Just over a week ago, Mom went up to see her dad for his birthday. He turned 86, and I celebrated from here (not here, in the car but here in central Indiana) while everyone else took him to dinner and cheered Grandpa on.
Grandpa is pretty healthy for his age. His legs bother him (arthritis) but the only other problem is that his kidneys aren't keeping up with the amount of liquid he takes in. Which is a lot. Grandpa is never without water, usually in the same yellow plastic cup he has had since I was born, a cup Gran urged him to get rid of, a cup he still retains.
We (not to mention the doctor) warned Grandpa that he needs to cut the amount of salt he takes in. Grandpa doesn't use a lot of salt, so he though this was no big deal. But he is an older man who lives alone, except for his cat, and he doesn't do much cooking.
The thing he doesn't get, or doesn't care about, is that his new favorite meal is packed with so much salt it alone could kill a person--and that's when you start off healthy. This is not to say the thing is not okay in moderation, but Grandpa never does anything in moderation.
He likes Progresso soup. Saltier than Campbell's, which is very salty, Progresso comes in such flavors as Split Pea with Ham, Traditional Chicken Noodle, and Beef Vegetable. Grandpa has packed his pantry with these and other flavors, all of which he bought on sale.
When the store didn't have his flavors, he got rain checks and came back.
Soon, Grandpa ran out of room in the pantry upstairs, so he started filling up the cabinets in the basement, which are now packed too.
Mom, on her recent visit, was handed a coupon from the big grocery store nearby for Progresso soup. Mom was secretly satisfied to find there to be no more of his flavors, so she hit the knit shop nearby and went back home. Grandpa then was disappointed. But Mom called me and found that I could do with two skeins of the half-off sock yarn (I mean, come on--half off?) so she told her dad she was going back to the shop before it closed.
She was presented again with the coupon and ordered to come home with a rain check.
Mom loves her dad, but she knows that he is making himself sick on the soup.
So she didn't get them. She went to the yarn store and came back, sans rain check. She was going to tell Grandpa this, but when he asked her, he immediately followed his question with, "You don't have to get up and get it now, Jul."
And she didn't.
Conveniently "forgetting" to hand over the nonexistent rain check, Mom went home the next day. And Grandpa called her upon her arrival to ask about the rain checks.
She said "Oops" but it wasn't over. He said she could just drop them in the mail for him.
But the rain checks don't exist.
Mom came to me wondering what to do. And because I am as devious as she is, if not more, I told her to just tell him she bought the soup already with the rain checks, at our branch of the grocery store.
She, however, chose to wait.
And in every telephone conversation since that one, she has been asked about the rain checks. "Have you sent them?" "When will they get here?" "Don't forget them!" Grandpa says, each time imparting Mom with a sense of impending doom. Sooner or later, she is sure he will realize the soup and its rain checks will never come to him.
But this morning, she broke down, followed my advice, and compounded her lie.
She told Grandpa she had gone to the store and bought the soup. But then she did what I had only joked about before, she told him that the store had only had the low-sodium kind of his flavors of soup. So when Grandpa gets his soup, he will be stuck with the low-sodium, which is better for him and he will eat because he was raised in the Great Depression, which is why he hordes food in the first place.
The saga of Grandpa and the Soup is, however, hardly over. Mom doesn't have that low-sodium soup any more than she had the rain checks that supposedly provided her with a discount on it. She will some day end up returning to her father's house, and at that time, she will be expected to hand over the cans of soup, so Grandpa can put them in one of the upstairs bedrooms, which will be filled from floor to ceiling with nothing but cans of Progresso.
In fact, years from now when the house is being excavated by archaeologists, all they will find will be columns of Progresso soup, arranged as if they were on grocery store shelves because Grandpa used to work in one.
I wonder if they will be able to tell that a persnickety old man lived there?