Ever having moved from Chappaqua, New York to his new apartment in Manhattan, Grandpa always put the word out he was looking for company. Wanted a reason to escape his own thoughts. One afternoon, having exhausted my time sitting in the park, I phoned him on his landline to inquire about a wine or conversation about jazz. "Who is it? he asked twice, having not heard clearly the first time. "Simone, Grandpa," I said again."Oh yes, yes dear. How are you?"
I tell him I'm near, I think, on the corner of 5th Avenue and 69th Street. "Oh yes, yes dear. I'm just finishing dinner. Please come over."
I walk toward 72nd street, taking in his neighborhood on the Upper West Side, to his building flanked by basic necessities: a sushi restaurant, a bar, the 1, 2, 3 line. Charging into the lobby, I am eager to wrap my arms around his generous belly and feel the comfort of a hug that reminds me deeply of my Father's. "Miss, I'm sure that's not the apartment number you're looking for," the doorman tells me. "There's a much older man who lives there." His unsolicited remark is met with a smile. "Why yes, that's exactly who I'm looking for."
11 stories up, Grandpa waits with his heavy laughter, dressed in a hoodless blue sweatshirt with the words BROOKLYN in bold, white text. He welcomes me in, past a decades-old cd collection stacked five feet tall. With the New York public news station playing on the TV, I try to remember the last time I watched cable television. Grandpa gives me the special family tour of his entire [modest number] square foot apartment, un-phased by the uncleanliness -- an empty frozen dinner plate sits out on the kitchen counter and work papers grow without order next to an old computer screen. He keeps a picture of my sister and I, ages 4 and a half and 9, respectively, on the wall, next to the wedding photos of his four children and that famous one of Dad and his brother taken in their childhood backyard in Iowa. Together we admire the stationary bicycle next to his bed, the one for daily 7 A.M. rides.
Grandpa and I sink into the couch and into conversation. He tells me about his journey to reach London in the 50s, coming and going via the Atlantic because boat rides were cheaper than flights and the girls were plentiful, about the jazz publication he writes for although the editor stopped paying him many years ago, about the late afternoon phone calls exchanged with an innocent old fling from the West Coast to help ease the memory of his late wife. He asks a few questions, but mostly he talks. I like that: he makes me rich with his favorite memories so I can carry and nurture them into the future. I start to get the impression this is what growing older looks like: moving somewhere small and anticipating people will come to visit and listen to your stories.
I leave when Grandpa grows tired, and we agree to meet more regularly than once in a blue moon. He bends over and kisses me on the forehead. "Be well, dear. Please come back soon." "I will, Grandpa, I promise."