Oh Joy!
2003-02-26 || The Lemonade Man
Soundtrack � Parliament � Motorbooty Affair

The first time his grandfather played him that �Who�s on First?� skit, he didn�t laugh. His grandfather got upset and never recommended anything to him again. He had grandiose dreams of recommending his one and only grandson with great war books, and films later in life. Since the Albert and Costello didn�t work on him though, he regarded his grandson as tasteless. How a man could be so dismissive to his own blood perplexed the whole family.

On June 26th of that year the grandfather met up with me at the supermarket.

�Harold, how are you?� I asked

Surprised, he extended his open hand and replied �Great�

I hadn�t seen him since the party two weeks prior, which sparked the �Who�s on First?� fiasco.

Phone calls were made, gifts were presumably cancelled, and a bitter disdain for �Grandpa Harry� enveloped the family. This was a family fraught with drama for years. I was merely an outside observer, having dated his second niece for a couple of years at this particular time.

�Hey listen, I don�t want to get involved but, I think you should call Clayton, he�s upset�

�I know he is, but I�m deep in this now�you don�t understand� he said with a scratchy voice.

�Well, I don�t know you that well Harry, but I know one thing, that kid loves you�

Harold didn�t want to talk about it, and it was obvious something else was bothering him. I had no idea how to get it out of him though. There was going to be a get together that weekend, I know they weren�t going to invite him. I planned on going down to his house and seeing him beforehand; perhaps I could talk him into making some sort of amends to the boy.

Saturday couldn�t have come sooner. I made my way up the gray cobblestone walkway as crispy bushes left claw marks on my bare legs. His house was a small affair, with the usual widowed elderly person d�cor: American flags, television set with 6 channels, plates in their upright position on the mantel, afghan blankets on all of the couches and chairs in the living room. I remembered being under the Easter colored afghan one winter night with Denise watching The Guns of Navarone with Harold, and some other leftovers from a snowed in winter ham dinner.

Harold invited me in, and we made our way to the kitchen. The acrid smell of a spied open jar of vinegar peppers on the counter made me ill. I couldn�t stand the smell of vinegar.

�Want some lemonade, just made it� Harold asked

�Sure� I replied, taking a seat

�You going over Debbie�s?� he asked

�Yeah, later on I am going to go. I thought I�d come by and say hello and see if I can do any more persuading�

�Persuading?� he chuckled

�Well, I really love that kid, and I don�t want him to feel resentment, especially during your�golden years if you will�

�I was having a bad day, I snapped at him, and now I�m paying for it� he confessed to me as he sat down exhaustedly

�I think if you just call over there and apologize, they will understand� a simple but obvious idea.

�Yeah, I have-�

�You know Harold, if it�s pride that�s holding you, fuck it, fuck pride right now�

�You�re a bright kid, and I appreciate your concern, but I have to think about this, I�m not the only one at fault here�

�I don�t think I understand you�

�His mother, she does not like me, we didn�t talk for almost 20 years�I think she puts things in his head�

�Like what?�

�I think she tells him that I am not to be trusted�

�I still don�t get you�

�Listen, I can�t really get into this, but let�s just say that when her mother died, there was an issue with the will, and she thinks I had something to do with it�

�Oh�� this was all new to me, and I felt like I was getting too deep, so I relented, ��why don�t you stop there, I understand�this isn�t my place to be prying. I just wanted to do the right thing.

I left with my heart in my throat, knowing I was just opening more wounds for the old man in his humble abode. I drove to the party with no music on in the car and thought of all the times Denise told me that her great uncle had helped her out of a jam. I arrived at the party as they were serving food in the backyard. Denise greeted me with a hug and a kiss, and I never mentioned the visit to Harold�s house earlier in the day. In fact, I never mentioned it to anyone at all.

Four days after the party, on a sunny Saturday afternoon a neighbor called the police after not seeing Harold for a few days. Harold was out every morning on his porch reading a James Michener novel, or the Washington Post with a glass of lemonade; after a lunch inside he would water the grass in the front yard and talk to the people of the neighborhood. The neighbors fears and concerns turned out to be true, as Harold was found in the cellar of the house, hanging from the floor beams, with an overturned milk carton a few feet away. A single piece of paper lay on the floor near the milk carton with the poem �The Human Abstract� by William Blake on it:

Pity would be no more,

If we did not make somebody Poor:

And Mercy no more could be,

If all were as happy as we;

And mutual fear brings peace;

Till the selfish loves increase.

Then Cruelty knits a snare,

And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,

And waters the ground with tears:

Then Humility takes its root

Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade

Of Mystery over his head;

And the Catterpiller and Fly,

Feed on the Mystery.

And it bears the fruit of Deceit,

Ruddy and sweet to eat;

And the Raven his nest has made

In its thickest shade.

The Gods of the earth and sea,

Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree

But their search was all in vain:

There grows one in the Human Brain

before & after