I am my maternal grandfather’s favorite grandchild, or so goes the family joke-truth. I was the first grandchild. When I was born, my grandpa quit heavily smoking and drinking, which he’d done for 40 years, cold turkey. My mother had given him an ultimatum; but let’s be clear, he didn’t stop because of her or my grandmother or his own health. He quit because of me. This is one of the heavy realities of my birth.
Luckily, for grandpa and I, we’ve pretty much always gotten along. I spent an enormous part of my childhood at my grandparents’ house, and my grandpa even lived with my family for many years, on the weekdays anyway, when building two of my childhood homes. He taught me how to hammer nails and developed my love of cheddar cheese. Grandma often comments that I’m sometimes the only one who can make him really smile. (Both grandpa and I are prone to resting bitch face; it’s a thing.)
My grandfather is notoriously stubborn. And I can dig my heels into the sand with the best of them. But being grandpa’s favorite, I learned that sometimes it was better to ask for forgiveness and count on unconditional love than ask for permission when I knew there was a ‘no’ attached. Grandpa always seemed more lighthearted when I asked for forgiveness. Even if it was just changing the TV channel with his remote.
Almost every year as an adult, I bring my cat “home” for Christmas. Now my grandfather grew up in rural South Dakota and believes that animals should only be kept for work. If my cat was out in a barn killing mice and other vermin, fine. But my cats are pampered, indoor creatures. As a child, I dressed them up in Cabbage Patch Kids clothing, and as an adult, I feed them higher quality food than many people eat. I learned long ago never to ask my grandfather or let him know I was bringing my cat. And he still acts like it’s a surprise every year to see me carrying in my feline companion along with my Christmas gifts.
However, it’s always be crystal clear that my cats were not allowed in grandpa’s room or to do such horrible things like snuggle up to him.
One year, I was taking a shower after everyone else had gone to bed. When I got out, my grandma was knocking rapidly on the door. She was in a panic. After grandpa had gone to sleep and grandma was still getting ready for bed, my cat Winston had wandered into their room. When grandma had tried to remove Winston, he’d growled, hissed, and snapped at her. This was very un-Winston like behavior.
My then-boyfriend and cat co-parent, Jason and I ushered her away, assuring her we’d be right there to remove Winston. After she’d gone, we look at each other in knowing horror, as Winston only displayed such rude behavior when:
- you gave him his very favorite treat, a dental CET chew, and then he thought you were going to steal the deliciousness back;
- there was another cat around;
- or he was masterbating and you interrupted him.
Despite being neutered, Winston had been on a lustful streak that winter. We’d caught him with several of my stuffed animals. My own foot had also been on the receiving end of his amorous affections, usually to my rude awakening. Jason and I had read all the debates online about pets and masturbating from people who spray bottled them to those that gave their pets special humping-friendly toys. We were more concerned with the object of his wantonness.
As we retrieved our lustful cat from grandpa’s room, we could barely contain our laughter. Winston tried his best to stay with grandpa, but Jason and I weren’t afraid of his rage at our cockblock. And thankfully, grandpa stayed asleep through all the libidinousness ruckus.
The next morning, we had the rest of family roaring with laughter about Winston’s misplaced sexual instincts. And everyone was sworn to secrecy so one person would never find out about Winston’s debauchery of his foot: grandpa. Sometimes it’s just better that he doesn’t know.