The Holder of Joy


I was around 12 when the family first talked of having grandpa Derek, my father’s father, committed.
It was after my father’s death that I would overhear my mother talking on the phone with my aunts, or her sisters about it.
She said he was mad, a danger to himself and others.
I remember Grandpa at the funeral.
I was sitting by my mother, holding back tears as best I could, thanking a line of friends and family as they passed by, hugging my mother and me.
Then there was Grandpa, “Oh, Charlotte, what’s the matter?” He said with his wide smile.
“What’s wrong with you? Your son is dead!” she cried back. “Isn’t there a bone of compassion in your body?”
His smile didn’t recess a bit- he only cocked his head to the side, his eyes still locked with my mother’s. Then he looked over at me, and for some reason I smiled back at him.
“Danny gets it, don’t you, my boy?” He laughed, rubbing my head.
I couldn’t help but laugh, my mother looked at me with rage. I never understood why she was so angry then.
“You need to leave,” my mother said to Grandpa, standing up from her seat.
“Charlotte…”
“Leave now,” she cried, her voice barely a whisper.
“Let’s go, Derek,” one of Grandpa's friends said, pulling him away.
He was laughing as he left, and he turned and winked at me.
I think my mother hated him for that.

The whole family lived on a big plot of land, bought with stolen Yankee money after the civil war, and Grandpa lived within walking distance of the house.
I jumped on my bike and rode to his house the first time I heard her say it.
“Grandpa, Mom’s going to have you locked up!” I shouted before I was even off my bike.
He laughed. “Well, why would she do something like that?”
“She said you was crazy, she was talkin’ to Aunt Wilma on the phone, and they said they was gonna get you 'mitted.”
Grandpa burst into laughter.
“Get me ‘mitted, will they?” he laughed, and his friends laughed with him. “Don’t you worry, Danny, your mom’s just blowing off some steam.”
“But what if…”
“If what Danny boy. You don’t think I’m crazy, do you?”
“Well… why wasn’t you sad about dad dying?"
“Of course I was, of course I'd miss my son. But the thing is, Danny, you’ve got to find the joys in life. God knows they won’t find you.”

My mother still talked about it on the phone, but nothing came of it. Some of the family would come talk to him, like he was a child, picking at his brain, and he would just laugh and give them silly answers. No one really considered him dangerous, and his house was close enough to a mad house.
She would get angry when I would go to Grandpa’s house, but I just couldn’t tolerate her. Ever since dad died everything she said was so negative.
It got to where I spent most of my time at Grandpa’s house, listening to his friends playing music.
Strange men would come to his house, and walk around to the back porch where the music was coming from. Some of them looked insane, haggard with long beards and shifty eyes, and some would come in suits with briefcases and well-done hair.
They would all come straight to Grandpa and say, “How could any man be sad?”
His friends would all stop and look at the stranger.
Grandpa would laugh as he stood, and place a hand over their eyes for a moment. Every one of them would look up slowly, and begin to cry.
Some of them would leave, some would offer money, some would sit down and ask Grandpa questions, but he would just laugh.
Benny, a fiddle player that spend most of his time at Grandpa’s making music would bring his daughter Emma to his house, and we would run around the house and play.

Emma and I got married, and I didn’t see much of Grandpa after we had two children. But one day, Adam, a younger man who would come play music at Grandpa’s house, came and said Grandpa was very sick.
He was still at his home, and the doctors had said there was nothing they could do.
“They said he would have a couple days at home, or a month in the hospital, he just wouldn’t stay,” my cousin said as we walked to his bedroom.
I heard him laughing through the house, but it turned to a coughing fit as I got closer.
“Danny, my boy,” he said, smiling, “shut the door, hurry.”
I shut the door and went to his bedside. It broke my heart to see- his skin hung off his bones, his eyes sunk into his skull.
“They say I’m going to die, my boy, but what the hell do they know?” He laughed for a moment, and then a long fit of coughing into his hand. It came away covered in blood. A wide smile spread on his face. “Hurry now, I don’t have much time. Come here, close.”
I leaned in toward him.
“There’s something I thought I should show you,” he said to me, and he placed the bloody hand over my eyes.

There was a flash of light, and suddenly I saw my mother with her wrist open in a pool of blood. I saw Emma, at least 10 years older, covered in blood, gasping for breath in a mangled car. I saw my oldest son, 3 then, a teenager in the vision, choking on his own vomit with other bodies and liquor bottles strewn about a hotel. I saw a middle aged man storm through a small apartment with a pistol and shoot my youngest daughter in the back of her head. I saw more- my friends, my family, everyone I’ve ever known dying, all in one moment.
I stepped back gasping, unable to breathe.

Grandpa lowed his bloody hand, looking intently on me. For the first time in my life there wasn’t a smile on his face.
Breath finally escaped my lungs, in the form of a “ha,” and then more. I laughed, and laughed, and he laughed with me, until he broke into another violent cough.
“Why… why did you do that?” I finally managed to ask.
“Oh, my Danny boy, it was you all along. It’s a gift, my boy, and a curse. It’s yours now. Do you remember the men that would come here?”
“How could a man be sad?”
“That’s right, they’ll…" he was interrupted by a violent coughing fit, "they’ll come for you now, and unless they pass the test they can’t have it.”
“Have what?”
“The joy, my boy, can’t you feel it?”
“Grandpa I… how can I ever feel joy again? I feel... broken.”
“Oh, Danny, you’ve got to find the joys in life, you know that, they’re not going to find you.”
“Well, what is it? What is this gift?”
Grandpa coughed violently before he could answer. “I don’t know, Danny, I doubt anyone knows. It's a part of something bigger than you and me, but it's yours.”
“What if someone evil passes my test, or someone crazy? Do I have to give it to them?”
“Yes, Danny. This is bigger than us, and not for us to decide.”
“Grandpa, I don’t want this damned thing, Grandpa!”
The old man just turned his eyes up to the ceiling, and his mouth stretched wider, into an eternal smile. I felt his pulse ebb away and I closed his eyes. I was filled with sorrow, anguish, unimaginably so.
So I laughed. And laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
Last modified on 2009-11-14 20:40:49Average Rating: 5 / 5 (1 votes)Viewed 195 times

AllRightCounter Statistics