“Good morning Andrea,”
I open the kitchen door at 5:45am to a fire blazing in the fireplace he built over forty years ago.
“I’m not going to call you Peeker anymore,”
he says with shiny eyes.
“These names have a habit of sticking.”
I make lunches and Sandy tells stories.
Sandy’s uncle’s wife was Catholic. His kids were Catholic. His daughter died young of Tuberculosis. He was a big man; 300 pounds; most of it nose.
When he was dying, the priest came in and told him to confess his sins. He told him there wasn’t time so to just put him down for everything but murder.
“You know when you die, there are only two places you can go,”
“Up with the Master or down with friends.”
We’ve gutted his basement 3 times so far. He was sad to see his old 100 lb work desk make it to the dump pile and no one was up the morning he salvaged the desk drawers, dragged them back to the kitchen and threw them in the fireplace.
“Wood scraps can’t be left where Grandpa can get to them,”
Says Delean, making a new house rule.
She walked in shortly after the first one hit the fire. She stopped, saw a giant one-drawer blaze and carried on with breakfast. Her back to the far wall, she spun around again when she felt heat against her back.
The second drawer neatly in place, Sandy had moved back to the middle of the room and was standing there watching the flames lick out of the brick hearth.
“I grabbed the broom from above the fireplace and pulled the curtains out of the way.”
“He asked if I knew why the flames were so big,”
She says. It was the lacquer finish.
“He asked if I could imagine what would happen if it caught the furniture.”
“I’ve hidden the matches.”
Sandy doesn’t recycle; he burns. An infectious habit, everyone on the farm likes to burn. Our first big cleanup day, someone asked if we should burn one of the many cribs removed from the basement.
“What kind of people would we be if we burned cribs?”
I asked Katie.
Too busy for chitchat, she tossed it into the bonfire.
“Grandpa, I don’t think you’re supposed to burn plastic milk jugs. It’s not good for you,”
“Do you know what you are made of? Carbon! Do you know what that jug is made of? Carbon! Now tell me how carbon can hurt carbon?!”
“Death is upon me,”
cries Sandy after dinner, folding his arms over his chest and closing his eyes.
“You’re just full. They’re similar feelings,”
“What’s new Peeker?”
Sandy asks, rocking by the fire.
“I’m working evenings now at the group home for summer.”
“Oh well, that’s good. You’ll look better when you get up.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
“Do you know what I hate about smokers?”
“They always take the bloody matches. But I’ve got a secret stash,”
he says, staring back into the flames.