing so much driving, I should look into one of those umbrella policies. Thanks, Dad!”

It was Grandpa’s turn to frown. “An umbrella policy is most likely a good idea, but I don’t think that’s addressing the issue with Julie.”

Ben nodded sheepishly, “I know, Dad. I’ve been avoiding the issue ever since I realized she wasn’t coming back. You know I was always surprised Julie married me in the first place. She was so beautiful I never figured out what she saw in me. I suppose I was making more money than some at the time. Engineers tend to start with higher salaries. Julie sure did like to spend money. We started to get in trouble when I tried to limit it. She found someone with a bigger checking account. We should be divorced but I’ve been afraid to bring it up because of the child custody issue. I’m afraid if I sued for divorce, Julie would want custody of Betty. I’m almost positive I’d get to keep her, but there’s always that chance some judge would feel a teenage girl needs a mother more than a father. That chance scares the hell out of me. I thought it best to leave sleeping dogs lie until Betty turned 18. Then I’d get the divorce, since Betty would be legally an adult.”

Grandpa nodded, “I guess that makes sense. I’m a little uncomfortable with things not being tied up legally but I understand your thinking. I guess it’ll have to do.”


Chapter V - Going to Church

Sunday morning found Grandpa and Ben at the kitchen table again. Both had donned sport jackets. Ben was wearing a tie and Grandpa a turtleneck. (Grandpa felt retirement allowed him to go tieless; however, he did relent to wearing them for weddings and funerals.) They sat drinking coffee and talked about the Moline plant, sports, and the like. Finally, Grandpa checked his watch and said, “Since we are going to my,” he made the double quote sign with his hands, “church, am I the one to get the princess going, or are you as the loving father, going to do it?”

Ben glanced at his watch, said, “I got it.,” pushed away from the table, and went upstairs. He was back in a couple of minutes. “She’ll be down in two minutes.” He made a pantomime of praying.

It was closer to five minutes later when Betty came down. She was dressed in a bright yellow dress accentuating her all-American girl look. Grandpa had gone out to start the car. (Grandpa thought it had helped to hurry along Betty’s grandmother when he felt she was running late.) Ben kept Betty moving and they were off. The church was only about 5 minutes away, but the choir was processing in before the three of them got into a pew. They’d chosen a pew in the back third of the church. From there, Grandpa scanned the congregation and recognized a high percentage of them even though it had been a few years since he’d attended a service.

Once the service was over, they were quickly surrounded by warm greeters. Not surprising, there were numerous people, particularly women, who came up to Grandpa telling him how they missed him at church. What was surprising was the number of people who reminisced with Ben about Sunday School classes he had been in, and they had taught. Of course, they had to catch him up on the status of their kids who were Ben’s peers. It took at least fifteen minutes before they could make their way out of the sanctuary. What was missing was anyone Betty’s age.

Since Ben still had to pack up for the week down in Moline, they opted for a local restaurant specializing in breakfast food. Once at their table and the food was ordered, Grandpa and Ben discussed the warm welcome they’d received. Grandpa also commented on how little had changed since he’d last been there. According to him, the same people were sitting in the same places they were when he was last there. As they ate, they commented about how nice the people were.


With the large brunch, Grandpa and Betty decided supper would be grilled cheese and soup. Betty was warming the soup while Grandpa made the grilled cheese sandwiches. Betty returned the conversation to the church service, “That was certainly some welcome you and Dad got at church this morning. It was almost like they were welcoming home long lost relatives. Are you anxious to go back next week?”

Grandpa finished buttering the bread and placed it on the grill. “Those were some very nice greetings we got. If it were just me, I wouldn’t mind going back, but I did notice one thing that bothers me a lot.”

“What’s that, Grandpa?”

As he closed the grill on the sandwiches, he looked at Betty. “There was no one there your age. You spend enough time with a senior citizen. Church should give you a little break.”

Betty nodded, “There wasn’t anyone my age there, but that’s not a problem. I have school to be with kids my age and soon I’ll have the pool. What bothered me was I didn’t see any women Dad’s age who weren’t with a partner of some type. If he’s going to meet someone nice there, it’s not going to be easy. Do you mind if we try a different church next week?”

Grandpa turned to face Betty, “Not at all. You’ve got the last week of school this week. Why don’t you check it out there, if some of your friends go to a church that might be what you’re looking for? Just remember if the boys are too cute, your dad and I may nix the whole thing.”

As was expected, Betty swatted Grandpa, “You think you’re so funny.”

Grandpa grinned, “We old guys always do.” He then turned back to look at the grill.

As they sat at the table eating, Betty asked, “I was doing some reading last night. Once we’re cleaned up here, do you want to try a spell with the wand?”

Grandpa shrugged, “Why not.”

They finished eating and cleaned the kitchen. Grandpa got the wand, and they sat back at the table. He looked at Betty and asked, “Okay, what are we going to do?”

“Do you remember Harry using the summoning charm when he was fighting the dragon? I thought that might be something useful sometime. Can we try it?”

“Yeah, I remember that. He used it to get his broom, didn’t he?”

Betty nodded, “The spell word was accio.”

Grandpa picked up the wand and pointed it at the saltshaker and said, “Accio”

Nothing happened.

Betty shrugged her shoulders, “It was worth a try.”

Grandpa sat for a couple of seconds then pointed the wand at the saltshaker and said, “Accio, saltshaker.” It flew into Grandpa’s hand.

Betty looked shocked!

Grandpa shrugged saying, “I remembered in the movie he said the accio with what he wanted.” Smiling he said, “Let’s try it a little further away.” With that he pointed the wand upstairs and said, “Accio, my pillow.” A few seconds later his pillow came zooming into the room.

Grandpa smiled. “That should save me a few trips up and down the stairs!” He then looked at Betty and asked, “Is your door closed like usual.” She nodded and he pointed the wand upstairs again saying, “Accio, Betty’s pillow.” They waited a few seconds, and nothing happened.

Now Grandpa looked worried. “I shouldn’t have done that. Do me a favor and run up and check out your room.”

Betty ran up the stairs and the pillow came flying into Grandpa’s hand. She came back down quickly and reported, “I didn’t see any problem. Why were you worried?”

Grandpa shook his head. “I didn’t know what would happen when I summoned something that couldn’t get out. It might have broken through the door. Could you tell if the pillow was right by the door when you opened it?”

Betty shook her head, “It came out quickly when I opened the door, but I couldn’t tell whether it was right by the door or not.”

Grandpa thought for a moment, picked up the wand, pointed it at Betty’s pillow, and made motions like directing it to go upstairs. It flew in that direction. Grandpa looked at Betty and asked, “How about going upstairs and checking where the pillow is now? Then close the door again. I’ll try summoning it, and you watch it. Give it a minute and then open the door again.”

Once the pillow came flying down again, Betty soon followed. “It seemed to twitch a little, but it didn’t really move until I opened the door. I can tell you the pillow wasn’t where it was before we started this whole thing. It was lying perfectly centered at the top of the bed. I hadn’t made by bed this morning, and my pillow is never in the middle of the bed when I wake up.”

Grandpa nodded, “That makes sense. I was thinking of the pillow going back to where it belonged when I sent it back upstairs. It seems we have a new tool in our magical repertoire.”

Betty got a mischievous twinkle in her eye, cuddle into Grandpa, and looked pleadingly at him, “Now that I helped you get that new tool, and since I’ve finals to study for could you clean my room for me, please!” She even batted her eyes at him a couple of times before she broke out laughing.

Grandpa started laughing too. “I’m beginning to wonder what’s more powerful, a magic wand or a granddaughter’s wheedling ways. You know what we agreed about the chores and magic.”

Betty, again with the twinkle in her eye, batted her eyes again. “But, Grandpa, it’s finals.”

Grandpa picked up the wand, pointed it upstairs, made some directing motions, and set the wand down. He laughed as he said, “I know you’re not worried about the finals. You just hate cleaning your room. When’s the last time you got anything but an ‘A’? I swear you’re smarter than Hermione and cuter too.”

Betty hugged her granddad, “You’re just saying that because you’re my grandfather.”

Grandpa kissed her on the top of her head. “I’m just saying it because it’s true.”


With Betty’s finals and Grandpa experimenting with the accio charm the week flew by. It was the weekend and Sunday morning again found Grandpa and Ben in their sports coats sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Ben had already related how the Moline plant was starting to show signs of improving when the topic switched to the church they were going to this time. Grandpa told Ben about how Betty actually found it difficult to find friends who went to church. Her friend Sara told her about this one. She and her parents attend and from what Sara told Betty the church has a lot of activities that are well attended.

Grandpa looked at his watch. Ben said, “I got it.”, rose, and went upstairs to get his daughter moving. As with the prior week, Grandpa went out to start the car. He was about to go in to see if there was a problem when Ben and Betty came out. It again took about 5 minutes to drive to the church. This time the choir wasn’t coming in yet, but the pews in the back half of the church were already filled and they had to go to the front half.

The service progressed as expected. This time at the end of the service there weren’t nearly as many people trying to greet them. There were a number of nods and welcomes, but only Betty’s friend Sara and her parents really greeted them. Sara’s mother Sue was a lawyer and had become active in the park district thus leading to Sara’s and Betty’s summer jobs. It was quickly found out that Sara’s dad Sid was a vice president of the local bank. While standing in the sanctuary talking, the six of them seemed to hit it off quite well. Sue and Sid invited them to stay for coffee hour and meet some of the rest of the congregation. Once in the church lounge (the basement of the church), Sid began introducing Ben to people and Sue took care of the introductions of Grandpa. Grandpa noticed Betty and Sara were off laughing with a group of kids about their age. It was close to an hour and a half later when the three of them were headed to the restaurant for their brunch.


With the extended time at the coffee hour, brunch had been delayed even further. That meant Ben left for his drive to Moline a little later than usual. As Grandpa and Betty watched the end of the Cub game on TV, they decided to repeat last Sunday’s supper of grilled cheese and soup. They chuckled over how easy it was to get into habits. Grandpa, ever the philosopher, pointed out habits usually develop because they meet a need. Whether the needs are good or bad is a different question.

Grandpa and Betty were at their assigned tasks, she tending the soup and he making the sandwiches, when Grandpa asked, “What time do you start tomorrow?”

She wrinkled her nose a little, “I have to be there at nine, but I should most likely get there early to make sure I’m not late. This is just a couple of days for training. I’m looking forward to getting to my regular hours so I can sleep in.”

Grandpa smiled condescendingly, “What time do you want me to make sure you’re out the door?”

“How about no later than 8:15. It’ll get me there early, but I’ll have a little time to hang with Sara before we get started. Speaking of Sara, she texted while we were watching the ball game. Her parents thought you and Dad were cool. They’re hoping we’ll come again next week.” Betty put the soup at their places and continued, “What do you think?”

Grandpa put the sandwiches down and shrugged his shoulders, “This church thing is pretty much in your hands. If you want to go again, we’ll go or if you want to try another one, we’ll do that.”

As Grandpa sat, Betty thought for a moment and asked, “Did you see many unattached women Dad’s age?”

Grandpa gave her a disapproving look, “I can’t say I did, then again, I can’t say I looked either. Were there any cute boys your age?”

It was Betty’s turn for the cool look, “As a matter fact, there were, and I did notice some women there about Dad’s age. It appears you weren’t paying attention.”

“I didn’t know that was part of my job description.”

“It is, unless you want to be living with your son, like two old fuddy-duddies, when I go off to college.”

Grandpa put his hands out making an “X” pointed at Betty. “Oh no, you don’t. This is your idea. I’ll go along with going to church but keep me out of picking dates for your father.” He paused, “Unless you’d like me to start picking out the boys you should date.”

Betty’s swat came as expected.


The week flew by as normal. Monday and Tuesday Betty had day-long training. Wednesday the pool opened; however, due to the coolness of the weather there weren’t many who wanted to go swimming. That included Betty who came home after her shift. It was the same Thursday as the temperature remained cool; however, by the time she arrived home, grades for the semester had been posted. Betty as usual got straight A’s.

After Betty showed the grades to Grandpa, he complimented her and said, “Weren’t you thinking about getting a new swimming suit with that gift card you got from your mom. Why don’t you reward yourself for those super grades by doing something like that?”

At the mention of the card, Betty frowned, but after thinking about it, agreed that it would be a good way of getting rid of it. She was off to Kohls and returned a couple of hours later. She dashed upstairs, changed into the new suit and then came down to model it for Grandpa. It was a modest, one piece solid yellow and looked great on her. Grandpa teased her that it should cover her more. She returned the teasing by telling him they no longer sell swimming suits that were popular in the 1920’s when he was young. Grandpa pretended to swat her as she dashed up the stairs to change again.

Once she was back downstairs, they started talking about supper. They’d already had pizza two of the four nights since her dad was gone. So, they decided they’d better get something else that night. They were discussing the merits of Chinese versus fried chicken when her cell phone vibrated. She looked at it, her thumbs flew over the phone, hit send and smiled, as she set the phone down. She reported to Grandpa, “That was Sara wondering if we were going to go to their church on Sunday.”

Grandpa nodded, “What did you tell her?”

For his question, he got one of those teenage looks saying he was so slow, but Betty responded nicely enough, “I told her that I’d check.”

Grandpa again nodded, “Check it out with your dad this evening when he calls. It’s certainly okay with me if it’s what you’d like. If he says it’s okay, why don’t you check with him to see if it would be a nice idea if we invited the Davidsons to lunch after coffee hour as a thank you for your part time job?”

Betty smiled, “That’s a cool idea, Grandpa! Thanks!”

“Speaking of thanking people, I assume you wrote your mother a thank you note for your birthday gift.”

Betty’s smile turned quickly to something looking more like a sneer, “Since the gift was two months late, I thought it appropriate for the thank you note to be two months late as well.”

Grandpa simply looked sad.

Betty didn’t look much happier as she said, “Oh, all right. I’ll write her tonight. I wonder why she doesn’t have email.” Betty paused, nodded her head like a decision had been made, and continued “Let’s do Chinese.”


Chapter VI - Boy Friends

After her phone call with her dad, Betty reported he liked the idea of the “thank you” lunch. She had already texted Sara with the invitation, and Sara was checking it out with her parents. During the time Betty was telling Grandpa this, her cell phone vibrated. She looked, smiled broadly, and said, “It’s a go for lunch on Sunday. She said her parents didn’t feel the thank you was needed, but they’d certainly enjoy having lunch with us.”


Even though that was Thursday evening, with the usual busyness of Friday and Saturday, it seemed like it was only the following morning when Ben and Grandpa were back at the kitchen table with their coffee, but it was Sunday. Ben had filled Grandpa in that the Moline plant was starting to show some real progress. Ben was hopeful he could turn over the day-to-day operation of it by the first of the year. Grandpa looked at his watch, and Ben said, “I’ll get her moving.”

This time when they got in the church, the Davidsons had saved them seats in a pew about in the middle of the church. The service went much as the week before. Like the previous week, they went to “coffee hour” where Ben and Grandpa were greeted by some of the people, they met the week before. Grandpa, in particular, kept apologizing for not remembering names. He blamed it on his age, but, in reality, he’d never been good at remembering names. When it was getting close to time to go to lunch, Grandpa looked around and saw Betty and a boy in conversation and Sara was a few feet away also talking with a boy. Grandpa smiled, gave a subtle nudge to Ben, and he smiled too.

What was particularly amusing was how the four had paired up. Sara, who was almost five foot eight and thin as a rail, was in deep conversation with a boy who was maybe five foot six and very solidly built. Conversely Betty, at her five foot two, had to look up at her conversational partner because he was over six foot tall.

Lunch went smoothly with everyone appearing to be having a good time. Betty and Sara were in deep giggling conversations. Sid seemed to be fascinated by the process of turning a manufacturing facility around. He kept asking questions requiring Ben to go into more and more detail. Sid was a tall thin man about the same age as Ben – mid 40’s. His hair was a thinning blond, and he had a habit of running his hand through it. He had started college as an engineering student, but when he struggled with calculus, he switched to accounting. He kept his love of engineering problems – if they didn’t require calculus, but there weren’t many that did.

Sue liked to talk, and Grandpa had always been a good listener. Apparently, it was more than merely appearing to have a good time, because in the parking lot while saying the goodbyes, Sue asked the three of them to dinner the next Saturday evening. The invitation was accepted, and a time agreed upon. Then it was back home, Ben packing and getting on the road.


Grandpa was watching 60 Minutes in the living room, when Betty came in and plopped down on the couch next to him. Grandpa asked, “What’ve you been up to?”

“I’ve just been reading in my room and facetiming with Sara.”

Grandpa muted the television. “I notice you two in some heavy conversations with some boys at coffee hour. Anything you want to share.”

Betty gave him a disgusted look and said, “Not really. Sara was talking with Rob, and I was talking with Jim. They’re both going to be juniors at East, but we’ve never been in any classes with them. They seem like nice guys. They’re active in the teen program at the church and were trying to get us to come to the next meeting.”

Grandpa assumed his expressionless voice as he asked, “Is that something that sounds interesting to you?”

Betty paused and shrugged her shoulders, “I guess, but I’m not sure. It seems like they’re thinking about doing some nifty things but even though most of the kids in the group are from East, I don’t know many of them. I think I’d feel like an intruder.”

Grandpa nodded stoically, “What does Sara think?”

“She feels pretty much the same way. She went to Sunday School with them a few years ago, but she was never tight with any of them.”

Grandpa thought for a moment and said, “It sounds as if you have yourself a dilemma to figure out.”

They sat there in silence for about a minute before Betty spoke again. “Are you planning to sit there or are you going to help me think this through?”

Grandpa smiled a little. “Okay, maybe I can think of some questions that can help you make up your mind.”

Betty smiled and leaned into Grandpa and said thank you.

“Okay, let’s start with the kids. Since it’s connected with the church that’s a plus, but do you know how many kids will be there besides the two boys hitting on you and Sara?”

With that Betty swatted Grandpa on the chest. “They weren’t hitting on us. They were merely inviting us to the meeting. They told us there are usually about 12 kids that show up at these planning meetings.”

Grandpa nodded. “Sounds reasonable. As your surrogate father, I have to ask whether there’s going to be adult supervision?” Before letting Betty answer, he tickled her and went on to ask, “and, would you like it if they were hitting on you? – because they were.”

The swat was a little harder this time, but she cuddled in again. “The youth pastor will be there.” She didn’t respond to the second question.

Grandpa ignored her lack of response and went forward with the questioning, “When is this meeting and what’s it for?”

Betty replied at once this time. “It’s Tuesday evening at 7:30 at the church and it’s supposed to be to plan stuff they’re going to do over the summer.”

“I can see where you might be a little uncomfortable going to plan activities for a group when you have never attended anything they’ve done in the past, but it sure would give you a good idea whether the activities they’re planning are something you’d be interested in.”

Betty nodded and followed with, “That would be cool, but I still think I’d feel like an outsider.”

Grandpa thought for a moment and then said, “How about this. Since you can’t drive Sara until you’ve had your license for a year, I’ll drive you and Sara, so you’ll have mutual support. If you start getting uncomfortable, shoot me a text. Tell them it was me and you have to get home because of a problem, and I’ll pick you up.” If everything is cool, give me a call when the meeting ends, and I’ll pick you up.”

Betty was quiet for a few seconds, pulled out her phone, and her thumbs flew over it. She then put it away and said, “Are we going to do soup and grilled cheese, again?”


Monday the weather was beautiful. Betty called Grandpa to let him know she was going to swim after her shift.

There not being much to do around the house (magic was helpful with many of the chores), Grandpa decided to reread one of the Harry Potter books. He got part of the way through it when he put it away and got the wand.

When Betty got home, she excitedly told Grandpa about her day. It was the first day when more of the guys from the swim team had showed up. Needless to say, she thought they were cute. One of the guys who was going to be a senior next year had struck up a conversation with her.

Grandpa dutifully asked all the questions, and Betty responded. He went to West. She had seen him at the pool before. She did think he was cute. (That one earned Grandpa a swat.) She didn’t know what type of student he was. He didn’t ask her out. (That earned him a harder swat.) His name was Bill.

Once the conversation about Bill started to wane, Grandpa told her he’d learned something new with the wand. He asked her to go upstairs, get her pillow, stand at the top of the stairs, he’d stand at the bottom, and then she’d throw the pillow at him. She looked a little puzzled, but since things with the wand were always strange, she went upstairs.

Soon she was standing at the top of the stairs with her pillow asking, “Are you ready?”

Grandpa nodded. When the pillow came flying at him, he stepped to the side, pointed the wand at it and said, “arresto momentum.” The pillow slowed and gently settled to the floor. Grandpa grinned up at Betty. “Pretty cool, eh? If I ever see anyone being pushed out of a tenth-floor window, I’ve got it covered.” 

Betty agreed it was pretty cool and wanted to see a couple more demonstrations. Grandpa gladly obliged.

Once the show and tell of arresto momentum was finished, Betty and Grandpa sat on the couch. Betty looked frustrated and Grandpa asked what was bugging her.

She shrugged, “It seems a shame, you’re learning all these nifty things to do with the wand, but we can’t tell anybody.”

Grandpa nodded, “I understand what you’re saying, but what good would it do to tell people? I don’t know how I got these powers, or whatever you want to call them. More importantly, we haven’t come up with anything they’re good for. I know we stopped that robbery, but we’re definitely not going there! If we can come up with something we can do that’ll do some good, maybe we’ll see then. Until then, I think it’s better to keep it just between the two of us. Do you have any reasons for telling people?”

Betty thought for a moment, “I guess not, but what good’s a secret if you can’t tell anyone?” She shook her head and thought for a few moments. She then shook her head again and said, “I guess we’ll have to wait. Let’s go out for supper tonight, okay?”


Grandpa still wasn’t comfortable with Betty’s driving (actually, he wasn’t comfortable with anyone’s driving other than his own), but since her car was out, he relented and let her drive. Since Betty wanted to look at something at the mall, they opted to eat at the food court there. Eating at the food court was an ideal choice when it came to selection. They both could choose the food they felt like eating without having to compromise because of what the other wanted. Betty opted for some sort of Thai dish, and Grandpa opted for a calzone from an Italian place.

What wasn’t ideal was the seating. Grandpa found it noisy and crowded. His preference was just the opposite. Since Betty knew of Grandpa’s dislike for the situation, she let him select the table. Not surprisingly he selected one tucked away from most of the others. He was back with his meal before Betty returned with hers. As she was placing her food down, Grandpa noticed a young woman lay a baby on a table while she fussed with a toddler. Something about the situation made him uneasy. The young lady looked particularly frazzled, and Grandpa felt the baby was way too close to the edge of the table.

Sure enough, as the woman bent down to do something for the toddler, the baby rolled. Grandpa wasn’t the only one who’d noticed the trio, because there was a collective gasp as the baby fell. Grandpa, however, had been moving before the baby was off the table. He had the wand out and quietly uttered “arresto momentum.” As with Betty’s pillow, the baby landed very gently on the floor. Even with the soft landing, the fall frightened the infant, and it screamed. It seemed as if no one noticed how gently the baby had landed. The woman, toddler and baby were quickly surrounded by people trying to help. Grandpa looked around and saw no one was paying any attention to him. He slipped the wand back into the pocket he’d designed for it. He looked at Betty and said, “That’s a lucky baby.”


Betty stayed after her shift on Tuesday as well. The swim team guys were back, and Bill once again talked at length with her. When she got home, she told Grandpa about her day. She then told Grandpa she was going down the block to talk with Mrs. Lindquist. Grandpa thought it strange. She had never before announced going to talk to her. He’d assumed all her previous visits were spur of the moment things. He wondered what was going on that needed a purposeful visit. However, all he said was to watch the time, because they had to eat, pick up Sara, and get them both to church.

Betty was back in plenty of time, Grandpa made cheeseburgers on the grill for dinner, and they were off to pick up Sara. Grandpa kept the cell phone close by to make sure to be able to grab it if she started to feel uncomfortable, but it didn’t ring until almost 9:30. The meeting was over, and they were ready to be picked up. Sara and Betty rode in the back seat on the way home speaking in hushed tones and doing a lot of giggling.

After they dropped off Sara, Betty came to the front seat and sat next to Grandpa, and he could start the inevitable questioning. “So, how did the meeting go?”

Betty smiled, “It was great! Everyone made us feel welcome. We planned some nifty stuff. There’s going to be a picnic at Touhy Woods, we’re going to help some old congregation member clean up her yard, and they’re going to have something called a box social at the church as a fundraiser. Have you ever heard of a box social?”

Grandpa smiled, “I have. I don’t know whether they still run them the same way now, but I attended a couple when I was your age. I doubt they’re the same thing now.”

Betty frowned a little, “How did yours work?”

It was Grandpa’s turn to frown as he thought, “It’s been a long time, but as I remember the girls made up a lunch for two, put it in a decorated box that was supposed to be unidentifiable, and then the boys bid on the boxes. The boy with the winning bid on a box then ate the lunch with the girl who made it.”

Betty smiled and nodded, “That’s pretty much the way it is now, except when you sign up to go you pick whether you’re going to be a maker or a bidder. There’s none of that boy girl stuff.”

Grandpa shook his head, “I don’t imagine that would fly now. But I’ll bet there will be just as much cheating as when I was doing it.”

Betty frowned, “How do you cheat on something like this.”

Grandpa laughed, “C’mon you’re not that naive. If a girl liked you, she made it known how her box was decorated. If you had any sense, you made sure to be the winning bid on that box or go broke trying.”

Betty giggled a little, “I can see that still happening.”


“Jim told me since I had a part time job, I should be a bidder and he’d be a maker.” With that, her cell phone vibrated. She looked at it and then Grandpa, “That’s Sara. Some of the kids from church are going to the movies on Thursday evening. They invited us to come along. Is it okay?”

Grandpa paused and nodded, “I don’t see a problem with it. I’d like to know a little more about the logistics, but I’m sure we can work them out.”

Betty’s thumbs flew across the cell phone again. They paused and within a minute it vibrated again. Betty reported, “Since you drove tonight, Sara’s folks will drive. We’ll figure out times later.”

Grandpa nodded and then said teasingly, “Sounds good. So, is Jim going to be there?”

Betty smiled, “I don’t know for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me. It was Rob who texted Sara about our coming.”


Thursday proved to be an interesting day. It was raining all day; therefore, nothing was happening at the pool. All the summer employees were just hanging out; they’d done all the mundane things their full-time supervisor could come up with for them to do. All that was left was to hang out and kill time until their shift was over. Two of the lifeguards were also seniors at West. They had texted Bill and Ed about the situation. (Ed was another member of the swim team who had been chatting up Sara recently.) Supposedly Ed and Bill came to hang with their swim team friends, but they spent most of their time with Betty and Sara.

When Betty got home, she went down the block to see Mrs. Lindquist before they had dinner and Sara and her parents picked her up to go to the movies.


Chapter VII - Dinner at the Davidsons

Betty got home from the movies and gave Grandpa a full report of the evening. Well, as much of a full report as you’d expect from a teenager reporting on a social event: she had a “good” time, the movie was “good”, there were about eight kids from church who showed up, Sara had a “good time” too, Jim and Rob were both there, there were four boys and four girls in the group, and the popcorn was “good”, too. The report was concluded with, “Oh by the way, Mrs. Davidson told me to tell you that they’re looking forward to seeing us Saturday evening.” With that, her phone vibrated. Grandpa looked at his watch and frowned, but Betty was already climbing the stairs to her room.

Friday was the usual whirlwind. Betty was off to work, but she didn’t stay as late as usual to make sure to be home in time to greet her dad. They opted to go out for dinner and, as usual, Grandpa excused himself afterwards to give Ben and Betty time to catch up with the week’s events. Even though they talked almost every night on the phone or Skyped, it was always so much better to talk face-to-face.

Saturday was also busy. There were errands to run and bills for Ben to pay. Ben mentioned that they’d been going through a streak of good luck. He hadn’t had to fix anything that broke in weeks. When he mentioned that at lunch, Betty looked at Grandpa and winked. Grandpa explained it away by saying that with the house cleaning and lawn services it’s kind of hard to break things; however, the dishwasher has been making some funny noises lately. Ben got out a card from a service company he had good luck with and asked Grandpa to call them next week.

It was soon time to head to the Davidsons. Ben had picked up a bottle of cabernet and a bouquet of flowers and had them in hand as they headed out the door. All three of the Davidsons greeted them at the door.  Since there weren’t coats to be hung up, the girls immediately went off to Sara’s room. Sue headed to the kitchen to put the flowers in a vase after saying how beautiful they were. The three men headed to the living room. Sid commented that he wasn’t familiar with the brand as he examined the label on the bottle of wine.

Ben laughed, “Neither am I. The guy at the liquor store said it was good. I’m afraid I’m not much of a wine connoisseur. To me, there’s red and white and I like red.” He paused and then continued. “Actually, I’ve been getting a little worried about that lately. The last couple of times when people have offered me a merlot, I haven’t been fond of it. Does that make me a wine snob or a wine slob?”

Sid laughed at Ben’s joke. “In all honesty, wine is okay, but I’d much rather have a beer. How does that sound?”

Ben shook his head, “I’ve never been able to get my taste buds around beer. I tried when I was in college, but it never worked for me. It really made me odd man out back then, and a few times since. But if you’ve got a soft drink that would be great!

Grandpa also opted for a soft drink and Syd was off to get the drinks as Sue came back in the room. Sue, like Syd, was on the tall side. She was attractive, but not stunning. It was apparent from her figure she kept in shape and that fit with her personality. There was a quiet intensity and an air of authority about her that gave her an aura of being a person who would be an excellent attorney. Grandpa asked about her getting involved with the Park District. She explained she’d been looking at getting her law practice a little more in the public eye. In addition, she had some misgivings about some of the edicts coming from the Park District about how things were to be handled; therefore, when there was an election, she ran. As with most park district elections, it didn’t take too much effort to win the spot.

Since Syd was again questioning Ben about the running of a manufacturing operation, Grandpa continued to talk with Sue. It became clear she was knowledgeable about the status of Ben’s marriage and other aspects of their life. When Syd took Ben to his workshop, Grandpa decided to try to get some free legal advice. He expressed his concern of Ben still being legally married to Julie. He also explained Ben’s concern about custody. Sue did her best to assure Grandpa of the safety of Ben’s financial liability and the wisdom of not trusting the soundness of an unknown judge deciding custody.

Then it was time for dinner. Syd had prepared a standing rib roast on the grill. Sue took care of the other dishes, and everything was excellent. The evening flew by, Betty and Sara went back to Sara’s room, and the four others chatted in the living room. Soon it was time to leave with promises to see each other the next morning at church.

They arrived home, and Betty headed off to bed. Ben and Grandpa were again at the kitchen table. Grandpa looked at Ben and said, “Just so you know, at least Sue is pretty well briefed on your and our life. It seems Betty has been sharing with Sara. And Sara with at least her mother, and if their married life is anything like your mother’s and mine you can bet Syd has been filled in as well. Of course, if Syd’s anything like me, he’s most likely forgotten most of it.” Anger flashed across Ben’s face, but Grandpa continued. “I was a little upset when I figured out how much they knew about our life, but I got to thinking about it. There’s really nothing that she shared that’s all that secretive. Julie left you, and you’ve been raising Betty. That’s kind of obvious. Your mother died, and that’s why I’m helping you during this Moline thing. So, it’s not like Betty has revealed any deep, dark family secrets.”

Ben looked at Grandpa for a few moments and then nodded, “You’re right. The idea of hearing about others knowing so much about our private life is kind of upsetting, but they really don’t know all that much. Besides what do we have that’s so secret. I guess there’s nothing to get up tight about. Speaking of tight, if we had many meals like what we had tonight, my belt would be so tight I wouldn’t be able to breathe.”


It's really surprising how quickly routines are established. Sundays now started with Grandpa and Ben in the kitchen drinking coffee. At the “right” time Grandpa looked at his watch, Ben went to hurry Betty along, Grandpa went to start the car, and they’d arrive at church just in time. The Davidson family would have seats saved for them and about 45 minutes later they would be at coffee hour. This Sunday there was a small but significant change.

During coffee hour Sue pulled Ben away from Syd and his questions about running manufacturing facilities to introduce Ben to Karen Chavez. Karen had been in some church groups with Sue. Ben had noticed her at an earlier coffee hour. She was a physical therapist, and it appeared the work kept her in good physical shape. She was about 6 inches shorter than Ben, had very dark hair that was cut short. She was attractive – not the attractive where guys would get whiplash from trying to get a second look but more the attractive where they would smile and maybe nod in appreciation.

Ben and Karen became engrossed in their conversation, to the point Sue found someone else to talk to. Finally, Grandpa and Betty came up to them to point out the people assigned the cleanup duty for the coffee hour had just about finished and wanted to get out of there. Of course, Ben invited Karen to brunch, but she explained she had a lunch planned with some of her friends. She, however, did give Ben her phone number for future reference.

Brunch conversation did center around Karen as both Grandpa and Betty had noticed the interest Ben had shown. Surprisingly, Ben didn’t try to steer the conversation in other directions. He seemed perfectly content to talk more about his new friend.

It wasn’t too long after they got home that Ben was packed up and, on the road, back to the Quad Cities. Betty was up in her room doing what teenage girls do in their rooms – talking, texting, looking things up on the internet, watching YouTube videos, reading? Grandpa had no idea since he was never a teenage girl, nor did he grow up with all the technologies she had available. He would have liked her to spend more time talking with him, but he realized it wasn’t that much fun for someone that young to talk that much with someone his age.

Since it was a beautiful day and the Cubs were playing a night game, Grandpa decided to sit on the front porch to continue rereading the Harry Potter books in hopes he’d come up with something practical to do with the wand. He’d been out there some time when Mrs. Lindquist came by walking her dog. She noticed him on the porch and called to him. “It certainly is a great day to be outside, isn’t it!”

Grandpa looked up, blinked and said, “Oh, Mrs. Lindquist! I was engrossed in the book and didn’t see you coming by. Are you just taking the dog for a walk or are you off somewhere?”

“I’m just taking her for a walk. Although I don’t think she likes the idea very much. At her age, she’s not a big fan of exercise. We got in about two blocks, and I’m just about dragging her now.”

Grandpa looked more closely at the dog and saw it was indeed showing its age. “Would you like to give her a break and sit a while?”

Mrs. Lindquist nodded, “That would be nice. It’s too nice to go back inside yet.”

Grandpa stood as Mrs. Lindquist and the dog came up on the porch. He said, “Why don’t I get the dog some water. While I am doing that can I get you something? I’m kind of thirsty myself. I think I’ll get myself a Pepsi while I’m in there.”

As she was sitting down, Mrs. Lindquist said, “I guess a glass of water would be nice.”

Grandpa went into the house, pulled out his wand, made a few swishing movements and a plastic bowl with water, a can of Pepsi, and a glass of water with ice were all on a tray. He then put the wand away, picked up the tray, and went out to the porch again.

Mrs. Lindquist was petting the dog on the head and looked startled when Grandpa opened the screen door. “Oh, did you have all that sitting on the table or did I fall asleep. You certainly put that together quickly!”

Grandpa placed the bowl of water down for the dog and handed Mrs. Lindquist the glass of water while silently chastising himself for not being more careful. He said, “On such a lovely day, it’s easy to lose track of time. What’s your dog’s name?”

Mrs. Lindquist looked down at the dog drinking from the bowl and smiled. “Her name’s Lady. It wasn’t very original, but we liked the movie so much when we got her as a puppy we couldn’t resist!”

“What else would you name a female, blonde cocker spaniel?” Grandpa asked. “How old is she?”

Mrs. Lindquist looked a little wistful. “She’s over 13 now and is acting like a senior citizen. If we hadn’t stopped here, I was afraid I was going to have to carry her home. She doesn’t have much energy anymore, but she’s certainly a comfort to me living alone like I do.”

Grandpa drank some of his Pepsi. “I know the feeling of not having as much energy. It’s a good thing I don’t have as much to do as I used to. I don’t know if I could get it done now. I often wonder if I’ve run out of energy because I don’t have as much to do or just because I’m old.”

Mrs. Lindquist smiled and nodded. “I know what you mean.” She paused and looked a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry but I don’t know your name. When Betsy and I talk, it’s Grandpa this and Grandpa that, but I don’t think you were baptized as ‘Grandpa.’”

Grandpa chuckled, “No, Mrs. Lindquist, my baptismal name wasn’t Grandpa. Although it is kind of fun picturing a baptism with that as the name. I was baptized Benjamin Barnaby Brown. As was my father and my son. And you thought you lacked originality naming your dog Lady!” Since my dad went by Ben, I became B.B. My father had passed before my son was born, and he became Ben again.”

Mrs. Lindquist laughed at the comment about Lady’s name because the dog lifted her head when she heard Grandpa say it. “Well, B.B. my name is Karen. It’s a pleasure to be on a first name basis after this long, but please don’t be upset if I slip up and call you Grandpa. Since that’s all I heard from Betsy, it may take a while to think of you as B.B.”

Grandpa nodded. “No problem, Karen, as long as you forgive me when I call you Mrs. Lindquist for the same reason.”

Mrs. Lindquist agreed and the two of them started chatting about this and that. They laughed occasionally as Lady made snoring sounds as she slept by the watering bowl. It seemed like a couple of minutes later, but was closer to an hour when Betsy came out on the porch.

She was surprised to see Mrs. Lindquist and Lady. She said hi to Mrs. Lindquist and bent down to pet Lady. After Mrs. Lindquist greeted Betsy, she looked at her watch and said, “Where has the time gone? We’d better get going, it’s supper time.”

Grandpa looked at his watch and said, “Yes, it is close to that time.” He looked at Betsy and winked. “Betsy and I were thinking of going to the Rose Garden tonight. Would you care to join us?”

Mrs. Lindquist looked disappointed, “I’d love to, but I have dinner in the crockpot cooking.”

Grandpa nodded and said, “Maybe next time.” He paused and then said, “Karen.”

Mrs. Lindquist smiled saying, “I’d like that very much, B.B.!” Then she and Lady were off the porch and were gone.”

Betsy poked Grandpa. “Oh, we were thinking of going to the Rose Garden were we. I don’t remember that conversation.” She made air quotes when she said the “we”.

“Well, I could tell you were getting hungry, or you wouldn’t have come down, and it didn’t seem polite not to ask her.”

Betsy got a twinkle in her eyes and started singing. “Grandpa likes Mrs. Lindquist. Grandpa likes Mrs. Lindquist.” 

Grandpa looked serious, “She’s a very nice woman, and I don’t think you want to go where you’re going. If we go there, the names Jim and Bill become fair game.”

Betsy looked a little wide eyed and quickly said, “Okay, Okay! I’ll keep my mouth shut.” She paused before continuing, “Speaking of my mouth, were you serious about going to the Rose Garden. I am hungry!”


Chapter VIII - Visit from Julie

Monday was not as nice a day as Sunday. It was cloudy and windy. Betty came home right after her shift at the pool. She complained how boring it was when no one showed up and then was off to her sanctuary/room. Tuesday was a completely different story. It was bright and warm showing the typical fickleness of midwestern weather.

The weather brought Grandpa out to the porch again in the early afternoon. Betty had called and told him she was staying at the pool to hang with some friends. Grandpa stayed with the house rules and no names were mentioned. He hadn’t been on the porch very long when Mrs. Lindquist and Lady came walking by again. Once again Grandpa invited them to take a break from their walk. Mrs. Lindquist accepted and before Grandpa could get up to get drinks it looked like Lady was asleep. He did get the drinks, but this time a little more slowly. When he brought out the bowl for Lady, she awoke enough to take a few slurps and then returned to making sleeping sounds.

Grandpa and Mrs. Lindquist were discussing the variability of the weather when they heard tires squealing and a black sports car pulled into the driveway. Although the drive was built for two cars to park side by side, it stopped in the middle of the driveway. The car’s tinted windows didn’t allow seeing who was driving. Grandpa and Mrs. Lindquist watched as a very shapely leg revealed itself once the door was opened.

Grandpa recognized Julie instantly as she fully got out of the car. She was about the same height as Betty but was slimmer and larger in all the right places. She still had what Grandpa called whiplash looks – the kind that could cause neck problems for guys if they weren’t careful. As she approached, Grandpa noted the figure was still in the “whiplash” class, but the face was showing things. It wasn’t so much in the lines; the makeup easily took care of that. To Grandpa it appeared to be more in a hardness in the eyes. Up close she didn’t seem as attractive as from a distance. She and Grandpa had never gotten along. Grandpa never said anything unkind to her, but he also didn’t bow to her every whim.

Once out of the car, Julie straightened her tight skirt and adjusted her white blouse before striding on her very high heels towards the porch. She saw Grandpa and Mrs. Lindquist and addressed her comment toward Grandpa, “I’ve come to see my daughter; where is she?”

Grandpa smiled coldly. “Why, Julie how pleasant to see you. This is our neighbor Mrs. Lindquist. Was she in the neighborhood when you lived here?”

Julie nodded at Mrs. Lindquist, “I don’t believe so.” and then turned back to Grandpa. “Where’s Betty?”

Grandpa continued to smile coldly. “Betty is at the swimming pool with her friends. She often stays after her shift when the weather is as nice as this.”

Julie looked shocked. “After her shift! Is she working? Why? Can you call her and tell her I’m here?”

Grandpa continued in his icy tone. “She has a part time job at the pool because she wanted it. Ben believed it to be a good idea as it taught responsibility, and, no, I can’t call her. If she is still at the pool with her friends, her swimming suit doesn’t have a cell phone pocket.” Grandpa then looked at his watch and said, “However, she usually gets home about this time; therefore, she’d be driving, and I try to avoid calling when she might be driving.”

Julie looked very frustrated and tapped her foot. “I really wanted to see her, and I have a date in the city at 5.”

Grandpa shrugged his shoulders. “You’re welcome to wait.” He made a gesture to an empty chair. “As I said, I expect her home shortly. Would you like something to drink?”

Julie looked at her watch, it was about 3:30, paced a little and then sat on the offered chair. “I’ll have some seltzer water.”

Grandpa smiled, “I’m afraid we don’t have any seltzer. I can get you some regular water or 7-up. Oh, and I think we have tonic water.”

Julie looked frustrated and was about to say something when Betty’s red car tried to pull in the driveway. The way Julie had parked made it so Betty couldn’t park in the driveway. She backed out onto the street and parked at the curb. She looked upset as she got out of the car and came toward the house.

Betty quickly scanned the porch and saw everyone who was there. Once on the porch, she bent down to pet Lady. As she looked into the dog’s eyes she said, “How’s the queen of the street doing today, Lady.” She patted the dog again and stood up. “It’s good to see you again, Mrs. Lindquist.” She then went over, kissed Grandpa on the cheek and sat in his lap. Finally looking at Julie, she said “Mother.”

If Julie noticed the coldness Betty showed her, she didn’t react to it. Without any preamble she said, “Betty, I’d like to talk to you in private.”

Betty put on an innocent looking face and responded, “Oh, about what?”

Julie showed a little frustration as she said, “I said it was private. Can we go someplace and talk?”

Betty gave Grandpa another kiss on the cheek and slowly got off his lap. “Since Mrs. Lindquist and Grandpa are on the porch, I guess we could go inside if you’d like.”

Julie was already out of her chair and headed to the front door, but Betty bent down to pet Lady again before going through the door.

Mrs. Lindquist gave Grandpa a wide-eyed look and said, “Oh, so that’s Betty’s mom?”

Grandpa merely nodded.

Mrs. Lindquist started to move as if to get up. “I should get going and leave you to your family business.”

Grandpa put up a hand. “Sit, relax, enjoy your water. After all, I’m banned from the inside of the house for a while, and it should be interesting to hear Betty when she comes out. From her looks going in, I think her mother is in for an interesting time.”

“But that’s family business.”

Grandpa nodded, “From what I understand about my granddaughter’s visits down to your house, you’re going to hear about it anyway. Might as well get it while it’s fresh.”

With that Lady made one of her sleeping sounds, and Mrs. Lindquist settled back in the chair.

Grandpa grinned. “You know, I think that’s the first time Betty has sat on my lap in about ten years.”

~ ~ ~

It wasn’t ten minutes later when Julie came storming out of the house. She stomped to her car and got in. The tires squealed a little as she backed out of the driveway and then squealed quite a bit as the car shot forward.

Moments later Betty came storming out of the house proclaiming, “That bitch! She thinks she can get anything she wants by flaunting her tits and ass around!”

Grandpa and Mrs. Lindquist spoke in unison. “Betty!”

Betty quickly held up her hands. “All right, all right, I know I’m not supposed to talk like that in front of adults. But do you know what she wanted me to do?”

Grandpa glanced at Mrs. Lindquist and took the lead. “First, you’re not supposed to talk like that in front of anyone, not just adults.” He then paused a little and took a deep breath to try to calm things a little. “If you want to share what your mother wanted, we’d be glad to hear it, but if it’s something that is better kept between you and your mother, we understand.”

Grandpa’s efforts to calm things down hadn’t quite worked yet. Betty blurted back, “That b,,,” It was her turn to pause and restart. “That woman is not my mother! I don’t have one! She’s just a woman who carried me in her womb for nine months!”

It was Grandpa’s turn again to try to get things on a little calmer plain. “Okay, Betty, we know you’re upset. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this upset, but take a couple of seconds, breathe, and try to relax a little.”

Betty took deep breaths and then bent down to pet Lady. After about a minute, she straightened up and then flopped into the chair Julie sat in a few minutes before. She said, “She’s after money.” Again, she paused. “She first started asking me about how much money Dad had in the bank then she wanted to know if we had any IRAs or investments. I told her I didn’t know about that kind of sh.. stuff. She then had the audacity to ask if I’d try to find out for her. When I said, ‘absolutely not’. She said I owed it to her as my mother. After all, she’d put her body through ‘all sorts of hell’ carrying me.”

Betty made air quotes while saying the last few words. She paused and took a few more deep breaths. “That’s when I let her have it. I told her as far as I was concerned, I didn’t have a mother. Grandma was closer to being a mother to me than she ever was or would be. I told her that if we ever meet again not to acknowledge me, because I won’t acknowledge her. She was just someone who was an irritant in our lives.” Again, there was a pause. “That’s when she stormed off.”

Grandpa trying to lighten the mood a little said, “I wonder why?”

Betty and Mrs. Lindquist gave halfhearted laughs, but Grandpa continued, “Something good came out of the visit though.”

Betty looked at him. “What?”

Grandpa smiled broadly, “I think that’s the first time you sat on my lap since you were about six. I’ve missed that!”

“That’s because you’re so lumpy.” Betty got up, came over, sat on his lap, and cuddled in.

After a few moments Mrs. Lindquist started rustling around and said, “I’d better get going.”

Betty’s head popped up, “Please don’t leave, Mrs. Lindquist. You’re more of a mother to me than that woman is, too.” She then looked at Grandpa. “Let’s do something special for dinner tonight! For some reason, telling her off has made me feel like celebrating.”

Grandpa nodded a little ruefully. “I hope the feeling lasts.” After a moment, he continued, “All right, Mrs. Lindquist, would you like to be Betty’s and my guest at Johnson’s tonight?”

Mrs. Lindquist looked skeptical, but before she could say anything, Betty said, “Oh please, Mrs. Lindquist, come. You were here for the bad part. Please be part of the good part!”

She still looked skeptical, but Mrs. Lindquist finally nodded and started to get up. “If we’re going out, I’d better get Lady home and fix up a little.”

Grandpa and Betty were both smiling but it was Grandpa that said, “That’s great! We’ll pick you up around 5.”

After Mrs. Lindquist and Lady were gone, Grandpa turned to Betty and said, “When your dad calls tonight, I think you should tell him about your confrontation with your mother.” Grandpa paused as she nodded, and he continued. “Then, have him give me a call. I think it’s time we talk about taking some positive steps.”

~ ~ ~

It was a little after 7 when they were home from Johnsons. The mood was lighthearted during dinner with Betty teasing Grandpa about this and that. Grandpa teased back but was careful to avoid anything that might be connected to the face-off of the afternoon.

When home, Betty went immediately to her room. Grandpa assumed she was talking to Sara, as that was what she almost always did at this time. He did hear her phone ring at 8, the time her dad usually called.

It was about twenty minutes later when his cell phone rang. After saying hello he heard Ben’s voice say, “Hey, Dad. What’s up? Betty said you wanted me to call.”

“Did Betty give you the update on what happened this afternoon?”

After Ben acknowledged he had gotten a fairly thorough briefing from Betty, Grandpa said. “I’m really concerned about Julie! You know I haven’t been a big fan of hers in quite some time, and I don’t trust her one bit. I also realize she’s no dummy, she sharp enough to figure some way to try to get what she wants. I think that means trouble for you!”

Ben replied, “Unfortunately I think you’re right, Dad. I’m not sure what I should do, but I was thinking I might see if I can get an appointment with Sue Davidson this Saturday afternoon. She strikes me as someone who can protect my butt. I’ll give her a call tomorrow to see if I can get an appointment.”

“I think that’s a good plan, Ben. Sue seems like a woman who knows her stuff and will dig her heals in to make things right. Let’s hope you can get that appointment Saturday.”

“Speaking of Saturday, I know I’m sticking you with Betty all week, would you mind if I stuck you with her for dinner on Saturday as well. I’m thinking of asking Karen out for dinner.”

Grandpa grinned as he spoke into the phone. “First, you’re not sticking me with Betty. You’re giving me the chance to spend more time with my granddaughter. Equally important, I think it’s great you are thinking of taking out Miss Chavez. I’ve been hoping you’d put yourself out there for the last few years.” 

~ ~ ~

The weather remained beautiful the rest of the week. Betty stayed at the pool every afternoon to “hang” with her friends. It quickly became a pattern that her arrival home was to Mrs. Lindquist and Lady on the porch with Grandpa. On Thursday, Mrs. Lindquist invited them over for dinner. It was during dinner Betty announced she and Sara were going to the movies with Bill and Ed on Saturday night. Betty also talked about a church youth event on Sunday afternoon and evening. It was time for the box social talked about at their first meeting. Grandpa asked if Betty had heard what Jim was making. She hadn’t, but he had mentioned he was planning to decorate the box with a Cubs theme.

Grandpa chucked and cautioned, “You do know these are the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. I have a funny feeling that there may be more than one box decorated with a Cubs theme. If you want to bid on his box, he’d better give you more of a clue than just the Cubs.”

Betty laughed, “I told him the same thing, but all he’d tell me was his favorite Cub of all time was Mark Grace.”

Grandpa frowned and Betty continued, “I told him he was wrong. That Rizzo was a far better first baseman than Grace. He got sort of mad and wouldn’t tell me anymore about his box lunch other than I’d have to be pretty smart to figure his out.”

Grandpa looked puzzled. “Was he so mad he didn’t want you to bid?”

Betty smiled coyly. “Oh, the way he was acting I’m pretty sure he wants me to bid.

Grandpa looked at Mrs. Lindquist, grinned, and said, “My son going on a date for the first time in years, my granddaughter going on a date with one boy on Saturday night, and supposed to be bidding on a different boy’s box lunch the next. It looks like it’s going to be a very interesting weekend.”

Mrs. Lindquist laughed and said, “I’m looking forward to Monday!”


Chapter IX - A Full Weekend

Friday proved to be another beautiful day; however, Betty didn’t stay at the pool as long so she could be at home when her dad got home from Moline. Grandpa was sitting on the porch again with his Harry Potter book. She plopped on the chair next to him and went ahead to tell him about her day. Grandpa listened intently; however, he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard some of the names mentioned before. He didn’t think it was really that important since he couldn’t picture a test on who was hitting on who in the teen set at the park district pool.

When there was a lull, he asked about the plans for Saturday night. “Are you getting picked up tomorrow night or are you meeting Bill at the movies?”

Betty smiled. “He’s picking me up. He’s taking me out to dinner before the movie and I thought it was time you and Dad met him.”

It was Grandpa’s turn to smile. “I like that idea. Let me give him the third degree to see whether he’s good enough to date my granddaughter and after I get done with him, I’ll turn him over to your dad.”

Betty hit Grandpa on the arm. “You’ll do no such thing, or I’ll never bring a boy around here again.”

Grandpa held up his hands and said, “Okay, no third degree, but I take it, you’ve cleared this with your dad?”

Betty nodded. “He’s cool with it. I’m getting picked up at 5, and he’s not picking up Miss Chavez until 6:30.” Without a pause or a breath in between Betty launched into that. “Isn’t that cool! Dad going out on a date! I’d really hoped that would happen. You see my idea of going to church worked!”

Grandpa chuckled at Betty’s enthusiasm for her father’s social life. “Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. He’s going out on a date. That’s progress, but let’s keep it cool.” Betty nodded and then Grandpa noticed Mrs. Lindquist and Lady coming down the sidewalk. “Hi, Karen. Is it time to give Lady a break?”

Mrs. Lindquist looked up and nodded. “I think she’d fire me if we didn’t stop. As soon as she sees you sitting on the porch, her tail starts wagging.”

As Mrs. Lindquist and Lady headed up the driveway, Betty and Grandpa stood. Grandpa looked at Mrs. Lindquist and asked, “Are you staying with water or would you like something else?”

“Water’s fine.”

Betty got a funny grin on her face and said, “I’ll help you, Grandpa.”

Once in the house, Grandpa made the proper moves with the wand and the tray was filled. Betty still had the wicked little grin on her face as she whispered, “I think it’s so cool! My father and grandfather are both dating women named Karen! How cool is that?”

Grandpa whispered back, “I’m not dating Mrs. Lindquist, we’re just friends and you’re going to let that go or I’ll be greeting the young man that shows up tomorrow by saying how good it is to see you, Jim.”

Betty got a little wide eyed again and said, “Okay, I’m not going there.”

She then gave Grandpa a hug and picked up the tray and went back to the porch. Grandpa followed. Lady had already taken her drink and was settling down next to the bowl by the time Grandpa made it out the door. It didn’t take long before Lady was making her sleeping noises.

Betty announced that she was heading for her room and was gone. Grandpa looked at Mrs. Lindquist and asked, “Do you have any idea what is so appealing about spending so much time in a room by yourself? In all honesty, I don’t remember what I did when I was at home as a teenager, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t spending a lot of time in my room.”

Mrs. Lindquist shook her head. “I’m too close to your age to offer a lot of help on this. I suppose today’s technology is a big factor. Betty talks about things she’s seen on YouTube. We certainly couldn’t watch YouTube when we were that age. Of course, even telephone calls weren’t as common back then. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have a telephone in my room. She could be spending time chatting with friends either with telephone calls, over the internet, or texting.”

Grandpa nodded, “We certainly didn’t have those in our rooms. All I remember in my room was a bed, a desk which only got used during the school year, and a nightstand with all sorts of books on it. I guess by the time I was a teen I had a radio in there for listening to the Cubs.”

Mrs. Lindquist smiled and with that Ben’s car pulled into the driveway. She stood and said, “It’s time to go. We’ll see you soon.” Lady looked up at her as Mrs. Lindquist tugged the leash to wake her.

Ben greeted her as they passed on the driveway. He swung his suitcase up on the porch, and asked, “How are things going, Dad. I understand Mrs. Lindquist’s visits have become a regular thing.”

Grandpa nodded. “She’s been stopping by in the afternoon lately. Of course, Betty ducks down to see her and talks girl stuff every so often.” He made air quotes as he said the girl talk. He then continued, “How were things in the Quad Cities this week?”

Ben paused and smiled. “You know it went pretty well. I really think things are starting to come around.

~ ~ ~

Friday evening was a little different than usual. They went out for dinner as normal, and Betty gave a blow-by-blow account of the week as usual. (The visit from Julie got a great deal of attention from Betty during this recap of the week.) When they got home, however, there was a change. Betty went to her room like usual, but instead of Ben and Grandpa sitting in the kitchen talking about things, Ben headed off to his room. Grandpa plopped into his recliner and turned on the TV as the Cubs were playing.

When Ben came down about a half hour later, he was smiling and asked, “How are they doing?”

Grandpa made a thumbs down gesture. “Same as usual. The pitchers are trying to strike out everybody but end up walking a ton. The batters are all trying to hit ten run homers with nobody on base and end up striking out instead.”

Ben smiled as he said, “That does sound rather typical for the Cubs. It’s been a long week, Dad. I’m going to turn in.”

Grandpa was a little puzzled with the smile when they were talking about the Cubs futility, but responded, “Sleep well, see you in the morning.” He shrugged his shoulders and went back to the Cubs.

~ ~ ~

The next morning Ben had an 11 o’clock appointment with Sue at her office. He didn’t get home until about 2:30 and explained that he’d taken her out for lunch. He also mentioned to Grandpa that a good part of the time was spent talking about Karen Chavez. Ben had an appointment with the barber at 3:30 and was home by 4:30.

Ben and Grandpa were impressed when the doorbell rang at 4:55. Ben let Bill in and, as typical, Betty wasn’t quite ready. Bill was a tall, lean, dark haired young man. He had a swimmer’s body – wide shoulders, narrow hips.

Grandpa commented to Bill that Betty had mentioned he was on the swimming team.

Bill said, “Yes, sir.”

Grandpa then asked, “What event do you swim?”

Bill responded, “Backstroke, sir.”

Ben sensed this line of conversation wasn’t going very well and decided to try a different tack. “Betty tells us you’re a senior. Are you planning to go to college?”

Bill replied, “Yes, sir.”

Ben tried to continue with this topic. “Have you decided where you want to go, or visited any campuses?”

Bill seemed to relax a little. “There’s a lot of places I think I’d like to go, but I’m not sure whether we can afford them or whether I can get in. My father, mother and I are headed out in two weeks to visit some campuses.”

Ben nodded, “The cost of college is something else now. It was bad when I went but not like it is now. Any chance of scholarships?”

Bill shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. My grades are pretty good, and I do pretty well in the pool, but there haven’t been any offers.”

Ben again nodded. “Well, don’t give up. Someone told me that hardly anyone actually pays the list price for tuition now days. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s encouraging.”

What was more encouraging to Bill was that Betty came down the stairs just then and he was off the hook of talking with Ben and Grandpa. They were out the door after the typical good-byes, drive safes, and have funs.

Ben then went up to change. He was back in a short time wearing what appeared to be a new gray sport coat. Grandpa looked him over and gave him two thumbs up. “Looking good! That’s a new sport coat, isn’t it?”

Ben nodded, “I was looking at my clothes when I was in Moline this week and decided that since I’m wearing a sport coat at least to and from work every day maybe they were starting to show some wear.”

Grandpa got a sly grin on his face. “Of course, going out with the pretty Miss Chavez tonight had nothing to do with it.” Grandpa raised an eyebrow and continued. “By the way, where are you taking the lady?”

Ben ignored the first part of the comment and said, “I’ve got reservations at Chicago Prime. I’ve heard good things about it.”

Grandpa kept the sly grin, “No, Le Francais?”

“Dad, you’re showing your age and that you’re not keeping up with the times. Le Francais has been closed for about 20 years. According to what I heard” Ben again made air quotes. “Back in the day, you had to have reservations there about 6 months in advance. Besides, from the stories I heard about the place, I want to go out to a nice dinner not to pay for a new car.”

Grandpa now laughed. “I heard similar stories of the costs, but I never knew anyone who ever went there. I guess Miss Chavez will have to be satisfied with Chicago Prime.”

Ben stood and said, “Well, it’s not polite to be late to a first date – or any date. I’d better get going.”

~ ~ ~

Sunday morning found Grandpa and Ben at the kitchen table again. As could be expected that conversation started with Ben’s date.

Grandpa kicked it off with a cookie question by asking what Ben thought of the restaurant.

Ben almost laughed. “It was great, but you really don’t care about that do you?”

It was Grandpa’s turn to laugh. “You got me. I really was wondering how the time with Miss Chavez went.”

Ben continued to smile. “I figured, but it went great. As I was driving over to pick her up, I realized it most likely was 18 years since I was on a date with someone other than Julie. What do you do when you’re on a date? I couldn’t remember and if I did, is what you did on a date when you’re in your 20s the same thing you should do when you’re in your 40s?  It was enough that I almost felt like turning around and coming home, but I’m sure glad I didn’t! We really had a wonderful time. It’s funny, you asked about the restaurant, and I really can’t tell you that much about it. I guess the food was good, but I was so wrapped up in our conversation I don’t think I paid that much attention to it.”

Grandpa had a sincere smile as he listened to and watched Ben. “That’s great! It sounds as if you had a good time.”

Ben said, “I really did! We talked and talked. After dinner I suggested we go have an after-dinner drink, but she suggested just having coffee at her place. We did, and we talked and talked more. I think Karen had a good time too. I asked her to join us for lunch today, and she said yes!”

Grandpa smiled broadly, “That’s great! I’m really looking forward to meeting her! Why don’t you fill me in a little, so I don’t ask any dumb questions.”

“Well, she was born and raised here. As a matter of fact, she still lives in the same house she grew up in. Her father died when she was about 10. It was just her and her mother. She was about to go to college when her mother developed MS. Because of working with her mother, she became interested in physical therapy. Since she needed to live at home, she commuted to Loyola to get her degree. Once she graduated and got her license between taking care of her mother and working, she was pretty busy. From what Sue told me, I guess there was a guy that Karen was serious about when she was in her late 20s, but he resented the amount of time and energy Karen devoted to her mother and the relationship sort of fell apart. Her mother did die a few years ago. Since there were no brothers or sisters, she got the house.”

Grandpa was surprised Ben had shared so much, but turned it a little by saying, “Wow, you certainly did do a lot of talking for a first date. Did you find out the important stuff – like whether she’s a Cub or Sox fan?”

Ben got a little grin on his face. “Well, after talking last Sunday at coffee hour, I said I’d call her that evening when I got to Moline to continue our conversation. Then, I called again on Monday and that turned into calls every evening. So, I’ve had the opportunity to learn quite a lot about Karen. Like the fact she’s sort of a Cub fan. She says she’d rather read a book than watch baseball.  In fairness, I think she knows about as much as I do about me. On the positive side, it’s been great sharing the information with her.”

Grandpa was still smiling as he said, “That sounds great, Ben! I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen you this happy. I assume you filled her in on your conversation with Sue.”

Ben became a little more serious looking as he said, “Yes, we spent quite a bit of time talking about that. Sue is looking into things, but I’m still concerned about Julie trying to get Betty if we tried to do anything legal. I’m afraid I just don’t trust the system enough right now.”

Grandpa nodded and looked at his watch. Ben nodded and got up, and Grandpa went to start the car.

~ ~ ~

As usual they got to church just before the service. What wasn’t normal was that Karen Chavez was seated in the pew behind the Davidsons. As the rest of that pew was empty, Ben, Grandpa and Betty slid into that pew. Ben was next to Miss Chavez.

Another unusual thing was that not as much time was spent at coffee hour. Betty did spend some time in conversation with Sara, Jim, and Rob, and while Ben invited the Davidsons to join them for lunch, they passed saying they were going to do some shopping for new patio furniture.

At Elly’s the table for four was set with Grandpa facing Miss Chavez. Ben was on her left and Betty on her right. Grandpa found it interesting to watch Betty as the meal progressed. Initially Betty was reserved, but as the time progressed, apparently Karen won her over with stories of her teen years, being candid about some of her self-assessed imperfections, and paying close attention to what Betty said. When it was time to drop Karen back at her car in the church parking lot, as Miss Chavez was a self-proclaimed hugger, there were hugs all around. They appeared to be very genuine from Betty and Ben. Then again, he found her worthy of a hearty and genuine hug from him as well.

After dropping Karen off, it was back to the house. Ben packed up and headed for Moline. Betty and Grandpa chatted a while confirming that Betty really, really liked Karen. Then it was time for Betty to be off to the box social at church.

Grandpa was feeling a little lonely and he was disgusted with the way the Cubs were playing. He noticed it was about the time Mrs. Lindquist walked Lady. So, he called her and asked if she’d like company on the walk. She sounded very enthusiastic about the prospect and told him she’d walk his way in about ten minutes.

Grandpa was on the porch as Mrs. Lindquist started up the driveway. Unfortunately, Lady was not used to coming up the driveway at the start of their walk. In the confusion, the leash got tangled up with Mrs. Lindquist’s legs and she started to fall. Grandpa reacted as if it were instinct instead of thought. The wand was out, and he was saying Arresto Momentum before he even thought about what he was doing. Mrs. Lindquist landed very gently on the driveway, and Grandpa was there at once to help her up. She looked at him quizzically once she was back on her feet. Lady needed some consolation for causing the confusion. After that was taken care of, they decided maybe it was better to just sit on the porch instead of walking.

Once Lady had her bowl of water and Mrs. Lindquist her glass, she asked, “What did you say when you pointed that stick at me when I was falling?”

Grandpa thought for a few moments before he responded. “I said Arresto Momentum but that’s just going to lead you to ask more questions. So, why don’t I tell you what I know and don’t know about that ‘stick’.”

Grandpa then filled Mrs. Lindquist in with what happened since Betty and he went to bury Spooky. It took some time, so they stopped long enough for Grandpa to run out and pick up a pizza while Mrs. Lindquist took Lady home. She, of course, promised to keep the information to herself. She contended she had not been a Harry Potter fan, but now planned to read the books and watch the movies.

~ ~ ~

It wasn’t too long after Mrs. Lindquist left that Betty got home. Grandpa was sitting on the couch reading and Betty plopped next to him. She grinned as she said, “I’d sit on your lap, but you’re too lumpy.”

Grandpa filled her in on the incident with Mrs. Lindquist and then asked whether she was able to figure out which box was Jim’s. She got a grin on her face as she said, “It was so easy. It was the ugliest box of the bunch. It had a Cubs sticker on the side and on the top, he’d written ‘Always say Grace before Risotto.’”

“So did you bid on it?”

“Oh, I made him sweat a little for the bit about Grace before Rizzo. I didn’t bid at first, but finally did. It was surprising. As ugly as the box was, the food was really good. What was even more surprising was he said he’d made it all. I was impressed.”


Chapter X - Summer Turns to Fall

The summer took on a new normal from that point on. Karen Chavez became a significant part of Ben’s, Betty’s, and Grandpa’s life. The evening calls between Betty and Ben were a little shorter than before so Ben could spend more time talking with Karen. Betty didn’t mind at all; she and Karen were getting along famously. Friday afternoons now saw Ben getting home from Moline in the late afternoon and Karen showing up around 6 after she finished up her last appointment. The four of them would then do something for dinner. Most of the time it was going out, but on occasions food was brought to the house.

Mrs. Lindquist also became a bigger factor. As Grandpa had been forced into telling her about the wand, she was fascinated by it. Grandpa thought it was nice to be able to show off what he could do with it to someone new. He also liked having another house with things to be fixed. Fortunately, Mrs. Lindquist had grown up with parents with the depression mentality and was one of those people who didn’t throw broken things away knowing she’d find someone to fix it sometime. Grandpa was the someone and he loved it. He teased her on occasion about the redundancy of some of what she saved. How many broken coffee makers does one person need?

Saturday evenings typically found Betty going out with either Jim or Bill. She found it amusing that she never had to turn either one of them down for a date. The guys always seemed to ask for dates when the other hadn’t. Betty was still bothered with the idea of dating two guys at once, but now she had Karen Chavez and Mrs. Lindquist telling her it wasn’t time to worry about it. Since Betty didn’t want to decide, it was obvious there wasn’t a true favorite at the time.

Of course, Ben was with Karen on Saturday evenings. Usually they went out, but sometimes Karen would cook. As her last name indicated her father was Spanish. While he died when she was fairly young, he had already started teaching Karen how to cook many of his favorite Spanish dishes. Between the early lessons, his recipes, and Karen’s love for cooking, she’d become quite the Spanish chef. There was one Saturday when she cooked at Ben’s for the four of them. Grandpa couldn’t pronounce anything he was eating, but he sure enjoyed it! 

Sundays now found them at church sitting in the pew behind the Davidsons and with Karen Chavez. Coffee hours weren’t as short as the first Sunday they went out with Karen. Keeping the coffee hour going longer gave Betty more of a chance to hang out with Sara, Rob and Jim; however, Grandpa felt there was more hanging out being done electronically with the four of them beyond just coffee hour. After coffee hour, there was lunch. They tried it with the Davidsons a couple of times but getting a table for seven on Sunday morning usually involved lengthy wait times; therefore, it was usually just Karen and the three of them. After lunch, the routine was drop off Karen at her car and then Ben packing up and heading for Moline. It appeared Ben was tiring of this routine and would look for reasons to report to the main plant on Mondays to give updates on the progress of getting the Moline plant on track. Of course, when he gave those reports, he didn’t leave until Monday, and it gave him another evening with Karen.

Betty’s Sunday late afternoons and evenings were usually spent with either Jim or Bill. Frequently Sara and Rob or Ed were part of the plans. It seems Sara was also facing the dilemma of two boyfriends. According to Betty, Sara wasn’t as lucky as her in that Sara had to turn down dates with one because she already had a date with the other. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was something Betty and Sara frequently reminded each other about – no conversations about church friends with swimming pool friends.

Thus, the summer marched on and soon it was time to think about school starting again and the pool closing for the season.

~ ~ ~

With Karen Chavez’s encouragement for him to exercise more, Grandpa was now a regular participant in the afternoon walks with Mrs. Lindquist and Lady. (There were no more incidents of leash entanglements causing falls.) Grandpa enjoyed the opportunity to talk to someone close to his own age about the frustrations of getting old. While Mrs. Lindquist was ten years younger than Grandpa, it seemed aging was treating her more severely than Grandpa. Her arthritis was an almost constant source of pain. While Grandpa and Mrs. Lindquist didn’t talk about physical difficulties that much, it did color their views similarly on other things.

Betty was excited to get back to school as an upper classman. (In all honesty, she couldn’t figure out what was the big deal about being an upper classman, but she did look forward to seeing other school friends.) She did come to the stark realization that it was time to start studying for the SATs as she was scheduled for it in early November. She also liked the idea she had grown a couple of inches over the summer and needed new clothes. Karen Chavez and Betty’s relationship continued to grow and there were several Saturday afternoons that found them shopping together for Betty’s new clothes.

It was particularly interesting when Jim invited Betty to attend his parent’s twenty-fifth anniversary party. It was decided the event called for something more than a Sunday morning church dress. Betty and Karen Chavez went off on a Saturday afternoon to find the “right dress” for the occasion. They were gone for a couple of hours and when they returned, Grandpa and Ben were told to sit in the living room so the dress could be modeled for them.

As Betty came down the stairs, Grandpa noted that the summer had made changes in his granddaughter. He had been aware of the couple of inches in height, but as Betty tended to like wearing loose fitting clothes, he hadn’t noticed how all the afternoon swimming had toned her body, some of the roundness was gone. She had become a young woman in the truest sense. The black dress showed off the newfound leanness while being very modest. It was high necked but had the bare shoulders that were currently in. It was, however, form fitting. She was stunning.

Betty looked at Ben and said, “Daddy, isn’t this dress something else. I love it. Karen found it on a sale rack, and it fit perfectly without alterations. Don’t you just love it!!” She spun around.

Ben’s expression didn’t show the same delight as Betty’s. He looked at Karen and said, “Couldn’t you have found something a little looser fitting on the sale rack?”

Karen frowned at him and replied, “Well, Daddy, it’s time you realize you have a beautiful daughter, and loose-fitting clothes aren’t going to hide it. Doesn’t it look great on her?”

Ben stood and walked around Betty studying the dress carefully. Finally, with a huge smile, he said, “It does look great, Betty! I’m happy you found something you really like.” With that he picked Betty up with a hug and spun her around. “How about the four of us go out tonight to celebrate finding such a pretty dress on the sale rack?”

~ ~ ~

The fall brought about another dress shopping excursion. First, Jim asked Betty to homecoming. She, of course, said yes. Then, Bill asked her to West’s homecoming. As East and West never have homecoming on the same weekend, she was also able to accept that invitation as well. It turned out Sara was also going to both homecomings. Since Sue Davidson and Karen Chavez both had jobs to attend to during the weekdays, dress shopping was relegated to a Saturday afternoon with pizza at the Davidson’s to follow.

The week before the scheduled shopping trip, it was revealed Betty was going to be part of the homecoming queen’s court. This was done by school election. Betty didn’t know she was on the ballot until she went to vote. Jim had nominated her. Although the homecoming queen’s court is typically made up of only seniors, Betty was voted in this year as a junior. The dress shopping was a huge success, and lovely dresses were found for both girls. While Ben wasn’t ecstatic about the cost of this dress, he rationalized Betty was at least going to wear it three times: the homecoming game at East, the homecoming dance at East, and the homecoming dance at West.

Of course, Karen Chavez, Ben and Grandpa went to East’s football game. Grandpa was kind of surprised they found enough convertibles to have the queen and her court sitting on the seats as they had when he was in high school. Ben pointed out convertibles were becoming more popular again. Grandpa shrugged his shoulders wondering why, but then remembered how cool he thought it was when he got his first one. The three of them all agreed that Betty was the prettiest girl in the court, even prettier than the queen; however, their views may have been a little biased.

~ ~ ~

While the fall brought many good times, it brought sadness to Mrs. Lindquist. On the last Monday in September, early in the morning Grandpa got a call from Mrs. Lindquist. She was crying as she informed him that Lady hadn’t awakened. She wanted to know if Grandpa would come over and help her bury Lady in her backyard. Of course, he agreed and was off to her house as soon as Betty left for school.

It didn’t take very long to take care of the burial. Grandpa had done some research and once Mrs. Lindquist pointed out where she wanted the grave, he pointed the wand and said, “Defodio.” In a few moments the dirt was piled neatly next to the hole. Mrs. Lindquist picked up Lady’s body and laid it in the hole. She gave her long-term friend and companion a final pat. While still kneeling, although she couldn’t get words to come out, she looked at Grandpa with tears running down her face and nodded. He helped her stand and then with a few swishes of the wand filled the hole. They stood there for a few moments when Grandpa put his arm around Mrs. Lindquist’s shoulder. She leaned into him.

Finally, Grandpa spoke. “C’mon, Karen. Let’s walk down to my place. We’ll get the car and go out for lunch.”

Mrs. Lindquist shook her head. “I’m not hungry.”

Grandpa took her by the hand saying, “You know you have to eat. I believe being around other people is the last thing you want right now, but I think it’s what you need.”

They walked down the street and got into Grandpa’s car. They drove to the Rose Garden restaurant and found a booth in the back that was quiet. Grandpa ordered a BLT and Mrs. Lindquist asked for a grilled cheese sandwich. As they waited for the food, Grandpa asked if they got Lady as a puppy. Mrs. Lindquist related Lady wasn’t quite a puppy but not fully trained yet either. She was a shelter dog that had been dropped off by a young couple who thought it would be cute to have a puppy to grow up with their new baby. They quickly found out how much work a puppy and a baby could be. Mrs. Lindquist went on to relate how helpful Lady had been when her husband had died. The dog had given her something to hold on to and a reason to get up in the morning.

Grandpa started tearing as he listened. “It was the same with our Spooky when my wife died. I was so lonely without her. Then Spooky would come slinking up onto my lap, curl up, and lay there. The company did wonders for me. I wonder if the cat was missing her as much as I was? Maybe we were giving therapy to each other.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. “You know after Ben and Karen get married and I get a place of my own, I’m going to get another cat!”

Mrs. Lindquist looked startled. “I didn’t know they were getting married! When?”

Grandpa chuckled. “I don’t know when and they don’t either. As far as I know it hasn’t even been discussed. But, watching the two of them, I’d be willing to bet it won’t be long before they start talking about it and get something done about it soon after. I think it’s great! They are both wonderful people and deserve being happy together.”

Again, there was a period of silence. Finally, Mrs. Lindquist looked at Grandpa and asked, “Why not a dog?”

Grandpa looked quizzical. “Why not a dog what?”

Mrs. Lindquist looked pensive. “You said you’d get a cat when you’re on your own. Why not a dog? They’d keep you more active than a cat.”

It was Grandpa’s turn to look thoughtful. “My wife was frightened by some dogs when she was little; therefore, dogs were never an option. I’ll have to think about that. Of course, at my age, I don’t know if they’d even let me adopt a dog. Of course, you’re that much younger, you still could adopt a dog.”

Mrs. Lindquist shook her head. “I’m not ready yet, but it is something I need to think about.”

Grandpa nodded. “You’ll know when it’s right. It will seem strange to take our afternoon walks without either of us holding a leash.” 


Chapter XI - More Changes

As fall marched on, it wasn’t just the leaves changing. Changes were happening all over. Perhaps the least unexpected (or maybe the most unexpected) of the changes happened about a month after Mrs. Lindquist and Grandpa buried Lady. As Mrs. Lindquist and Grandpa were taking their afternoon walk, she asked if he would go with her to some of the shelters to see if she could find a dog.

Grandpa looked startled when she asked. “I’m sort of surprised you are ready to go looking. I think it’s great, but I thought it would take longer for you to be ready.”

Mrs. Lindquist kept her eyes forward, blinked back some tears and nodded her head. “I’m not sure I’m really ready, but it’s so lonely around the house. I need to do something. Let’s face it, it’s October and we know how quickly time flies. Winter will be here before you know it and I’ll be stuck in the house by myself even more then. I’d like the new dog a chance to get acclimated before we’re cooped up for weeks on end.”

Grandpa nodded. “That really makes a lot of sense! Do you know what you’re looking for, another cocker like Lady?”

Mrs. Lindquist shook her head emphatically. “No, there’s only one Lady! I know I don’t want a puppy. I don’t think I have the energy for that. It would be nice to get one that’s already house broken, and I don’t want something too big. Something a little smaller than Lady would be ideal.”

Grandpa smiled. “It sounds as if you’ve given this some serious thought. Do you know where you want to look?”

“That, I don’t have a clue about. We didn’t live here when we got Lady and I know I’ve seen shelters around, but I don’t even have a clue where they are.”

“Okay, let’s head to my house. We’ll jump on the computer and get some addresses for shelters and maybe even see if the sites have pictures of dogs looking to be adopted.”

With that, they picked up their pace and it wasn’t long before they were sitting in front of Grandpa’s computer. While they could easily find the addresses of nearby shelters, the pictures of adoptable dogs were not so easy. It seems some of the shelters kept their pictures up to date. Others not so much. None of the pictures jumped off the screen at Mrs. Lindquist saying that was her new housemate. They decided to meet at 10 AM the next morning to see if they could find Mrs. Lindquist’s new partner.

After stopping at three shelters, Mrs. Lindquist was becoming discouraged. The dogs she saw were all too big or had other problems. The people at the shelters pointed out to her that the smaller dogs were more popular and generally didn’t stay at the shelter long. Their list had four shelters in the area and although they were disappointed with their results so far, they agreed they’d stop at the last one before heading home. They were impressed with the last one as soon as they walked in the door. It appeared very clean and neat. When they walked in, the woman at the front desk asked if they had an appointment. When they said they didn’t, the woman looked at a book, nodded and said, “Well, since it looks like there aren’t any appointments scheduled for a while, I can help you now. Let’s see which of our clients you’d like to take to their forever home.”

With that she took them through a door into a room with a couch that looked like it may have seen better days and a playpen type arrangement, but the playpen didn’t have its own floor. The lady explained, “This is where you’ll spend some time with any of our clients who you think would be a good fit for you.”

Grandpa nodded. “What’s with the bottomless playpen?”

The lady sort of chuckled. “Some of our younger clients get a little excited. We put them in there to let them relax a little; however, sometimes they are just so excited they have accidents. It’s easier to clean the tile floor than the regular floor of the playpen.”

Mrs. Lindquist smiled as they went through the door on the opposite wall from the door they entered. “That’s very practical.”

The room they entered this time had a concrete floor and three rows of almost stall like enclosures. The enclosures were smaller than true horse stalls, but it appeared each dog had plenty of room. There was some barking, but it wasn’t all that bad.

The woman spoke a little louder to be heard over the barking. “Do you have some kind of dog you’re looking for?”

Mrs. Lindquist told her that ideally, she would like something not too big and something old enough to already be housebroken.

The woman shook her head. “It seems everyone wants small dogs now. They seem to be gone before they even come in.” With that she had the expression of someone who just got an idea. “We did have a drop off this morning that might fit what you’re looking for; however, I’m not sure about the housebroken. Like I said, it was a drop-off.”

Grandpa looked at her quizzically. “What’s a drop-off?”

“Officially, if you decide you can no longer handle your pet, you’re supposed to bring it in and give us the information so we can fill in prospective new owners with the information. We also have a service fee. However, occasionally, we will come in and find someone has left their pet either tied to the front door or in a cage in front of it. Please, don’t tell people about that. We don’t want to encourage it. It’s so much easier when we have a chance to learn about the dog first. The service fee isn’t that much but I guess when times are tough every penny is important.”

Grandpa and Mrs. Lindquist were impressed with the compassion the woman showed for people having a hard time.

The woman walked to the furthest row of stalls/cages and then to the far end. In the back was a dog that looked like a smaller version of Tramp from the movie. Mrs. Lindquist bent down to the front of the cage and the dog came to the front and cocked his head to look up at her. From the tears in Mrs. Lindquist’s eyes, Grandpa knew she had found her new companion.

They took the dog to the room they had entered initially. As they were walking to the room the woman explained they really couldn’t tell her too much about the dog, not even its name. As she’d said, it was left at the front door that morning in a cage with a note saying only, “we can’t take care of him any longer.” The woman guessed it was some kind of a schnauzer mix and a couple years old, but beyond that she shrugged her shoulders.

Once in the room, they put the dog on the floor, Mrs. Lindquist sat on the couch, and Grandpa and the woman stood by the door. Mrs. Lindquist patted the couch next to her and said, “Come here, Tramp.” The dog at once sprung up on the couch and began sniffing her. She patted him a couple of times and Tramp curled up on her lap.

Now the tears were streaming down Mrs. Lindquist’s face when Grandpa said, “I guess we don’t have to keep on looking.”

Of course, there was a whole process to go through before the adoption. Before the shelter would let her have the dog, there were what seemed like a ton of forms to fill out and fees to be paid, but most significantly the dog now known as Tramp had to go see the vet. The vet made sure the dog was healthy, neutered, had the proper shots, and was chipped.

They couldn’t pick Tramp up until the following afternoon. They arrived with the traveling cage Mrs. Lindquist had for Lady and were soon on the way back to Mrs. Lindquist’s. They arrived at her house and took the cage into the living room where they opened it. Tramp came bounding out and ran to the door they had entered. He barked once and then started dancing. Mrs. Lindquist had settled on the coach and was getting up when Tramp piddled on the carpet in front of the door. Grandpa was standing close by and picked up the dog, grabbed the leash, and took him outside.

When Grandpa brought him back, he said, “He really had to go!”

Mrs. Lindquist was gathering towels and replied, “It appears he’s housebroken. He tried to tell us, but we weren’t quick enough.”

Grandpa looked at the towels and said, “Let me take care of this.” He pulled out the wand, pointed it at the spot and said, “Scourgify.” There was a strange sound, and the spot was gone.

Mrs. Lindquist smiled and shook her head, “Where were you when I had kids spilling stuff all over the house?”

Grandpa shrugged his shoulders and said, “Shall we see how your new housemate does on an afternoon walk.

~ ~ ~

Another unsurprising change was the growing relationship between Ben and Karen Chavez. They were very amusing to watch. Anyone seeing them together who had read the Harry Potter series, no longer needed to look up the definition of gob smacked. It was obvious they were both completely in love with each other. It is rather amusing to watch people when they are struck with new love when they’re middle aged.

Betty couldn’t have been happier. After coming home from school one fall day, she and Grandpa were sitting at the kitchen table having a snack. They were talking about the plans for the weekend when Betty stopped and suddenly a big smile spread across her face, and she poked Grandpa with a finger. “You know, I may not be a witch, but I think I’ve got that woman’s intuition thing!”

Grandpa had a big question all over his face and rubbed where she had poked him. “What does woman’s intuition have to do with what we’re doing this weekend?”

“Oh, it’s not about this weekend. I just remembered how I told you I wanted to go to church so Dad could meet a nice woman and wouldn’t be alone when I went to college. How about that for woman’s intuition?”

Grandpa shrugged. “Well, I’m not sure I’d classify that as woman’s intuition. I think it’s more of an example of a plan that worked out about as well as can be expected. I don’t think anyone can deny that they are certainly enjoying each other’s company.”

The relationship did have a rather significant problem. Karen and Ben were ready to take it to the next level. They wanted to be with each other more. The problem was that legally Ben was still married, and they didn’t think it would be setting a good example for Betty if they lived together. They talked about their dilemma with Sue Davidson. The lawyer agreed it wasn’t a good idea for them to be living together while Ben was still married even though they were pretty sure Julie had lived with some of her “friends”. After a lot of discussion between themselves and with Grandpa and Betty about the possible ramifications, they decided it was time for Ben to get a divorce. Sue took care of the paperwork and got the ball rolling.

Julie must have sensed an opportunity because as soon as she received the notice, she countered with an application for guardianship of Betty, child support and alimony. While this wasn’t completely unexpected, it did increase the angst of the process. It was fortunate Sue had warned Ben and Karen to expect all three actions from Julie. The important thing was they were doing something leading to what was desired.

~ ~ ~

Another significant change took place when Bill and Ed asked Betty and Sara to a house party to celebrate the start of swimming season at West. It was held on a Thursday evening, but since Friday was an all-district teachers’ institute day, approval was given for going out on what would have normally been a school night. Bill picked up Betty at 7:30, but at 9:30 Grandpa’s phone rang.

It was Betty. “Grandpa, can you come pick Sara and me up? We’re at 1110 Vine.”

Having never received a call like that before, all sorts of questions were running through his head, but, to his credit, all he said was, “I’m on my way.”

By not adhering to speed limits, Grandpa made it to the address in just over ten minutes. Betty and Sara were standing in front of the house. Once the car was stopped, Betty helped Sara into the backseat, and she got in the back as well. “Can we go to our house for a while?”

While Grandpa nodded and drove home at a slower pace, he was getting more and more questions as they went. Once there, Betty again was helping Sara and Grandpa noted Sara wasn’t walking normally. He got a questioning look on his face, but Betty mouthed, “I’ll explain later.”

Betty took Sara up to her room but was down by herself a few minutes later.

Grandpa looked up as she came into the living room, and asked, “Okay, what’s going on?”

Betty looked a little confused and paused before starting to speak. “I’m not exactly sure. It started out normally, Bill picked me up and we met Sara and Ed at the party. I noticed something was off when we got there because I didn’t notice any parents. I would have expected they would have greeted us, but it never happened. Anyway, we knew most of the guys from the swimming pool and we were having a good time catching up, when Ed brought Sara a glass of punch. Bill offered to get me some, but I wasn’t thirsty and passed. He got himself some and we continued to talk. When I noticed Sara getting a strange look. It was like she wasn’t there; do you know what I mean?” Grandpa nodded and Betty continued, “I asked Sara how she was doing, and she told me she was feeling very strange. I told Ed he ought to take her home and all he said was, ‘She'll be alright.’ Then I looked at him and Bill. I realized they had the same strange look about their eyes. I'll bet there was something in that punch! Anyway, that's when I called you.”

Grandpa nodded and said, “And that was exactly what you should have done! You know that if you need help with anything, your dad, Karen, and I are always here to help. It sounds to me as if that punch was spiked with something. How’s Sara doing?”

Betty grimaced, “She’s stretched across my bed and says the room is spinning. She says if she opens her eyes she wants to puke!”

Grandpa looked at Betty and asked, “Okay, what do you think we should do about letting her parents know?”

Betty grimaced again. “I don’t want to do it, but we should let them know about things, don’t you think?”

Grandpa nodded. “Am I calling or you?”

Betty almost went into full time panic. “I can’t call them!”

Grandpa nodded again and said, “Okay, I’ll call, but you may have to tell them what you saw, okay?

Grandpa did call and to his surprise, the Davidson’s didn’t ask any further questions then. They did say they’d be right over to pick up Sara and they were. When they got there, Betty was surprised how they thanked her for taking care of Sara. Sue calmly asked Betty for more details, but it was easy to see she was livid. She told them she was going to notify the police since it would be dangerous for Bill, Ed, and the rest of the kids to be driving home if they had anywhere near the reaction that Sara did.

After they were gone, Grandpa suggested Betty call her dad to let him know what had gone on. She did and shortly afterwards Karen Chavez called her to get the woman’s perspective. After Betty hung up from that call she came downstairs to where Grandpa was watching TV. She plopped on the couch next to him, snuggled in and said, “Thanks.”

Grandpa looked at her quizzically. “I guess I’m supposed to say, ‘you’re welcome,’ but I’m not sure what for.”

Betty cuddled in a little closer, “You never asked why I wanted to get picked up and you didn’t give me any static after I told you about what happened.”

Grandpa put his arm around her. “Nobody gave you any static, did they?”

Betty shook her head and Grandpa nodded, and said, “No one gave you any static because you did exactly the right thing. Anytime you need us, we’re here for you.”

Unfortunately, some of Betty’s peers didn’t think she’d done exactly the right thing. When the police showed up at the party, thanks to Sue alerting them of the potential problems of drivers under the influence, it led to some difficulties for some of the members of the swim team. In particular, the young man who held the party was suspended from the swimming team. As he was one of the best swimmers on the team and a team captain, the rest of the team were upset with Betty and Sara.

Monday night Betty came down to the living room where Grandpa was watching television. It was obvious she had been crying. Grandpa picked up the remote, turned off the TV, and patted the spot next to him on the couch. Sara plopped down next to him and cuddled in. Grandpa put his arm around her and asked, “Okay, what’s going on?”

“I just got off the phone with Bill. He said all sorts of nasty stuff … called me a baby … and that was the nicest things he said. He doesn’t want to see me anymore!”

Grandpa started laughing and it got to the point that tears were rolling down his cheeks. Betty looked mad when he started laughing. As it continued, her expression changed from anger to curiosity. Grandpa finally started to control the laughter and choked out,
“Sorry about that!”

The irritation showed again on Betty’s face. “Why are you laughing at me?”

Grandpa wiped his eyes and took a deep breath. “What did you say about Bill last Thursday night after I brought you home?”

Betty shrugged, “I don’t remember.”

Grandpa started laughing again; but quickly controlled it. “You were rather emphatic about not ever wanting to see him again. Then tonight, you’re bent out of shape because he tells you he doesn’t want to see you. It just really struck me as funny how typical of all of us. We want to be the one dealing out the punishment and not be perceived as receiving it. What’s that old line from the movies – ‘You can’t fire me. I quit!” You didn’t want to see him again and yet you’re upset when he tells you he doesn’t want to see you again. What’s even funnier is that according to your dad there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that he’d ever let you go out with him again.”

Betty sniffed and wiped her eyes and said, “Well. I don’t want to see him again!” and then snuggled into Grandpa.

Chapter XII - Big Troubles

Betty quickly realized going to East was fortunate at this point. It wasn’t like the swimming teams were such a big deal to most of the school, but there were enough fans to make her realize she and Sara would have received a lot more grief if they went to West. As it was, few people at East even heard about it and those who did – mainly, Rob and Jim – were very supportive of what they did. It seemed Rob was particularly appreciative since Sara had shared that she not only wasn’t allowed to go out with Ed again, she didn’t want to. Jim wasn’t as aware of Betty dating Bill but was pleased when Betty indicated she wasn’t going to go out with anyone from West.

Betty decided to become part of the tech crew for the upcoming play at school. Grandpa and Ben seemed to think part of the interest in theater was because Jim had a part in it, but Betty professed she was always interested in theatrics. Whatever the reason, the play practices kept her at school later and some evenings. Grandpa was spending more time by himself.


Mrs. Lindquist brought Tramp around for afternoon walks and she seemed to break a lot of things that needed Grandpa and his wand to fix. Since with the help of the wand, the cleaning, and the landscaping services, time was easily available, Grandpa actually looked forward to the challenges; however, the wand took most of the challenges away. It was the walks with Tramp that pointed out a problem. Initially, when they took their walks, they would last at least an hour. Lately, Grandpa was calling the walks off after about 15 minutes. Mrs. Lindquist still seemed up to longer walks and Tramp always looked disappointed to head home, but Grandpa got tired quickly.

It got to the point where he was even skipping the time after the walk so, he could lay down for a nap. It was then Grandpa decided to see a doctor. Of course, there were delays getting in to see the doctor. Then there were the tests. Once the tests were done, getting in to see the cancer specialist was done quickly, as was the start of chemo treatments. They took blood cancer very seriously. The treatments happened every weekday morning and took a further toll on Grandpa’s energy.


Ben was pleased with the progress at the Moline plant and felt by the first of the year he could be spending almost full time in Chicago. There was a good candidate to take over the operation Ben was grooming. Ben and Karen would have liked the divorce to be over quicker, but Sue assured him it was progressing as quickly as it could. Julie’s suits had slowed things a little, but Sue was hoping it would be all over by spring. Karen and Ben had got to the point where they were hoping for a June wedding. They had even discussed the speed things were happening as far as their romance went. They both agreed at their age they knew what they wanted and there wasn’t a need to wait on things. More significantly they had started discussing what their wedding and marriage would look like.

They agreed a small wedding at the church with only a few friends was what they wanted. Ben had even gone so far as to ask his father to be his best man. Needless to say, Grandpa was deeply touched. Having a father as a best man isn’t typically done, but Ben pointed out it wasn’t exactly a typical wedding and Grandpa had done so much for him, he couldn’t think of anyone he’d rather have. He continued by saying that Grandpa not only was going to be his best man, but he was already his best friend. Now, that would have caused immediate tears from most fathers, but Grandpa was of a different age. He waited until he was in his room that night.

Karen had asked Sue if she’d be the matron of honor. Sue joked about not particularly liking the connotations of being a “matron” but she was delighted with being asked and would definitely do it.

Housing after the marriage was still in the discussion stage between Ben and Karen. Two houses were not needed. They couldn’t see moving Betty, especially for her senior year, and then there was Grandpa. They didn’t discuss it with him because they knew he’d tell them he shouldn’t be part of the discussion. The agreement was he’d stay with Betty only as long as Ben was needed regularly in Moline; however, it had developed he was just part of the package.


It was the last week in October when things took a very dramatic turn. Ben was comfortable enough with the way things were going he had decided to make a long weekend. He’d planned on driving up Thursday afternoon, spending Friday and Monday in the Chicago office, before driving back on Tuesday. Things didn’t work out that way.

Thursday afternoon Karen had arranged her schedule to be at Ben’s house when he got home from Moline. He was planning to be home around 4, all four of them to go to Olive Garden for dinner, and Betty would be off to play rehearsal. Ben called when he left the plant at noon and told Karen there shouldn’t be any problem with the timing for the plans.

Karen arrived at the house shortly after Betty got home from school. Grandpa had taken a nap early in the afternoon and was feeling pretty good. They started talking about what Betty’s responsibilities were as part of the tech crew. Karen had been part of some plays when she was in high school. She was relating some of her experiences and comparing them to what Betty was doing. They were enjoying the conversation so much they were surprised when Grandpa noticed it was 4:30.

If he didn’t get home soon, they’d have to revise the plans if Betty was going to get to the play practice in time. They assumed Ben had run into car problems or heavier traffic than expected. Karen pulled out her cell phone and called Ben to get an ETA, but the call went to voice mail.

By 5 everyone was concerned when the doorbell rang. Betty was the first to the door and took a step back when she saw that it was a police officer. She must have sensed it was bad news. She started crying. By then Karen was at the door as well and the officer explained they had received a call from a Rockford hospital to check on the family. Ben’s car had been hit by a truck on a two lane stretch of Illinois route 2 south of Rockford. Ben was taken to a local hospital, but his injuries were such that a helicopter took him to Northwestern in downtown Chicago. The officer unfortunately didn’t know exactly what Ben’s injuries were but agreed they must be severe if the hospital in Rockford thought he should go to Northwestern. He made sure they were dealing emotionally with things before again expressing his best wishes and leaving.

The first reaction was to call Northwestern. They couldn’t get much information over the telephone. They did confirm Ben was coming from Rockford via helicopter and that was about all. They needed to get down there if they were going to get any information. Grandpa convinced Karen and Betty to take an Uber to the hospital. They weren’t in an emotional shape to drive. Grandpa wasn’t in shape to go down there at all with his compromised immune system, but he would get in touch with Sue and fill her in. They figured it might be a good idea to have a lawyer involved as soon as possible. Karen or Betty would call Grandpa as soon as they learned anything.

Immediately after Karen and Sue left, Grandpa did call Sue and filled her in on what little he knew. She told him she had some good friends in the Rockford area that should be able to find out more about the accident and she’d get back to him. That taken care of, all Grandpa could do was worry and pace. Wanting to keep the home line free, he pulled out his seldom used cell phone and called Mrs. Lindquist. He explained what was going on and she told him she and Tramp would be there in a couple of minutes.

Once she arrived, there still wasn’t much to do but worry. Tramp did provide a diversion shortly after they came in. Ben had gotten Mrs. Lindquist a soft drink and she’d told him Tramp didn’t need anything yet. Mrs. Lindquist sat in a more upright chair because it was better for her back and Tramp laid down by her feet. Grandpa paced for a while and then plopped on the couch. Tramp’s head popped up and he looked at Grandpa. He quickly hopped up on the couch and put his head in Grandpa’s lap. Grandpa started scratching Tramp behind the ears and relaxed a little. Isn’t it amazing what animals can sense?

Mrs. Lindquist, Tramp, and Grandpa all jumped when the phone rang. The caller ID showed it to be Sue. She’d contacted her friends in Rockford and found out Ben had been hit by a truck while Ben was on his own side of the road. There was no doubt the accident was not Ben’s fault. A driver who was behind the truck, actually stayed on the scene, told the police it appeared to him the driver was doing something with his cell phone when he jerked the truck into Ben’s lane and would testify to what he saw if needed. Sue was starting to say more when the phone showed there was another call trying to come in. Grandpa quickly told Sue he’d call her back and hung up.

The new call was from Karen. Ben had arrived at Northwestern before them and was in intensive care still being diagnosed. They had been told it would be a while before they could really say anything significant. Karen and Betty decided they were going to stay at the hospital until they had some more information. Betty gave Grandpa a phone number for one of her friends who was on the tech crew so he could explain why Betty wasn’t there. Grandpa assured her he’d call her friend as well as the school tomorrow. Then Grandpa talked to Karen and suggested they book a room at a nearby hotel, so they’d get some sleep before coming home. They’d most likely get information some time before seeing Ben and it would be good to have a bed to sleep in instead of a hospital chair. Karen said she’d look into it.

Grandpa then called Sue back and filled her in on the little new information. Mrs. Lindquist could see Grandpa’s strength was failing so took off with Tramp telling Grandpa she’d check in with him in the morning. After closing the door behind Mrs. Lindquist, Grandpa went to the stairs to go to his bedroom, but the staircase looked about 3 stories high. He shook his head and went back to the couch in the living room and laid down.

He slept fitfully on the couch but got enough sleep so when he needed to pee about 2 in the morning, he had enough energy to get up the stairs and into his own bed. He woke with a start when the phone rang at 5:30. It was Karen. The doctors had finally given the update, but it wasn’t the news they were looking for. The accident had crushed two vertebrae in Ben’s back. He was paralyzed from the neck down. If there was any good news, it was he was able to breathe on his own. Ben was still heavily sedated, and they wouldn’t be able to talk to him for a few days.

Grandpa waited until 8 in the morning before calling Betty’s school and then Ben’s company. Calling Ben’s company was interesting. Grandpa called the main office and told the operator that Ben was involved in an accident and wouldn’t be in for some time. She asked who his supervisor was, and Grandpa didn’t know. Grandpa knew Ben’s boss’s name was Bill but didn’t know his last name. He told the operator Ben spent most of his time lately in Moline. The operator assured Grandpa she would find out who Ben’s supervisor was and let him know.

It wasn’t five minutes later when Grandpa received a call from William Devine, Ben’s CEO. The first thing he did was apologize for the operator not knowing Ben. She had just started the week before. The boss was shocked, wanted all the details of the accident, promised the companies unending support, and then went on and on about how valuable Ben was to the company. Grandpa enjoyed the last part. What parent doesn’t like hearing about their child doing well? The call ended with Mr. Devine giving Grandpa his personal cell phone number and Grandpa’s assurance he would inform the boss about any changes in conditions. 


With Grandpa’s immune system being so weakened by the chemo, he never got to see Ben in the hospital. Naturally, he received updates on progress from Betty, Karen, and Sue and as he’d promised sent Ben’s boss texts with the updates. With the legal ramifications of the accident becoming significant, Sue was now almost a member of the family. Sue had taken charge of that aspect wonderfully. She had assured them there would be no financial hardship coming their way because of the accident. The truck was owned by a large company and there wasn’t a fear of bankruptcy from something like this, but there was enough evidence the company hadn’t done enough to assure the conformance to their safety requirements that they could get away from the responsibility.

The doctors informed them there wasn’t anything that could be done to improve Ben’s condition and they should investigate long-term living solutions. While Ben was paralyzed from the neck down, his mind was still working fine. It was his wish to come back home with 24-hour nursing care. Sue assured him this was not a problem financially. It took less time than expected to get things set up, and by mid-November Ben was living in the living room of their house.

While it was good to be home and Ben expressed his appreciation for everything that was being done for him, it was easy to tell he wasn’t happy. Fortunately, Karen was used to dealing with people who were frustrated with their physical inabilities. Her PT training provided some things that could be done for Ben’s body, but it was his mind that needed help.


Chapter XIII - Julie’s Rush to Judgement

With Ben’s hospital bed in the living room, nurses always being there, and people coming to visit Ben, the house was now far different. It seemed like a mad house at times. Everyone was doing the right thing, but everyone also wished things were back to what they used to be.

 Of course, the one who wanted it back like it was most was Ben. Everyone assured him that he was still the same person he always was, but Ben couldn’t swallow it. He felt he was useless and no longer contributed anything to his family other than making more work for everyone. Being told over and over they were all doing what they wanted to do didn’t convince him and he was growing more depressed as he went on.

He shut Karen down anytime she started talking about getting married. He did not feel it was a good idea for her to marry someone in his condition. He still professed his love to her and she to him. She wanted to go forward with wedding plans, but Ben didn’t want to talk about that. It was beginning to cause a strain in the relationship. Karen still saw Ben as the man she fallen in love with. Ben couldn’t believe he was the same man.


Sue brought both good news and bad during her latest visit. The good news was that the trucking company had made a settlement offer much larger than she expected or hoped for. Ben and family would be financially set for life. There would be no courts involved and the company would admit to no guilt to anything. Nor would Ben, his family, or anyone else be able to take any legal action against the company. Ben and Grandpa were uneasy about the restrictions. They thought the company should have more accountability for their lack of conformance to the safety requirements. Sue said the settlement would be written in such a way so any actions by people or organizations outside of those directly connected to Ben would not change the settlement. She was aware of a state agency already pursuing fining the company for the lax safety issues. The Brown’s were going to be very wealthy!

The bad news was Julie had gotten wind of just about all aspects of the situation. She knew Ben was paralyzed, she knew Grandpa was fighting cancer, and Sue suspected Julie knew there was a big settlement from the trucking company. Or at least, she assumed there would be. Through her lawyer, Julie was pressing for an early court date for her custody suit for Betty. It wasn’t a stretch to see Julie was trying to get Betty to get a hunk of all that money if not all of it.

Sue was concerned about a judge deciding Betty’s guardianship. Sue has continued digging into Julie’s past and there’s all sorts of indications she lived a shady life. Certainly, Julie was not mother of the year material, but Sue was concerned a judge might consider her a better option than a paralyzed father and a grandfather undergoing radiation treatment. She planned on trying to delay any hearing for as long as possible but wasn’t hopeful of long-term success. The good part of that is with Betty being over sixteen, the longer the delay the less time she’d have to spend under Julie’s guardianship.


With Ben taking over the living room and with the amount of time Grandpa spent resting, Betty and Grandpa didn’t spend anywhere near the amount of time together as they used to. It was the following evening after Sue told them of what she felt Julie was trying to do when there was a light tapping on Grandpa’s bedroom door. Grandpa was still in his sweats and opened the door. Expecting to see a nurse he was surprised to see Betty. He waved her in and was surprised when she came in but closed the door. Typically, doors were left open when there was more than one person in a room.

Grandpa glanced at the door and asked, “What’s up?”

Since there was only one chair in the room and Grandpa had sat on the bed Betty took the chair and faced Grandpa. “How are you feeling?”

Grandpa gave her a quizzical look and shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve been better. Thanks for asking, but that’s not what you’re here for, is it?”

Betty grinned sheepishly. “How come you know what I’m after before I do?”

Grandpa chuckled. “Well, knowing you all your life may have something to do with it, but I don’t know what you’re after this time. I do know it isn’t how I’m feeling.”

Betty sort of smiled and moved over to sit next to Grandpa on the bed. “I’m worried about what Sue told us about the bitch last night.”

Grandpa shook his head and said, “You know I don’t like that language.” He paused and continued, “I didn’t like it either, but there’s not much we can do about it. She’s doing it by the book at this point. We just have to trust Sue and the justice system to do the right thing.”

Betty’s face became stern. “I don’t trust the justice system! Everything I see and read says the justice system is now not about justice but who knows how to play the game. I don’t want my life being decided by who can play the game best. You know if that bi_.” Betty paused and composed herself and restarted, “You know if Julie wins, she going to be trying to get Dad’s money and you also know she’d make me move so I wouldn’t be able to spend my senior year at East.”

Grandpa nodded and put his arm around Betty. “I don’t know those things for sure, but it does seem to be a likely scenario. The trouble is, I don’t see a way around any of it. Julie’s doing it by the book, and I confess I don’t trust the justice system either, but what can we do about it?”

Betty pulled away from Grandpa so she could look him in the eye. “You can fix Dad.”

Grandpa sighed and said, “I was wondering when you’d come up with this. You’re talking about what happened in the second book, aren’t you?”

Betty nodded.

Grandpa continued. “Harry fell off his broom and broke his arm, right? Then what happened?”

Betty quickly said, “Lockhart tried a spell, it didn’t work, and Harry was taken to Madame Pomfrey. She grew Harry new bones, and everything was fine.”

Grandpa shook his head. “Let’s back up a little. In the book, Harry broke his arm and Lockhart mispronounced the spell and that lead to Harry losing those bones. What do you think would happen if your dad lost his vertebrae for even a little while? On top of that, Mrs. Pomfrey brewed some awful tasting stuff to grow the bones back. There’s no reference to what was in the potion.”

Betty interrupted, “Lockhart was a dufus. You wouldn’t mispronounce the spell.”

Grandpa sighed again, “I certainly wouldn’t on purpose, but how do we know what the right pronunciation is? I can’t run to the local wizard store to get a book on proper pronunciations, can I? And I can’t go around breaking peoples’ arms to make sure I have it right, can I? Besides, vertebrae aren’t arm bones. Does the same spell work on all bones? Betty, I did think about this shortly after your dad’s accident and I’m just not confident enough.”

Betty now had tears running down her face. “But we have to do something. You can see it in Dad as well as I can, he’s miserable! It’s gotten so I can’t watch Karen give him a hug anymore. I know she means it as a real hug, but I can tell from Dad’s face he’s taking it as a pity hug. He doesn’t want that. He wants to put his arms around her and give her the hug she deserves. She has been such a champ through this whole thing. She and Dad deserve better, and you can make it better.”

Betty was now crying hard, and Grandpa took her in his arms. “Okay, okay, here’s what we can do. I’m not really sold on this. I’m not Harry Potter and don’t have a ton of confidence in my wizarding, but I’ll practice pronouncing the spell.” Grandpa paused and then continued, “I wonder if the spell works on chicken legs? I guess we’ll find out. Once I’ve done that, we are going to have to think about how we are going to present this all to Karen and your dad. She’s part of the family even if they’re not married, right?”

Betty nodded and Grandpa continued, “They will make the decision whether we do this or not. Since I don’t consider myself a wizard, it shouldn’t be easy to convince them. We’ll have to arrange some demonstrations and go from there.”

Betty was now smiling through her tears and gave Grandpa a huge hug. “Grandpa, I love you so much! You always come through for me.”


Getting ready to talk with Ben and Karen took some time. Fortunately, Brackium Emendo did work on chicken legs. It wasn’t an easy spell to do and took a lot of practice before Grandpa was convinced, he was saying it right. While pointing a wand and saying a few words shouldn’t have been taxing, Grandpa’s strength was ebbing. The latest test results showed the chemo wasn’t helping. Since the treatments seemed to suck even more energy out of Grandpa, he decided to quit them.

Betty and Grandpa discussed how they were going to approach Karen and Ben. All of a sudden, the planning became urgent when Sue announced a hearing date was set for the week before Christmas.


As Betty put it, “It’s now or never.”

Betty arranged for the on-duty nurse to go for a nice dinner out while she and Karen took care of Ben’s needs.

Once the four of them were in the living room, Betty took the lead. “Dad, Karen did you know Grandpa’s a wizard?”

There was some chuckling at that but with the full story of finding the wand and some demonstrations changed things. The demonstration that seemed to impress them the most is when Betty smashed a glass and then ground her foot into it. Grandpa merely pointed the wand and said repairo and the glass was as good as new.  Karen and Ben weren’t laughing any longer but looked confused. Why were they just learning about this now? Or why were they learning about this now at all?

This is when Grandpa started leading the talks. “We want to show you something from the second Harry Potter movie. We know you enjoyed them, but doubt you remember them in detail.”

With that Betty brought up the scene from the movie and showed it. Once it was over, she said “The reason Mrs. Pomfrey had to regrow the bones was Professor Lockhart was a dufus. Grandpa isn’t. Also, we don’t believe all the spells in the books and movies are real but as we’ve shown you some of them are. Brackium Emendo is one that works. 

She then uncovered a plate holding 5 broken chicken legs. Some were merely cracked but a couple were in two pieces. Grandpa pointed the wand at each one and said the spell and each became whole almost instantly.

At that point, Betty looked at Ben and proudly announced, “We want to fix your spine!”

Grandpa at once put both hands up in a slowdown motion. “Slow down. There’s nothing I’d rather do than fix your vertebrae, but there’s some considerations that should be made. First, the spell fixes chicken bones, I’ve never repaired a human bone much less a vertebra. Second, you saw what happened in the movie when the spell was mispronounced. Was that just movie? If it wasn’t, there’s no Mrs. Pomfrey to grow new bones. Even if there was, can a person survive without missing vertebrae? Assuming it does work on vertebrae, we don’t know how fast the repair works. These are all things you should think about before making your decision.”

Ben was smiling broadly, but Karen had a questioning look. Ben said, “Let’s try it.”

Karen said, “I’m not sure. What if it doesn’t work? It could kill you.”

The smile left Ben’s face. “I know. There are those people who can handle this paralysis on a long term, but I’m beginning to realize, I’m not one of them.” He paused and looked deeply at Karen. “Can you imagine how much it hurts not to be able to hold your hand much less hold you? I know there’s risks. There was a risk driving home from Moline, but you were here. I’m afraid if we don’t try this, I’m not going to be fit to be around. It was great getting out of the hospital, but then I became depressed. I felt a little better when Sue told us about the financial settlement, but it was right back downhill afterwards. I want to try this.”

Karen looked lovingly at Ben. “I’m scared. I don’t want to lose you. I’ve waited to find you all my life and I don’t want you leaving.”

Ben nodded. “I understand. You know I love you too and I don’t want to leave you, but I’m afraid if we don’t do something I’ll leave whether I want to or not, but I’ll still be here. Besides, there is not two possible results there are three – cure, kill, or nothing. One of the three sounds good to me and it sounds like you wouldn’t mind two of the three possible outcomes.”

Karen looked at Ben and then turned to Betty and Grandpa. “Let’s do it!”

It felt rather anticlimactic after practicing so long and working on how they could present it to Ben and Karen. Grandpa had Karen roll Ben so that his back was more exposed, he pointed the wand, and said, “Brackium Emendo.” Everyone other than Ben paused and looked at him.

Ben shrugged his shoulders and said, “I thought I felt something.”

Karen, Betty and Grandpa cheered, and Ben looked at them as if they were crazy. They all said it at once, “You shrugged your shoulders!”


The guardianship hearing happened the following week. The look on Julie’s face was priceless as Karen wheeled Ben into the room and he got out of the chair and took a couple steps and sat next to Sue. (Ben was still acquiring muscle tone. Laying unmoving for that length of time does nasty things to muscle tone, but with a physical therapist as a fiancée, Ben wasn’t going to be missing muscle tone for long.)

The hearing didn’t last long. Sue pointed out Julie’s history as a mother as well as Ben’s as a father. It was obvious Ben wasn’t paralyzed. The whole hearing didn’t last fifteen minutes, and Ben was still Betty’s guardian.

Chapter XIV- Goodbyes

Christmas time was like a dream come true. With Karen’s knowledge and persistence, Ben recovered muscle tone quickly enough that he was able to go into the office the week before Christmas. The office was shut down between Christmas and New Year so that time allowed him to ease into it, even if he didn’t think he needed to ease back.

Sue provided an early Christmas present by telling them Julie had agreed not to contest the divorce. It would be final in January. There was a little more to it than Julie merely giving up. Ben had explained to Julie what Sue’s continuing investigation was digging up possibly leading to criminal charges, and since Betty is getting close to 17 meaning there will be little time for Julie to get her hands on Betty, taking a couple grand incentive for the divorce becoming uncontested was the best plan. Betty wasn’t aware of Ben’s involvement but was ecstatic the divorce would be final, and she’d be part of her dad’s and Karen’s June wedding.

Betty, Ben and Karen were so happy with the way things were going they decided to have a party to thank all the people who’d been so supportive through Ben’s paralysis. They arranged for a heated tent in the backyard with a dance floor and DJ. They lucked out and the late December Chicago weather was much warmer than normal making the tent quite pleasant.

Mrs. Lindquist stopped by the party early without Tramp. Her walks with Grandpa had become afternoon visits. They had developed a new norm. Now she would take Tramp for a walk and stop by to visit Grandpa before going home. They’d sit in the living room chatting and Tramp would leave Mrs. Lindquist’s feet, jump on the couch where Grandpa was sitting, and lay down with his head on Grandpa’s lap. Those visits were becoming shorter and shorter as Mrs. Lindquist could perceive how Grandpa’s energy was diminishing.

Mrs. Lindquist wore a lovely dark blue dress to the party; however, she didn’t stay long. Grandpa was chatting with her, and she could see in his eyes that he was exhausted. She knew he would remain at the party as long as she was there. She made her excuses and Grandpa showed her out. He then took the opportunity to disappear into his room.

Karen and Betty decided to get matching light blue dresses for the event. They were stunning! Karen was still a little taller than Betty, but Karen’s physical therapy work helped to keep her very trim and youthful looking. Standing next to each other on the dance floor, they could have passed for sisters. Ben didn’t like that thought, but he was pleased how the relationship had grown between Betty and Karen. Most of the time they acted like girlfriends; however, when needed, Karen took on the role of mother and Betty accepted it.

Sara, Sue and Sid showed up a few minutes before the scheduled start of the party. Sara and Sue had also chosen to wear matching dresses. In their case, they had chosen red dresses. They looked stunning too.

Of course, immediately upon their arrival Sara and Betty were off in a corner chatting and giggling. It gave Ben and Karen the opportunity to once again express their appreciation for Sue’s help with everything. Sue held up her hands. “I appreciate your kind words, but don’t give me too much credit. I’m still not sure how things would have worked out if your vertebrae hadn’t mended. Did you ever get an explanation of how that happened? I’ve never heard of that before.”

Ben and Karen had discussed this inevitable question and had agreed the best way to handle it was ignorance, because that wasn’t too far from the truth. They both shrugged their shoulders and Ben said, “I guess that’s why they still call it practicing medicine.” With that, Karen diverted the conversation to school visits they were planning to take together during spring break. Sara and Betty had liked the idea of going to the same college and wanted to look at some of the smaller colleges in the Midwest. In talking about it, they decided renting a van for the six of them and doing it together over spring break sounded like fun.

It wasn’t long after that, Jim and Rob showed up. That wasn’t much of a divergence for the adults. After a minute of stumbling attempts at a conversation with the adults, Betty and Sara rescued them. They were off talking to the DJ.

That seemed to open the floodgate. Everyone started arriving. Their friends from church including the minister and her husband, friends from Ben’s work, some of Karen’s PT clients and more poured in. The food was plentiful and good. While they’d decided to make it a non-alcoholic party, no one seemed to mind as there were all sorts of tasty punches and soft drinks to choose from. The DJ was great at playing music for all the ages.

A good time was being had by all when Ben took the microphone from the DJ. “I want to thank you all for coming tonight! As you all know, I went through a pretty rough patch there for a while, but with your support, Karen and Betty’s love and support, and especially my dad’s help all along I’m back now. Speaking of my dad, you might not have seen him as he went to bed early, but some of you may know it seems it’s his turn to go through a rough patch. I’d appreciate it if you’d keep him in your thoughts and prayers.” Ben paused, wiped his eyes, and continued, “That’s enough of that! Thank you all for coming, your support through my problems and most of all your friendship. Let’s have some fun!”

With that as the pre-arranged signal to the DJ, a fast-paced song was played. Ben grabbed Karen and started dancing. There was some applause and Sue and Sid joined them on the dance floor shortly followed by many other couples.

Ben and Karen sat in the living room after everyone had left. They hashed through the details of the party and other than Grandpa not being well enough to really participate they decided it couldn’t have gone much better.


In mid-January Grandpa moved to a residential hospice facility in Barrington. It was a beautiful place with wonderful staff. There were few restrictions, visitors were almost always welcome, and they didn’t care if favorite foods were brought in.

Ben didn’t like the idea of Grandpa going to the residential hospice. Ben thought Grandpa should stay home and they’d get nurses in to take care of his needs. Grandpa felt it was better to die away from the home. He explained to Ben they were going to live there at least until Betty graduated from high school and he didn’t want any of them walking past a room and remembering that was where he died. Ben complained that they wanted to be with him all the time, but they couldn’t do that in a residential hospice. Grandpa countered with his belief that people are remembered how they were the last time they were seen for a length of time, and he didn’t want to be remembered this way.

Ben didn’t like it, but it was his father’s wish and after what he’d done for Ben, he couldn’t refuse.


Grandpa dressed each day. On bad days, the staff helped him. Mrs. Lindquist was even allowed to bring Tramp to the hospice. She made it most afternoons. It would be the same each time. She and Tramp would come into the room, she’d sit on the chair in the room and Tramp would sit by her feet. Grandpa would be on the couch and after a couple of minutes, Tramp would jump up and lay down with his head on Grandpa’s lap.

They had reached the point where they were comfortable acknowledging Grandpa wasn’t going to be around much longer. Mrs. Lindquist told Grandpa how much she looked forward to their afternoon chats. She also expressed how lonely she’d be when he passed.


Karen Chavez also visited almost daily, sometimes with Ben, sometimes with Betty and sometimes by herself. It was one of those times when she visited by herself that Grandpa talked to her about Mrs. Lindquist.

Grandpa was concerned about Mrs. Linquist’s loneliness. He was impressed with the greetings they had received when they first came to their church. He assumed part of the welcome was because of their coming with the Davidsons. Sue, Sid, and Sara were certainly part of the welcome, but felt the church was very welcoming to all. He’d never heard Mrs. Lindquist mention a church. Grandpa told Karen about his concerns and asked if she’d think about asking Mrs. Lindquist to go with them to church in hopes of relieving her loneliness. Karen knew of Betty’s visits with Mrs. Lindquist, and assured Grandpa she and Betty would work on it.


Ben came by the hospice just about every day. Things were going well at work. Ben was going to Moline about once every other week, but only for a day at a time. The guy he’d been training was doing very well and Ben was getting familiar with the other aspects of his job that weren’t connected to Moline.

During one visit when Ben was there by himself, he seemed particularly depressed. Grandpa asked him what was bugging him, and Ben responded, “It’s been one of those days when I feel impotent. Here you are in hospice the man who just saved my life, the man who gave me life, the man who put his life on hold to watch my daughter so I could get a promotion, the man who is not only my father but my best friend as well, and I can’t do a damn thing about it.”

Grandpa shook his head. “I know that feeling of being impotent. That’s how I felt when your mother was dying and when you were paralyzed. I didn’t think the wand would work. You’ve really got Betty to thank for that. If she hadn’t pushed for it, it wouldn’t have happened. I had thought of doing it but dismissed it because I thought it was too dangerous. As far as watching Betty goes, that was my pleasure! You know she and I have been close since she was little, but the time together while you were in Moline has made the bond even stronger. You’re going to have to give her some slack when I kick the bucket.” Grandpa paused and then continued, “Speaking of kicking the bucket, you know I’m not going to be able to be your best man. I have an idea that may help Betty. Instead of having a Best Man think about having a Best Person and making that person Betty.”

Ben looked at his father with tears in his eyes. “That’s a great idea! I’d really like you to be there and let Betty just enjoy the ceremony, but if you can’t be the Best Man, her taking your place would help take her mind off you not being there. Did what I just said make sense?”

Grandpa nodded. “I understood.”

Ben and Grandpa looked at each other in silence for a moment and then Ben cleared his throat. “Ah, Dad.” Ben again paused again, “I really feel weird about this, but Karen and Betty wanted me to ask about what you wanted in the way of a funeral.”

Grandpa smiled softly, “I imagine it is rather weird, but since I won’t be there, I really don’t care what you do. I hate funerals, especially the drive to the cemetery. I’m not a fan of memorial services but if you want to do something, I’d rather see you go that way. A long time ago I heard such services are for those who stay, not really for those who die. Do what will make you feel good, but please make it real. I was not a perfect person - don’t try to convince anyone I was.”


Betty also came to visit Grandpa daily. It broke her heart watching him decline seemingly each day she came. It was the last week in February when she last visited, and Grandpa was in bed. He was napping when she came in but woke shortly after she arrived. Of course, once he saw her, he smiled and patted the bed next to him. She moved to the bed, laid down, and cuddled in.

Grandpa smiled and said, “Don’t get too comfy. I need to get something done.” He reached under the pillow and drew out the wand and handed it to Betty.

Betty felt a pang as she took the wand. Her sadness was overwhelming because she knew it was near the end.

Grandpa patted her hand. “It’s yours to do what you want to do with it. Since it’s just a stick for you, I’d say the best way to handle it is to take it back to where we got it and bury it there. Maybe the magic that drew me to it will draw someone else who can use it. After all, I think your dad will agree we were able to do some good with it while we had it.”

Betty was crying hard and buried her face into Grandpa’s shoulder as he again started patting her.

They received a phone call that Grandpa passed later that night.


The memorial service for Grandpa was quite an event. With Ben’s friends and colleagues, Karen’s, Betty’s and even some who really knew Grandpa the church was packed. Ben followed Grandpa wishes and kept the service light. He gave the eulogy holding some stories showing Grandpa’s virtue but keeping with Grandpa’s wishes he also told some stories where Grandpa wasn’t quite perfect. There was no mention of the wand.


Betty decided she was going to bury the wand a year after they found it. She had gone back to the spot twice to make sure she could find it. The first time it took some time to find, but the second time she went directly to it.

Now, she was sitting at her desk. She was planning to bury the wand the next day. She’d decided to wrap it in one of Grandpa’s flannel shirts. She started weeping as she smoothed the fabric flat, she took the wand out of the drawer and held it lovingly in both hands, Remembering the first time she held it and her frustration with it not doing anything, she gave it a flick. She almost dropped it as sparks shot from it. She then looked at it, smiled, and repeated the action. Once the sparks flew again, she laughed, ran to the bathroom, and locked the door.


The End?