It was all wrong.
A musician from the church down the street plunked out the sounds on our ancient upright piano. The tinny notes of the wedding march rang out through our tiny house. My grandmother made her way into the living room on the arm of my solemn uncle. A gray-headed pastor and an auburn-haired man awaited them.
Everyone’s old. And Granny’s not dressed in white.
The minister opened a book and read. I stared, making no sound. Weddings should be in church. Brides shouldn’t be gray or wrinkled. They must dress in long fancy gowns. An uncle shouldn’t escort the bride.
Nothing here matched. Yet the man held hands with Granny. He even kissed her at the end. My stomach churned.
They laughed. Odd. Shouldn’t old people be serious?
After the ceremony Mr. Alvin Cofer squatted down before me. His ruddy face was inches from mine as he gazed into my eyes. “Cindy, you must promise to call me ‘Granddad.’”
My heart pounded. So this is my new grandfather? I must do what he asked. After all, he was fifty or some huge number, and very tall. On the other hand, I was only five. “Okay.”
Invisible chains enveloped me. I’d never made a promise in my whole life. Now I had to call him granddad, because I gave my word.
Mother snapped a bunch of pictures, and I posed with the two of them. What would this grandfather be like? What a strange way to get a grandfather—because of a wedding. I stood beside him, his hand on my shoulder. A grin masked my uncertainty.
As the two of them walked toward the car, Mama opened a bag of rice and tossed it toward them.
“Alma Jo!” Granny ducked and held up age-spotted hands. “Don’t! You should save that. It’s a waste of good food.”
I covered my mouth as Mother kept right on. She even ran closer and giggled while sprinkling some right into Granny’s hair.
A few months later, Mom delivered my brother and me to the Cofer home in Cleveland. They invited the two of us to stay for the weekend.
“Hello, Cindy.” Granddad Cofer scooped me up and smothered me with kisses. “It’s so good to have you here.”
I stepped back once he released me. Is this what new grandfathers do?
He patted my brother on the head. “Welcome, son. Would you like to walk down to the store and find a treat?”
My brother’s eyes widened. “Yeah. Let’s go, Cindy.”
I nodded and headed for the door.
He chuckled and followed behind us. “I’ll have to unlock. We’re already closed for the day.”
The two of us scampered down a steep gravel drive to the weathered building. Grandfather shuffled along behind. Passing the two gas pumps, we bounded onto the creaky porch.
Mr. Cofer dangled a cluster of keys and bent to unlock the door. “Come along.”
I stepped inside and wandered about. What treasures! “Do you own all this, Granddad?” That name sounded weird.
“All this belongs to the store, but yes, the store is mine
A huge counter in the front had a metal cash register with round buttons. A cooler sat on each side of the door. One had pushups, nutty buddies, and ice cream cartons. The other held every variety of coke you could wish for. A bottle opener hung on the side. Trays of candy bars and pastries lined the counter. Shelves crisscrossed the store holding canned goods, flour, sugar, groceries I’d never heard of, and even books. Several volumes were about the Bible and had pictures of men in flowing robes. A small alcove in the back had a black iron stove, a few chairs, and a bed for the cat.
After examining my options, I chose a Three Musketeers Bar and carried it to the register.
A smile crinkled his entire face as he grabbed me into a huge hug. “Is that all you want? Just one candy bar? Could I talk you into a Coke?”
Two deserts? But his blue eyes were serious. Besides, he was really squeezing and I wanted down. “Can I have a Reese’s cup?”
“Sure!” He sat me on my feet and reached for one. “And you wanted a Coke too, right?”
My brother appeared with a Mars Bar. “You can have two, if you like. And choose a Coke, like your sister.”
Moments later, we marched up the hill, laden with goodies. Granddad locked up and followed.
Granddad Cofer shared our lives for four years. Mom insisted he curb his generosity, and allow only one Coke and one candy bar a day. He never, however, rationed affection. He bestowed me with multitudes of bear hugs and kisses. After his death, I didn’t want to stop calling him grandfather. He’d earned the title. His warmth taught me a little about my heavenly father, the one whose love is boundless.
“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” Eph. 3:17-19