This week’s writing challenge on the Daily Post blog (www.dailypost.wordpress.com) is to describe a character from your life. Check out the challenge here. This is my contribution.
I am twelve years old and I just woke up at Gido’s house. Gido is my grandfather and we will be spending the day together.
Gido slept on the floor all night, because that’s what he does. He lays on the hard floor in front of the television with a big body pillow and sleeps. I don’t ask why, but I think it has something to do with the war. Now that he’s older and has had more surgeries than anyone ever, and the scars to show it, I wonder why he still prefers the floor. Despite his many scars, he never complains about pain or the war. I don’t even know how he won his Purple Heart. He never talks about it.
In fact, he doesn’t talk much at all. He’s quiet, but observant. And handsome. Everyone says he’s handsome.
The first thing he does every morning, even when I am visiting, is feed the birds. He grabs a couple of slices of old bread and heads outside to the street. I watch from the porch as he rolls the bread in his hands and walks backwards down the middle of the road, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs before him. I see the birds waiting patiently on the neighbors’ rooftops for their breakfast. Hundreds of them looking for Gido.
He joins me on the porch and we watch the birds feast. We don’t talk much. Days with Gido are calm and quiet.
When I am with Gido, I get to take the public bus. Gido never learned how to drive. It’s just another thing that makes him different. He walks a lot, or takes the bus, or mom drives him around. Mom never complains about driving him where he needs to go because he was a single parent, and a good parent, when his wife died. Mom respects him for that and loves and likes him. Mom was twelve when my grandmother died. The same age as me now. I wonder if I remind him of my mom when she was a kid.
Gido knows the bus driver since he often rides this route. They greet each other and Gido pays my fare since I don’t know how to ride the bus. Today we are going to the bank in the strip mall. It’s not very far, but too far to walk. We sit facing sideways.
People like Gido because he’s quiet. He only says things that are necessary, and he’s a good listener. He remembers what you tell him. Once, my aunt told him that she liked these pistachios he bought from the Syrian bakery, so he buys her a giant bag every Christmas, even though my aunt calls him our “gi-due” instead of “gi-daw,” the way we say it.
Sometimes he gets silly and sings wacky songs about buglers and the army and the moon and pretty ladies. He sings softly and smiles even when we roll our eyes and wonder if he’s crazy. He likes to play cards with his buddies at “the post” where the other Syrians and vets hang out, but he doesn’t drink and he quit smoking cold turkey in one day. He smoked a pack, wrote the date on it, and said it was the last pack he’d ever smoke. And it was. But he still likes the company and the food at “the post.”
When we go places, we bring him with us. He is always gently pleasant, except for the two trips that he hated: apple-picking and off-roading over sand dunes. I can’t blame him though because apple-picking was exhausting, and the sand dunes were really bumpy and uncomfortable, even for me. These are the only two times I’ve heard him complain. He’s only human, after all.
We step off the bus and he shuffles his feet as we walk through the parking lot to the bank. He always shuffles his feet and he always wears black socks and shoes, and his one foot turns inward. My mom says my brother has that same foot and is a lot like Gido, but I don’t agree. My brother is annoying and Gido never annoys me.
We walk slowly. Normally, I have to walk fast, from here to there to everywhere, but Gido goes slow, and it’s a nice change. I breathe the air and realize the sun is warm today. I look up at him and see his face is tan, maybe from walking everywhere in the hot summer, or from his Syrian ancestry, or both.
He stops, looking at the pavement with his dark eyes. I follow his gaze and see a small doll. He bends down and picks it up and hands it to me. “If you go slowly and keep your eyes open you’ll find things,” he says. It’s not the first time he’s found stuff that way. Sometimes it’s old coins or bottle caps, keys, or flowers. He finds them because he takes his time and looks. I never wonder what he’s thinking when he’s quiet. I assume it’s none of my business, or he’s looking for stuff.
I hold the doll and she rides back on the bus with me. I tell myself to remember to always go slowly and keep my eyes open to find the treasures of the world. I look at the slow, simple, peaceful man sitting next to me and feel lucky that he’s my grandfather. My Gido.