When I was 13 my parents put me on a flight from Philadelphia to Boston. My paternal grandmother, recovering from a near fatal heart attack, needed a live-in caregiver at the summer cottage in Rockport, Massachusetts. My grandfather had died three years earlier.
When we learned of her need, there was an extended family discussion. The doctor said she needed someone with her for the next month.
Who would stay with Grandma? Who could go stay for a month?
Grandma insisted on going to Rockport when released from the hospital, and she did, all by herself, though she remained bed-ridden on doctor’s orders except for necessary short trips to the facility and the kitchen.
Shall we say Grandma was…just a tad stubborn, and her stubborn independence was a worry for the whole family. She wasn’t safe and shouldn’t be alone.
My cousin Gina would have been the most likely candidate, but Gina had married a MacDonald. Grandma – of the Campbell clan, the mortal enemy of the MacDonalds – had refused to bless Gina’s marriage to Norman, and would have nothing to do with either of them. Did I mention she was stubborn?
Partly by process of elimination and partly by reason of her grandson seizing the chance to live up the road from Old Garden Beach and the Headlands in my favorite place in the world, I boarded the plane and stayed the month in Rockport.
I took the train from Logan Airport to Rockport, suitcase in hand, walked the mile from the train station up Atlantic Avenue beside Rockport Harbor and turned left onto Harraden Avenue. It didn’t occur to me that it was odd for a 13 year-old to be on his own on his way to an onerous responsibility. Old Garden Beach, the Headlands, and nightly trips to Bearskin Neck and Tuck’s for ice cream were on my mind more than Grandma.
Grandma Stewart was in bed when I opened the picket fence gate and walked in the cottage’s unlocked door. We greeted each other with outspread arms, Grandma’s eyes big as saucers, flowing with tears.
“We’ll be safe,” she says. “I have a gun.” She points under the bed.
I pull out a revolutionary war rifle weighing about 10 pounds. There’s no ammunition. Just an old revolutionary war musket, like the ones the authors of the 2nd Amendment had in mind.
“Grandma,” I say, “I don’t see any bullets. Is it loaded?”
“I don’t think so,” she says. “It’s heavy. We’ll just hit ‘em with it!”
The rifle stayed under the bed long after my month playing long-distance nursemaid and body guard to Grandma from down at the beach during the day and from candy and ice cream shops on Bearskin Neck at night. I was the family hero.
Poor Grandma! Poor America! Wouldn’t the founding fathers be proud!
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, December 5, 2015