"Grandpa?" Jake said shyly. Jake wasn't usually shy when it came to asking his grandfather about how things were back in the olden days. But asking his grandfather about his grandfather seemed strange. "Way back when you were little, did you have a grandpa too?"
"Sure," Grandpa laughed. "Even way back then, we had grandparents. All we were waiting for was someone to invent uncles and aunts!"
"That's silly!" Jake said.
"I suppose it is," Grandpa admitted, "but it's true. Uncle Sam didn't come along for years and years. And Aunt Jemima wasn't even in the planning stages."
Grandpa smiled, "Sure," he said, "I had a grandpa. I had two grandpas, just like you. But Pop and Nana, my dad's folks, lived in Michigan and I only saw them in the summer. My Grandpa Joe and my Grandma Jean were right here in town. I saw them almost every day."
"Like I see you?" Jake said.
"Was he like you, Grandpa?" Jake asked.
"Your Grandpa Joe?"
"You mean old and wrinkled?"
"No!" Jake laughed. "I mean nice."
"He was the nicest man I ever knew," Grandpa said without a moment's hesitation. "Everybody liked my Grandpa Joe. Why, he could make a weeping willow dry its tears and laugh out loud."
"C'mon!" Jake said. "That's impossible."
"For you or me maybe," Grandpa said. "But my Grandpa Joe had a way with people. Made 'em smile."
"Was he a comedian?" Jake asked. "Like on TV?"
"No," Grandpa chuckled. "Besides, they didn't have TV back then."
"No TV?" Jake cried.
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" Grandpa said. "But somehow they survived."
"What did he do?"
"You mean without TV?"
"No!" Jake laughed. "What did he do for a living?"
"Lots of different things," Grandpa said. "He was a glass maker as a young man, then a mechanic, and finally a night watchman."
"A glass maker?"
"He made glass for windows in a factory down in Pennsylvania. Spent almost a dozen years there doing that. Sent most of what he earned back home to his mom. Then he moved up here, married my grandmother, and got a job as a mechanic for the Electric Company. He could fix pretty near anything mechanical, my Grandpa Joe. And when he got too old for that, he became the night watchman at the same plant."
"A night watchman isn't a very important job, is it?"
"To some, maybe not," Grandpa said. "But Grandpa Joe did lots of important things. He taught me how to fish. He taught me how to whistle with two fingers in my mouth. He taught me how to make a fort out of old boxes in the backyard."
"You liked him a lot, didn't you?" Jake said.
Grandpa Joe smiled. "Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. And the thing I remember most is that he always had time for me."
"You always have time for me. Grandpa," Jake smiled.
"You see," Grandpa said, reaching down to tousle Jake's unruly hair. "I guess my Grandpa Joe taught me that's a grandpa's most important job."
By J. T. Waite