Grandpa’s lawn had the most brilliant mushrooms. Puffballs, pink bottoms, mica caps, deer mushrooms, death caps, and many more, the names of which I did not know. I expertly deemed them fairy umbrellas. They sprouted from the ground with the dandelions and tulips. Pink tulips were his favorite; they went very nicely with his yellow house. The cherry blossom trees had just started to bloom and in the morning the light filtered through the petals and drowned my room in pink.
Mom was downstairs making breakfast. I trotted to her when the smell of hash browns filled my nose.
“Good morning.” I said as I fell into my mom’s hug. “Where’s Grandpa?”
“Oh, he’s in the memoir room.” She handed me a plate. Grandpa loved his memoir room. He’d spend hours there, reading peoples’ stories. Mom insisted on us moving in with Grandpa a few years ago when he fell in the kitchen and fractured his wrist.
Mom walked down the hall and knocked on the door. “Dad! Breakfast is ready!” There was an awful lot of shuffling, then he emerged with his walker. His slippers made a swishing sound on the carpet. The whole house had been carpeted the day after he fell; Mom’s orders. I looked as he eased the door closed and locked it. He kept the key in his shirt pocket. Being six, I was terribly curious and let no one have their privacy, but mom made sure to keep an eye on me, so there was no opportunity to steal the key. But today, after some time off to take care of Grandpa, she was returning to work.
We all sat down at the table and began to eat. The hash browns filled me with warmth while Mom announced the weather:
“It’s going to be 60 degrees today. Jojo, I’ll be back from work at 5:00, okay?”
“Okay” I replied.
Grandpa was mostly silent these days, but I knew he had a lot of great stories. I told him countless times how if he likes memoirs so much, he should write his own. He’d only shrug, then smile and pat me on the back.
When Mom left for work, I set about making Grandpa a batch of my “famous” lavender tea. I handed it to him and he gave me a nod of gratitude. I sat with him as he drank the steaming tea. Yes, I was young to be taking care of my Grandpa, but I had wanted to be a nurse ever since I was very small, and I made my mom help me practice. I was the one to take splinters out, get band-aids, things like that. When we moved in with Grandpa, I wanted to learn to help him. Mom guided me through the basics for months, and I was finally ready. Grandpa pointed to the living room with one hand, still holding the mug in the other. I knew this meant he wanted to lie down.
I helped him over to the sofa the way mom showed me, then turned on his favorite television program, The Cooking Network. He gave me a pat on my cheek. “Thank you, Jolli,” he said, shakily, with a smile. He hadn’t gotten my name right in years. Whenever I brought it up to him, his expression grew sad, and remained so until he forgot even that. Soon his eyes clamped shut in sleep. Carefully, I removed the key from his shirt pocket, and tip-toed down the hall, slightly giggling. The key turned smoothly in the lock, and the door opened without so much as a creak.
Inside was the most beautiful room I’d ever seen. The sun came in through the sunset orange curtains and coated the bookcases in gold. On the bookcases little pieces of paper stuck out with letters on the edges. The books were set in an ombre of pale tan, to dark brown. There were two chairs by the far wall. One had what looked like a belt hanging from the armrest. There must have been hundreds of books. The wall where the chairs sat was the only wall without bookcases. I took a deep brown colored book from a shelf. I felt fuzz, like arm hairs, and the hardness of a scar, pale with time, on the cover. The binding looked as though it was hand stitched. I turned it over in my hands. Inside was Grandpa’s handwriting. It read: “Benny. Born 1988. Male. Grew up in-”
I jumped, and the book landed at my feet with a thud. Grandpa was standing at the door holding something behind his back. He softly closed the door, then walked over and picked up the book I had dropped, then put it back in its spot. His walker was nowhere in sight.
“Why don’t you have a seat?” he said as he ushered me to the chair with the belt. Although as I got closer, I realized it was built into the chair. I resisted the urge to get Grandpa’s walker. “You have good instincts, Benny was a fine man, with such a fulfilling life.” I cocked my head at this. Grandpa sat me down in the chair, then settled into the other one.
“Who’s Benny?” I asked.
“Oh, such a fulfilling life he had. A nurse practitioner. Helping people all day, then going home to his family at night. Going to concerts in his free time; his friends always willing to accompany him.” Grandpa drifted deeper into thought, then blinked and seemed disappointed when I pulled him out by saying his name again.
“How do you know Benny?”
“Did.” he corrected, looking methodically into my eyes. I frowned.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I despised Benny for all that he was. I knew what I would do with him the first time he tried to help me across the street. He was so startled when I slapped his hand away. He was an arrogant fool, and he deserved what he got.” I looked back to the book I had picked up. Its side seemed to stare at me. Glaring. Warning. I looked all over the room. At all the different books.
“Ah, my collection.” He said, noticing the unsettled expression on my face. “There are a lot of arrogant fools in this world, Jojo. Ones who will try to help you even though you were born far before them. Ones who will go into private rooms and think they won’t get caught.” My eyes went to his, and were startled by their intensity. Then he took a pad of paper and a pencil from behind his back, and said:
“When were you born? I’m afraid my memory has fled from me.”
And that’s how I became a mica cap mushroom in his lawn.