“Oh, you have spilt the jug. I will have to mop the floor again.” Grandma Grace shrieked.
Grandpa Robert was beginning to show symptoms of Parkinson’s. He was also developing Presbycusis, which is the fancy medical term for hearing impairment due to old age. Well-wishers, however, suspected otherwise. Grandpa would act hard of hearing when Grandma would berate him, but at other times his hearing was as keen as that of a German Shepherd.
“I wish I had taken divorce thirty years back.” Grandma continued her tirade as she began mopping the floor.
“Why didn’t you?” Grandpa asked laconically.
“Because I felt pity for you; good-for-nothing fellow!” Grandma retorted back.
As usual, Grandpa smiled to himself, surreptitiously.
All the six grandchildren, aged from seven to ten; watched in amusement. The elderly couple indulged in such banter all day. Yet, ask them to stay away from each other even for a day, and both would die, even at such a thought.
The grandchildren belonged to the old couple’s two sons and a daughter. Each had two apiece but the daughter had only girls. They all had come to spend their vacations at the ancestral home in the countryside.
Today everyone was quiet. When Grandma looked at the kids, they would just smile in a conspiratorial way. Later she found a message stuck on the refrigerator. Scribbled in the shaky handwriting of Grandpa, it read:
“Midnight, on the bridge. Come alone.”
Grandpa was notorious for his pranks and his quest for finding ‘adventure’ in everything. Grandma decided to find out what mischief he was up to tonight.
Grandma held a flashlight, and with the other hand, she gripped a walking stick. Waiting until she thought the kids were asleep; she slipped quietly on tip-toe, out of the door and headed behind the house. There was a small wooden bridge, which they had often used for an impromptu picnic.
She huffed and puffed as she reached the bridge.
“What is this crazy idea of yours?” An incensed Grandma admonished Grandpa.
“Look here, Grace,” Grandpa tried to pacify Grandma, “here is a surprise for you.”
“Surprise! As if you have not given me enough already!” Grandma was still breathing fire.
Grandpa pulled the covers off. There was a small table on which a cardboard box was placed. As Grandpa removed the top of the box, it revealed a huge birthday cake. The piped icing letterings read, “Happy Birthday”; and beneath that, “Grace”.
Grandpa Robert took out his lighter and set alight the single thick candle stuck in the middle of the cake.
Grandma Grace bowed down and brought her face closer to the candle.
Suddenly there was a rustle in the hedges around her and the shower of small footfalls. Little excited grandchildren emerged from the shadows and huddled around; their gleeful faces shining in the moonlight.
As she blew out the candle, a chorus of “Happy Birthday Granny, Happy Birthday Granny…” reverberated in the air. High above the sky, the stars twinkled in joy. The midnight adventure birthday party has just begun.