In my exuberance, I slammed the door of mom’s Buick with a little more force than necessary. It was almost eight years old, but it was the newest car we’d ever had, and I was still in shock that Mom had handed me the keys and allowed me to drive the entire way, through snow, on my first day with a license.
Cringing at the sound, I yelled “Sorry, Mom!” as I bounded toward the front door of my grandparents’ home, leaving her and my little brother behind, still fumbling with their seatbelts. I hurried into the house, the cheerful jangling of the bells hanging inside the front door announcing my arrival.
I practically skipped into the kitchen where grandpa was cooking dinner. The aroma of his special ham and rice casserole, my favorite, perfumed the air, and the kitchen was extra cozy thanks to the oven. In the office, grandma was busy on the phone, booking his jobs for the next week.
Grandpa was a piano tuner by trade, with well over 40 years under his skilled fingers. Grandma was his “favorite secretary” and had been booking jobs for him just as long, calling in the evenings when people were home, keeping grandpa informed of her progress while he cooked their meals.
He and grandma also happened to be totally blind.
“This is Mary Collins, the piano tuner’s wife,” she chirped into the phone, snugged in place by the oversized shoulder rest. Confirming the appointment, she deftly slid an index card into the Braille-writer, typing up the details, the distinctive crunch-punch sound of the cardstock filling the room. Hanging up, she called out to grandpa: “Oh goody! You’ve got another one for Tuesday.”
“Grandpa! Look what I got!” I said, placing the laminated plastic card in his outstretched hand.
“Well, well… what have we here?” he asked, an air of teasing in his voice as he held the card in one hand and ran a finger from the other around the plastic.
“My driver’s license!” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe I finally got it!”
“I’m proud of you Kewpie,” he said, pulling me in for one of his bear hugs. Kewpie dolls were little bald baby-dolls that were popular when he was a kid; he had labeled me such at birth, and the name stuck even though I was no longer a baby, or bald for that matter. I thought they were ugly little things, but the way he said it made it seem like the greatest compliment ever.
From the office, I heard grandma calling to me: “I want to see!” so off I went to show her too, repeating the entire process. “Just think, Frank,” she called to grandpa. “Now you have a Saturday driver!” Because of his blindness, he had to employ drivers to ferry him around to all his appointments.
Grandma followed through and managed to regularly schedule us a few jobs several days each month. There were times that I didn’t want to give up my Saturdays, but there weren’t that many ways to earn spending money at that age. Among other things, I needed the money to feed my Q-Bert habit, an arcade game in the Skyline Bowling Alley which officially proclaimed to the world that TLV was “Supreme Noser!” Driving for grandpa would give me a steady income, and it sure beat babysitting the neighbor’s little brats.
This 14-year-old was ready to hit the road!