It was a great evening with the best tasting fish I had ever had in my life. My new family was having a great time as I looked around the table where we were all sitting. Everyone that is except Grampa Olly. He kept looking over to Baka, and then looking away with this expression like he was a puppy that had just been scolded. Eventually the party started to break up as Uncle Ray had to be at work early the next day to do a ton of paperwork as he put it. Aunt Rose and Aunt Doris left next, but they left the leftover mandarin orange cake when they found out that David, Robin, and I were going to spend the night with Grampa Olly. Looking at his face, though, I was starting to worry whether that would happen or not.
"Miss Lily, I couldn't help noticing you didn't make mention of me in your toast to the family earlier," Grampa said quietly as he got up from the table. "I'm powerful sorry if I read something into what I thought was happening that wasn't really there. I don't want to step in where I ain't welcomed, so I'll just be heading back over to clean up the grill now. I want to thank all of you for coming to my place tonight and letting me show this here young'un how much I care about him even if we haven't known each other very long. I thank you for giving him a real family as I know from hearing him in group sessions in that hospital, a real loving family is something he never had before and nobody deserves it more than this fine young man. If y'all want me to steer clear of him, I'll do that so I don't make trouble for any of you, least of all him. You should know that I was in town today first to see the lawyer. I've made a new will so once I'm gone this whole place is going to be his."
"Grampa Olly, you're giving me your house?" I blurted.
"It's all set, sweet boy," Grampa smiled at me. "Just don't plan on taking over quite yet. I plan to stick around for a while longer if you don't mind."
"You'd better stick around," I told him as I rushed over and hugged him tightly. "Thank you so much, Grampa. I can only hope to grow up to be as great and awesome as you are."
"Fiddlesticks, I ain't nothing special," Grampa fussed but he was smiling at me still.
"Grampa, everyone here tonight showed me love that I had never had and always needed, but you took that to a whole other level. You had every right to hate to me and want to hurt me for what happened to your son and daughter in law, but you didn't. You were nice to me before you knew who I was, and then when you found out, you were still nice to me and adopted me."
"That monster might have give the seed that started you, Lijah, but thankfully that's all you seem to have gotten from him. I wouldn't be no kind of man if I held his sins against you when you didn't have anything to do with it. If anything you suffered just as much or more from him than I did. I looked at you and I didn't see the son of that evil man, I saw a scared, lonely boy who needed loved and held and told that you are just perfect just the way you were made. You and your boys are still welcome to stay if your folks still agree to it. Now I got to get away from here before you see an old man crying too much."
"You don't walk away from here like that," Baka called out. "I see what you are thinking of me and my family. You make me so angry I could spit on you, and from a gypsy, that's something. You think we don't want you around because your skin is darker than ours. You think gypsies never feel that way?" she asked him pointedly. "I know what it is to have townspeople pull their children away from you like you're a disease they might catch. I know what it feels like to sit in a café and wonder if the waitress spit in my food because I'm not the right kind of people. I tell you something else I feel too. I meet a tall handsome man, with a heart the size of this whole wonderful country, who takes the son of his worst enemy into his arms when that boy needs someone to do it, and I think this is a good man. Then I feel the flutters in my heart when this man smiles at me like nobody but my dead husband ever did. I feel I have to be imagining things. This gorgeous man can't look at me like that. I'm a gypsy, and an old one, too."
"Don't you call yourself old, Miss Lily," Grampa scolded her. "Why I declare you must have adopted Marshall here, cause I just know you ain't a day over 45."
"You lie like the rug," Baka fussed but she blushed. "Never lie to a gypsy, we know. A woman likes some lies, though. I leave you out of the toast to the family because I don't know where to fit you. Are you just my grandson's other grandparent, or...."
"Miss Lily, if you'll have me, and Marshall don't object, I'd be mighty proud to court you good and proper."
"Why would I have anything to say about it?" Dad asked.
"I was brought up by old fashioned folks in an old fashioned way of life," Grampa explained. "Courting for me means if Miss Lily and I were young folks I would ask her papa's permission to take her out on the town occasionally, and see if we get along well enough for more. In our case, though, our folks are long gone and you are the man of her life now. Marshall, I am asking your permission to court Miss Lily, with the idea that sometime down the road we might think about marriage."
"Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's a go," Dad smiled. "I think Daia's opinion is the important one though. Not that you have anything to worry about there. She made you krempita. I have a feeling I'm going to have an empty guest house in my back yard sooner than you think."
"Marshall, you weren't supposed to tell about the krempita," Baka scolded as she swatted at Dad like he was a toddler.
"So there is something more special about that baked piece of heaven than just how great it tastes?" Grampa asked with a teasing smile.
"My mother only makes krempita on the most important days for the most important people in her life," Dad answered. "Not even for all of those in fact. I think it's been a couple of years since I've seen her make it at all."
"You still think I don't want you for this what did you call it, courting? Makes me sound like Judge Judy," Baka said with her nose wrinkled in distaste.
"Mr. Olly, she was threatening to cut my... well she was threatening us if we made her late getting here to see you and she called you a sugar moose. Trust me, she's into you," David blurted.
"Shukar moosh," Daia, Dad, and Baka all corrected.
"It means handsome man," Baka translated for Grampa as she blushed again. "Sometimes I speak gypsy, sometimes Serbian, sometimes English."
"I been called a bull before, but never a moose," Grampa smiled as he took Baka's hand in his and kissed it. "I don't mind what language you use as long as you never tell me to leave you."
"Awww," David, Daia, and I cooed happily.
"Oy, with a tongue like that, I should hire you to run my advertising department," Zeyde teased. "You could talk a rabbi into eating lobster wrapped in bacon."
"Don't go making my man feel bad," Baka scolded as everyone laughed over Zeyde's comment. "An old woman likes to hear such things now and then."
"Yes and you've reminded me that I haven't called to tell my old woman that Davey and I won't be home tonight. Perhaps I could ask Olly to tell her for me. With his silver tongue, she might give us permission to stay a day or two more."
"Wish we could," Davey mumbled.
"Mr. Levin, I don't want to be too presumptuous, but I would be happy to have David spend some more time with the boys, he could stay with us as long as you'll let him," Daia said with a smile.
"Grandad, Zeyde, it would be awesome to stay away for a little while so I don't have to deal with everyone asking what happened with Marc just yet," David pleaded.
"You're sure you won't mind having him stay?" Zeyde asked Dad and Daia.
"We already have two eating machines in the house; one more will hardly be noticed," Dad assured him. "We will also check with the nearest synagogue about shul and services that he can attend."
"Well, given the circumstances, I think he could do with a little vacation from shul since it summer after all," Zeyde told Dad. "I couldn't expect you to take him to synagogue, either. The nearest one is an hour and a half by car from here. There is talk of getting one closer, but not enough people to justify it. So my grandson can be an Episcopal for the summer, it won't kill him. Maybe Ms. Doris can spend a little time with him to keep him in touch with his roots and make sure he doesn't break the rules of kosher too often. Confidentially, I'm not so orthodox myself that I would berate the boy for a little bacon at breakfast now and then. Maybe not every day, mind you," he added looking directly at Davey.
"Once a week, at the very most Zeyde, and I promise to make up for it at the synagogue when I get back home," Davey told his grandfather seriously. Just at that moment, Davey's cell phone started ringing. "OOO it's Benji," he grinned. Before he could speak, we all heard Benji yelling.
"DAVID! Where the hell are you? I got my Dad to bring me to the airport to meet your plane when it landed and I see that schlemiel get off, but not you or your grandpa, and then my Dad notices the schlemiel is in handcuffs and he got hauled off in a police car. David what is going on?"
"Benji, calm down, take a valium or something," Davey laughed. "Since when do you call Marc a schlemiel? Did your mother hear you talking like that? And another thing, why were you at the airport? You know I always come over to see you as soon as I get back from anywhere I go with Zeyde." There was a pause, and then Davey spoke again. "Well, it's a bit of a story, but yeah, you're right, Marc and I are broken up now. I caught him trying to rape a guy in the dressing room of one of Zeyde's stores that we were visiting today."
"WHAT!?! David Leonard Levin, I told you that no good schlemiel was nothing but trouble," we all heard Benji once again yelling at the top of his lungs.
"Benji, valium dude, I swear," Davey blurted while rolling his eyes. "So what was so important that you wanted to meet me at the airport?" There was another pause and then Davey smiled happily. "Dude, I love you, too. You're like my best friend ev.... You what?" he gasped. "Hold on, I need to be more private for this conversation." He looked at us and started to speak, but Zeyde stopped him.
"David, tell Benjamin from me that he wasted enough time telling you," Zeyde said with a smile. "Oh and tell him to have his father call me right away. Never mind, I'll call him. Go talk naughty with your new boyfriend now," he added with a laugh and shooing motion. Davey ran up the hill and toward the front of the house as Zeyde turned to Baka. "My dear lady, I wish to have a business talk with you."
"A seamstress I may be, but I'm not looking for a job in your store, Izzy," she told him with a smile.
"No, I wish to offer you a business partnership," Zeyde told her. "Little Benjamin's father runs a kosher distillery. I own a silent 49% of that distillery."
"You want to buy the recipe for my family Šljivovica?" Baka asked.
"No, no, my dear," Zeyde corrected her. "I wish for you to share it with us. It will still bear your family name, but be bottled by our company."
"Well, since you are family to me now, this I think we can do," she smiled. "It would be nice to someday have more. This was the last bottle I had we drank tonight."
"I think there is enough for one more toast," Grampa Olly told them both. He poured a bit in each of the adults' glasses, finishing it off. Lifting his glass, he said, "To family business."
Dad stood and raised his glass and said, "To family."
Baka smiled, lifting her glass and called out, "Živeli!"
Zeyde added his toast as well. "L'chaim!"
"You're sure you want the boys to spend the night, Olly?" Daia asked as she, Dad, and Baka were standing by the car later.
"I'm sure me and Izzy can handle three teenage boys for one night," Grampa Olly smiled at us. "Besides, they look near as tuckered out as we are," he added with a bit of a laugh when Robin yawned.
"Best behavior, boys," Daia warned as she shook her finger at us.
"Yes, ma'am," we all three chorused with our best angelic smiles.
"Oh, dear," Daia suddenly blurted. "I completely forgot to have you boys pack clothes to bring with you."
"They're boys, Elsa," Zeyde laughed. "They can survive wearing these clothes again until they get home tomorrow."
"Well, I suppose they'll have to at this point," Daia mumbled.
"Elsa, let's go before I am too sleepy to drive home," Dad told her. "It's a good thing I only had two shots of the Šljivovica."
"Are you safe to drive?" Daia asked him quickly.
"Safer than you or Daia," Dad laughed. "You had three shots and she had five."
"Six but who's counting," Baka giggled. "Sweet dreams, Oliver," she told Grampa before giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Dreams of you will always be sweet, my lily," he said as he took her hands and kissed them both.
"I guess I'm going to have to start getting romantic again or Elsa will be getting jealous with all the new couples around us," Dad pouted playfully.
"You're absolutely right, Marshall," Daia agreed with a firm nod. "Now let's get home so we can put Tania to bed."
Once they left, Grampa Olly, Zeyde Izzy, David, Robin and I all went into the house. It was as gorgeous on the inside as it was outside, but we instantly saw things that shocked us all and saddened me especially. On the walls in several of the rooms horrible words were spray painted. The rooms seemed kind of bare and empty as well. Grampa explained that to us, though.
"I'm sorry you boys have to see such things, but I ain't had enough time to clean the place up completely," Grampa said sadly. "I got locked up in that hospital just a day or two after it all happened."
"We'll help you clean it, Grampa," Robin volunteered.
"No, I will clean it," I insisted. "My father did this, so I should be the one to undo it."
"Now you listen here, Lijah," Grampa told me firmly as he held both my arms and pulled me into a hug. "First off it weren't just one man that did all this. Second of all, and this is the most important, that man you thinking of weren't no kind of Daddy, or father, or even a real man, for that matter. You don't have no guilt over any of this. I wanted to have this all cleared up before you came to see the place, but I just can't quite manage to do as much in a day as I used to could. Growing old slows a body down whether they want to or not."
"Slows yes, but it doesn't have to stop you," Zeyde said with a smile. "Plus, you have a new brother today who happens to be... what was the words your father used to say, David?"
"Ummm... stinking rich," David supplied with a blush.
"That's it, stinking rich," Zeyde smiled. "First thing tomorrow, I'll call around and get a professional crew out here. We'll have this place haimish again in no time."
"I can't ask you to do that, Izzy," Grampa protested.
"Did you boys hear him asking?" Zeyde asked us. "No, I offered. I will do this because you are family. You won't talk me out of this, so don't even try. Now, where do we sleep, my brother? I'm worn out and maybe a little farshnickert."
"Well now I ain't got but three bedrooms, fellas," Grampa told us. "All three rooms got king sized beds, though."
"So, David with me, and Robin and Elijah in the other," Zeyde shrugged. "All is good."
"Oh, no, Zeyde," Davey protested. "I've slept in the room with you before on work trips. You snore too loud and I want to actually sleep tonight."
"If it's a king sized bed, we can all three stay together," Robin suggested. "Dibs on the left side."
"Aww, but I hate sleeping on the right side," David whined a little.
"Well, I guess it's a good thing you aren't sleeping on the right side then," I told him with a smirk. "I sleep on the right side. That means you're in the middle."
"I can live with that," Davey shrugged.
Once we were all in the room, though, things got a little awkward for a moment. We all stood looking at the bed and at each other, then blushing and looking anywhere but at the bed or each other.