Grandpa is my best friend. He’s kind of tall and skinny, and his trousers never seem to fit around his waist, so he wears suspenders—at least, that’s what Mom calls them. But Grandpa calls them braces. I’ve never seen Grandpa when he wasn’t wearing his braces, and I probably never will because his trousers would be falling down. When Grandpa puts his thumbs in his braces, he does what he calls his “tall thinking.”
I can talk to Grandpa. He always listens to me, and he seems to know how I really feel. Like the time I got picked from my Little League farm team to play in the majors! Now, tennis shoes are OK for a farm team, but for the majors—that’s different! For those teams, you should have real cleats and a glove that isn’t a hand-me-down from three older cousins. I tried to explain all this to Mom, and she just sighed and looked up at the ceiling. But Grandpa put his thumbs in his braces and did some tall thinking. A while later, when I was trying on my uniform—not just a T-shirt with the team name on it, but a real uniform with striped pants and socks and everything—Grandpa came in and gave me two boxes tied with string. In one was a set of real cleats, and in the other was my very own new glove! Now that’s what I call a buddy! Grandpa grinned at me, and I grinned right back.
It’s easy to get along with Grandpa. But my big sister, Stacy, gives me problems. Ever since she came home the other day with braces on her teeth, she won’t smile. And you can’t understand anything that she says because she won’t open her mouth enough to sound out the words.
Stacy is being especially mean to Grandpa. Mom told her that she had to have her teeth straightened because she takes after Grandpa’s side of the family. He does have crooked teeth that stick out a little, but I never noticed it until Mom mentioned it to Stacy.
“I don’t like wearing these awful things,” Stacy mumbled protestingly to Mom. “I’d rather have crooked teeth.”
“It’ll take a while,” Mom tried to console her, “but eventually your teeth will be beautiful, and then you’ll think it was worth it.”
“But they’re so ugly now!” Stacy wailed. She glared at Grandpa. He smiled back at her, but Stacy started to cry and ran from the room. Grandpa lowered his gaze, and he looked as sad as I’ve ever seen him.
I raced up to Stacy’s bedroom. “You stop being mean to Grandpa!” I yelled at her. “It isn’t his fault that you have to wear braces.”
“It is too. You heard Mom. Grandpa’s crooked teeth got passed right on down to me. I just hate them!”
Stacy’s bad temper went on for several days, and finally Mom told Stacy to keep her feelings to herself and to quit making Grandpa feel bad.
“Right,” I said. “He feels bad enough already.”
Mom told me to keep out of it, but how can a guy keep still when his best friend is being hurt?
One evening Grandpa stood out on the porch with his thumbs in his braces, leaning against the porch post. He didn’t joke with me as he usually does. I didn’t see how all that thinking could do any good. After all, how can you change what has already been passed down to your grandchildren?
“Don’t fret about it, Grandpa. Stacy’s just a big baby,” I said to him. “She doesn’t mean what she says.”
“It does seem unfair, I guess, to a girl Stacy’s age,” Grandpa said.
“But you can’t do anything, Grandpa. Why worry over it?”
“A body can always do something, Son.”
Well, I put the whole bunch of nonsense out of my head for a while. Then one day the telephone rang. It was Grandpa, and he told me to gather everybody into the living room. He was coming home in a few minutes, and he had a surprise for us.
I bet he bought us all ice cream, I thought. What with Stacy being told not to eat gum and candy on account of her braces, ice cream was about the only thing she really loved that she could still eat.
Anyway, I did what Grandpa said, and told everyone to sit down and wait. Naturally Stacy started grumbling, but a couple of warning looks from Mom settled her down.
I watched out the window, and when I saw Grandpa coming, he seemed a lot happier than he’d been in a long time. But he wasn’t carrying anything—not a package or a grocery bag or anything!
It seemed forever before he came through the front door. When he did, he just stood there and looked at each one of us. I couldn’t stand it any longer. “Come on, Grandpa! What’s your surprise? We’ve been waiting and waiting!”
Finally Grandpa looked straight at Stacy. I looked at Stacy, too, and suddenly her mouth dropped open and her eyes got big and round. I looked back at Grandpa. He was smiling wide—and his smile was all covered with metal! Grandpa was wearing braces! Not just his trousers braces, but braces on his teeth, just like Stacy’s!
Now, what happened next I will never figure out. Stacy’s face kind of crumpled, and she started to cry. She ran to Grandpa and threw her arms around him, and Mom and Dad laughed and wiped their eyes. Me, I was glad to see Grandpa smiling again, and I couldn’t help it if I got something in my eyes, too, could I?
Grandpa explained that he’d always wanted to get his teeth straightened and that if Stacy was brave enough to do it, so was he.
The best part is that I think that Stacy finally knows that Grandpa is her best friend too!