We trooped into the kitchen, and the two guys stopped so suddenly that I ran into Mike. A tall, silver-haired man who looked like an older version of Tom was standing in the middle of the kitchen beside Tom. He didn't say anything, and his face was expressionless. Oh, no! This is Grandfather?
Mike spoke first. "Hi, Grandfather! You're looking well today." He reached out to shake hands. Grandfather shook his hand and smiled a little. Then Milo spoke up. "Good to see you, Grandfather! Have the kids been behaving themselves?"
"The little ones have been behaving beautifully. They've been telling me all about their week. What is this about a dog?"
"Oh, we thought it might be a good idea to have a dog for the kids to play with, and to protect them. You know how dangerous it's getting for kids outside the house without their parents holding them by the hand. We got a shepherd puppy. He can grow up with the kids, and he'll not only be a playmate, but he'll be good protection for them. Shepherds are very protective of their families."
"This seems a sensible idea. Who is taking care of the animal?"
"Well, right now, I am, pretty much. But Terry's learning, and Peter loves to take him out for his walks. We all go together now, but as the dog gets older, we can let Peter take him by himself."
"Very good. Now, Mikael, are you going to introduce me to the gentleman with you, or, should I say, hiding behind you?" His smile was bigger this time.
Mike almost dragged me out in front of Grandfather. "Grandfather, this is Davie. He's the person I'm sure Mom has told you all about. She interrogated him at dinner Friday night. The poor man has no secrets from the family, now!"
Grandfather actually chuckled. "Yes, she's well known for that! Welcome to my home, David!" He shook my hand, with a big smile on his face.
I was frozen. I couldn't say a word. My mouth was dry. I just shook hands with him, and finally croaked, "Thank you, sir." Mike snickered behind me.
Just then the kids came rushing into the kitchen. Seeing all the adults there, they stopped suddenly. Then Jody grabbed one of Grandfather's hands, and Terry grabbed the other. "Come on, Grandfather! It's time for dinner!" Peter joined in: "And I'm hungry!" Milo froze for a moment, until Grandfather chuckled and said, "I think we have been summoned. Perhaps we should get into the dining room now, before these precious little ones faint from hunger."
He led the way, with his escort, into a huge room with the biggest table I had ever seen in a home. It was obviously a very expensive antique, but it was hard to tell, because there was practically not a square inch that wasn't covered with place settings and dish after dish of food! At the head of the table was the platter I had seen Tom carrying when we arrived. It held a massive pork roast, surrounded by potatoes, roasted in the drippings from the roast. There were three or four kinds of cooked vegetables and casseroles of different sorts, most of which I didn't recognize. The spaces in between all these dishes were filled with small dishes of pickles, olives, pickled apple slices, and, of course, pickled beets! I gave Mike a warning look, and he just grinned. At each side of the table was a plate piled high with sliced home made bread. There were butter dishes and salt and pepper shakers scattered around to be convenient to almost anyone at the table.
Grandfather moved to the head of the table and stood there, waiting. Tom and Mom went around to the far side of the table and stood at their places, with Tom closest to Grandfather and Mom next to him. Mike moved around to stand next to Mom, and I followed him. Milo took the place next to Grandfather, opposite his father. The three kids were placed between their parents, with Peter next to his father, Jody next to her mother, and Terry in the middle. When we were all in our places, Grandfather said, "Let us offer thanks for this wonderful meal. We all bowed our heads, while he prayed in what I assumed was his native language. Then we all sat down, except Grandfather, who picked up the carving knife and fork. He carved the roast with quick, deft movements, into thin slices. I was amazed. It was like watching a surgeon at work. I couldn't help myself. "Sir, you are truly amazing. I've never seen a roast carved so quickly and so well."
He smiled at me. "There are three secrets to good carving. The first is that the knife must be razor sharp. Then, it takes years of practice. But the most important element is to have meat that is perfectly cooked, making it easier to carve." He smiled at Mom, who blushed and ducked her head to hide her pleased smile. Apparently, getting a compliment from Grandfather was a great honor in the family.
Instead of passing the dishes around the table, as we did at the picnic, Trisha got up and served everyone, starting with Grandfather. When all the dishes had been offered and everyone had what he or she wanted to eat, she sat down, and we waited until Grandfather picked up his fork and knife before we began to eat. I noticed that everyone, including the children, ate in the European manner, holding the knife in the right hand and the fork, tines down, in the left. Watching them eat that way made the American style of holding the fork in the left hand to hold food that was being cut by the knife in the right hand, then putting the knife down and swapping hands to eat the food with the right hand, look awkward and clumsy. Eating is a serious business, and there was almost no conversation until everyone had finished. When Mom and Trisha got up to clear away the dishes, Tom and the boys started talking to each other. Grandfather didn't seem to have much to say, but he listened closely to the conversation and added a comment here and there.
Tom glanced toward Mike and me and turned to Grandfather. "I told the boys about the changes we discussed, concerning the shop. I am very happy that both of them have accepted the responsibilities we are placing on them. I really think that this is going to work well. I still believe that we may need to expand the shop itself, but we can wait to see how the present changes affect production. There is no need to expand the building, if it isn't necessary, and if we don't have the sustained demand to warrant it."
Grandfather nodded. "That was a wise decision. If we begin to expand too rapidly, we may outstrip the demand for our product, and then we have wasted capital."
Their discussion was interrupted by Mom and Trisha coming in with bowls of dessert, a pudding surrounded by small cookies and topped with a little whipped cream and a cherry. Mom took the first bowl to Grandfather, then set one in front of Peter. Trisha placed a bowl in front of Terry and one in front of Jody; then they returned to the kitchen and came back with four more bowls. Mom set one at Tom's place and another in front of Mike. Trisha served me and took the fourth around the table to Milo. Then Mom sat down at the table, while Trisha returned to the kitchen for the last two bowls. She went around to serve Mom and returned to her own place.
Once everyone was served, Grandfather picked up his spoon and began to eat. At this signal, the kids made a dive for their spoons, but stopped when Milo cleared his throat and looked toward them. They then picked up their spoons carefully and began to eat the pudding in small bites, savoring each one. They looked toward their Dad, and he smiled at them and nodded.
When everyone had finished dessert, Mom and Trisha got up and cleared the table. Mom came back with the coffee pot and a trivet. She set the trivet in front of her place and went around the table, pouring coffee for everyone. Grandfather looked at the children. "You are excused, now. You may go to the playroom." They got up quietly, pushed their chairs into place, and went out of the room. Trisha followed them and returned a few moments later with a small tray holding the cream and the sugar bowl.
Milo looked at his mother. "Mom, you've done it again! I don't think I'll be able to get up from the table. I am stuffed!"
Grandfather laughed. "It seems we have heard that before, since you were old enough to walk and feed yourself. Could it be that you enjoy the food so much that you overeat a little?"
Milo laughed. "I think you're right, Grandfather!"
Mike looked across the table and grinned at his brother. "See? I learned a long time ago not to say things like that!"
Grandfather was grinning now. "Last year is a long time ago?" Now everyone at the table was laughing. We finished our coffee, and Grandfather stood up. "Sophia, as usual, this was an excellent dinner. I think we have welcomed David in true family tradition. Your mother-in-law would be very proud of what you have done today."
Mom ducked her head again, but she was blushing so hard that her cheeks were almost glowing. Everyone was getting up from the table now, and Mom and Trisha went around collecting coffee cups and saucers. While they were clearing the table, Tom pulled Mike, Milo and me aside. "Come on, boys, let's get all those bowls of food back to the house, so we can relax."
We went out to the kitchen and began putting covers on the casserole dishes. Then we started carrying them back over to Tom's house. It took a lot of trips, and their kitchen was a disaster area by the time we had finished, with dishes everywhere, on the counters the stove, and the table. I looked at Mike. "With all we ate, there's still food enough here to feed an army!"
"Well, salute, private! You're part of the army that's going to be eating this stuff for the next week or so!"
"But, Mike, we've already got all that food they sent home with us Friday night! Do we even have a place to store anything else?"
"Suck it up, Buddy! This is the price you pay for being a member of this family. Until someone can convince Mom to cut back on the cooking, we all have to deal with the leftovers." He was laughing as he shrugged and walked away.
By the time we got back to Grandfather's house, Mom and Trisha had washed and dried the dishes, put them away and cleaned up the kitchen and the dining room. We all went into the living room. It was a lot like the living room in Mike's home. It was plain to see that these people did not waste money on fancy furnishings for their homes. The furniture in Grandfather's living room was an old-fashioned style that must have been new when he came to this country in the 1920's. But it was still in wonderful shape, the upholstery a little faded, and an occasional scratch, but otherwise it might have just come from the showroom floor. Grandfather was seated in 'his' chair, and the rest of us found places around the room. There was a little conversation about family matters and things of interest to the family, but, since I had no idea what they were talking about, I just listened. After a few minutes, Tom stood up. "Thank you, Father, for having us here for dinner. I'm already looking forward to next week. If you need anything, please call us. You know that we're right next door."
Grandfather nodded and stood up. As if it were a signal, everyone else stood up, too. We walked together to the kitchen. Grandfather shook hands with Tom and gave Mom a rather formal hug. Milo and Trisha had gone to the playroom (wherever that was!) to collect the kids. Grandfather turned to Mike and held out his hand. "You have done very well, Mikael. Be sure that you treat him well!" He smiled and shook Mike's hand. Then he turned to me.
"Welcome to our family, David. We have waited long enough for your arrival, but the wait has proved worthwhile. Welcome, Grandson!" He reached out and drew me into a hug. I could hear Mike's quick intake of breath behind me. When Grandfather released me, he smiled. "I look forward to seeing you again next week, if not sooner." We left then, just as Milo, Trisha and the kids came into the room. We had no sooner cleared the back steps when Mike turned and grabbed me by the shoulders.
"Do you have any idea what that meant?"
"What what meant?"
Grandfather hugged you! He never hugs anyone except Mom, and I think that's partly because she's taken Grandma's place in the family. I was hoping you'd get a handshake. That would mean he'd accepted you, but a hug! Davie, my boy, you are in with this family! If Grandfather accepts you, you are an official member of the family!" He was grinning so broadly that I thought he might strain some muscles in his face.
We caught up with Mom and Tom, just as they reached their back porch. Tom was grinning almost as widely as Mike. Mom had tears in her eyes. Tom shook his head. "I wouldn't have believed it, if I hadn't been standing there and seen it with my own eyes! Dave, you are now a member, in solid standing, of the Dorczek family!" He shook my hand heartily, and Mom grabbed me in a hug, kissing me on both cheeks. The tears were really flowing now.
"Oh, Davie, I'm so happy for you, for all of us!" She started up the steps and turned. "Come on in the house, and we'll dish up some things for you to take home."
Mike spoke up. "Uh, Mom, could we come back tomorrow night, after work, to get them? We've got to rearrange our fridge to make room. OK?"
"OK, but be sure you don't forget!"
Tom growled, "I'll make sure they don't forget! If they aren't here by five o'clock, I'm going to hunt them down!" He glared at Mike and me. "And you two are staying for supper, got that? As good as everything was, I'm not going to eat it for the next two weeks!" He stomped up the steps and into the house.
Mom grinned. "Just ignore him! But you are invited for supper tomorrow night. We'll see you then." She waved and disappeared into the house.
Mike stood there with a helpless expression on his face. "You'd think it would be so easy! 'No, thanks, we've still got leftovers from Friday night to eat up!' No, thanks, we need to get to work on eating what's in the fridge before it goes bad.' 'No, thanks, we can't come for supper tomorrow night.' But these people don't hear the word 'no'! They assume you're saying 'yes,' and that's all they want to hear!' What do we do now?" He looked at me with a pleading expression on his face, as if he expected me to find a way out of this.
"Mike, they're your family! I'm brand new here, and I don't think anything I might say would carry much weight. Let's get home and relax. We've got to be at work early tomorrow; remember what your Dad said! We have to set a good example!"
"Example, your ass! But going home does sound like a good idea! We can relax and watch a little TV, now that your ordeal is over. But tell me the truth, it wasn't as bad as you thought it would be, was it?"
I had to smile at him. "No, it wasn't so bad! I really like your grandfather. I don't think I'll ever get close to him. From what you've said, I doubt that anyone could, but I'm not afraid of him any more."
Mike grabbed me in a bear hug. "That's my boy! I knew you could do it! I'm proud of you, Davie boy! He kissed me, a long passionate kiss. When he broke it off, he gave me a long look. "Yeah, I think that getting home is a great idea!" He had that grin again!
We drove home and parked in the driveway. Mike got out and opened the door for me. "Hail, the conquering hero!" I just gave him a glare, and he shrugged and went to unlock the house door. As soon as we were inside, with the door shut, he grabbed me again in a hug, and gave me that kiss that melted all my resolve to be upset with him. He can do that every time. I don't have a chance! Then he let me go and gave me a pleading, puppy dog look. "Could I get a nice, fresh cup of coffee, if I promise to be good?"
I had to laugh. "You know, you're just too much! But, yes, you can have a cup of coffee, as soon as I can make a fresh pot. I don't know if there's any left from this morning, but it wouldn't be any good now, anyway. Why don't you see if there's anything worth watching on TV?" I went out to the kitchen to put on coffee, while Mike grabbed the remote and began channel surfing.
When the coffee was ready, I called him from the kitchen, "Do you want your coffee in there?" He didn't answer, but he came into the kitchen.
"There's nothing interesting on the tube, so let's just have it out here. I like sitting in the kitchen, anyway. That way, I can watch you being domestic!" He grinned at me.
"Careful, buddy, or you'll be wearing this coffee, instead of drinking it!"
He just laughed. "Maybe I should be careful! The tiger hasn't been fed today. We were too busy with other things!" He sat down at the table with a smug grin. Then he suddenly turned serious. "But tell me honestly, Davie, how was it for you today? Did you have any problems with any of my family?" He had an earnest look that almost demanded an honest answer, so I paused, then filled our cups and sat down.
"No, Mike, I didn't have any problems. That's a bigger shock for me than it is for you, I'm sure! I had built this thing up into some horrible scene, where your family threw me out of the house and disowned you for even bringing me there!"
His eyes were wide. "You really have a problem there, don't you? I know that you're shy, and you get upset when you have to talk to strangers, but I've been watching you. When I introduce you to my friends, you don't seem to have a problem talking to them. You don't say a lot, but when you do talk, you don't look as if you're having any problems. And today, with the family, you fitted right in, as if you'd been there for years. I know we were talking about people and things you don't know anything about. You'll learn who they are, and what's going on. But you seemed so relaxed and part of everything. I've got to tell you, I was a little nervous at first, but you handled yourself like a champ! I'm proud of you, tiger!" He reached across the table and took my hand. "And I love you more every day, do you know that?"
I was afraid I was going to cry. "Oh, Mike, that's all that matters to me, that you love me. I'm so hopelessly gone on you that I don't know what I'd do, if I ever lost you!"
He got up from the table. "You want a little more coffee?"
"Yes, please." He refilled my cup and his own; then he set his cup next to mine and moved his chair around, so that he could sit beside me. When he sat down, he slid his arm around my shoulders.
"There. This is where I've wanted to be all day." We sat and sipped our coffee in a warm silence. When we finished the second cup, he pulled me close to him. "How would you feel about going to bed a little early? We've had a busy day, and we have to be up early tomorrow. And, besides, …."
He grinned at me, as I got up and took our cups to the sink. Then he stood up and took my hand. Hand in hand, we went through the house, turning off lights and making sure the front door was locked. Then we went into the bedroom.
I really love this chapter. I think Mikie is going to do just fine.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher