GrandDad’s last good ride was when he was ninety-five years old. Manny’s mom drove to Ohio and brought him back to Florida with her. She could not stand for the idea of her daddy being treated as any less than the man he had been. Manny pictured his mom blasting in the door of the Old Folk’s Home with a shotgun and telling Granddad it was time to go. Peck looked at her reaching back through the years for recognition and nobody can say what conclusion he came to, but Manny thinks his granddad recognized what he admired most in himself. Peck recognized who was in charge.
Three days and two nights back to Florida Manny’s mom drove them, stopping at the IHop and the Waffle House and the Best Western Motel. Whether Peck knew it was his 63 year-old daughter and fourth of five children, or he thought she was his wife, Manny figured he knew he was out on the road and going on a trip. His Granddad Peck made this same trip with his Grandma not three years before to the shock and resignation of all but his oldest child. “Let him do whatever he damn well wants to do Goddamnit!” was all that one had to say.
Manny’s grandma was at home in Ohio, married to the man for 75 years and just damn tired you know? It doesn’t matter how good a man anyone is, 75 years is a long time to listen to a person’s stories. Most people don’t give you a good five minutes of paying attention. Seventy-five years.
Manny hadn’t had a serious relationship last longer than a year but a couple of times and neither of those were the women he would tell you he loved- not that he would tell you.
His grandparents’ story stood in his life a fable. It was too impossibly huge for him to understand, like the size of the government deficit stacked in twenties to the moon, or dunking a basketball. He did understand very clearly however the difference between dying with or without one last good ride somewhere with someone who knew your name.