“Come inside, boys, your dinner is on the table.”
The two boys bounced into the dining room, they chorused. “Yes, Gran, we washed our hands.”
She had a shrewd idea what the towel in the bathroom would look like, just as well she had a stack for when they came to stay. Somehow whatever they were supposed to wash off would end up on the towel, not glugging down the drain. Still, it was such a joy having them and she knew it made a big difference to their parents. Her son Harold, after a successful career as a science teacher, had said all he ever wanted to do was study medicine. They had made that great leap, Daphne took up a senior nursing position at the hospital and he became a student again, because of his science background it would be five, not seven years of hard grind. This was Harold’s second year. The boys had adjusted to their new circumstances, or so their parents thought.
Sitting looking at the laden table, the boys looked at each other and smiled. In appearance, they were identical twins, but that’s where it ended. One outspoken, the other more introverted. He looked at his brother to do all the talking. One had a more positive outlook on life.
“Gran, this looks like a feast can we start?”
She smiled. “After your Grandpa gets here and we’ve said grace.”
One of the rare occasions when the boys spoke together. “Come on Grandpa, hurry up we’re starving.”
The old man chuckled as he shook his hands dry. The towel didn’t look too good. “Anyone would think you hadn’t seen food for years. It’s only a few hours since you demolished a huge bowl of soup with bread and cheese.”
Michael (the talker) said, “Grandpa, don’t you realise we’re growing boys. We have been outside on our skateboards working up an appetite.” He smiled at his brother, who nodded approval.
“Right, well, we better see what you can do with this spread. Malcolm, it’s your turn to say grace.” The lad nodded and said the shortest grace he could get away from saying.
Gran dished up and soon the only sound was the clinking of cutlery on plates. The boys saw no reason to slow their consumption of food with unnecessary talking.
At last, replete, they pushed their bowls away. “Gran, thank you. That was awesome. We don’t get decent pudding at home anymore.”
A flicker of alarm shot through her. “What do you mean? Are you not getting enough to eat?”
“No, Gran, I mean real pudding like you make, Mum only lets us have fruit. It’s hard since Dad started studying. I don’t think Mum earns much as a nurse, so she says we have to eat healthily. We get loads of vegetables and fruit but none of the nice things like ice cream and the things you make for us.”
She smiled and thought she would bake a cake and a few tins of biscuits for them to take home. They were not going short on healthy food, but luxuries probably were in short supply. It was such a radical step to leave one career and embark on another. She was pleased Daphne allowed her husband to indulge his passion and retrain. She knew it would pay dividends, but the boys saw no further than their next meal.
“Come on, boys, have you finished packing your things? Grandpa is ready to load the car.”
The drive back was uneventful and after exuberant greetings, the boys disappeared to their rooms to see Mum had not thrown any treasures away. Michael was pleased to see his precious rat skull was still in pride of place on the bookcase with its snakeskin headband. Daphne would not dare to touch anything so special. She wondered if it was normal for boys to collect such weird things, then thought maybe they were nurturing another doctor or maybe a biologist. Malcolm was an electronic geek. Strange looking bits and wire littered his room. She and Harold encouraged their interests. However, she insisted the floor be kept clear for the vacuum cleaner. If it were on the floor and sucked into the cleaner, she would brook no argument. It was gone forever. Both boys had learned that lesson the hard way. Now she could at least enter to clean and make beds and put washing away.
The adults sat in the lounge drinking tea. “I’m sorry Harold was not here to greet you. He asked for the day off today, but there was an emergency, so they called him in to help.”
The old man’s heart swelled with pride. His boy was doing a great job. It would be good to see him, but he knew only too well work had to come first.
In the kitchen, Daphne looked at all the tins sitting on the kitchen table. “Mum, what have you brought here? Do you think we’re starving?”
The old lady shook her head. “No, I know you make sure the boys have a good sensible diet. These are the little extras. If you hide the tins and dole it out, the boys will have days of treats. Otherwise, I fear they will all be empty by this evening.”
Daphne nodded her head in agreement, “I know I think they are like swarming locusts. Anything edible disappears in a trice.”
The old lady dropped her voice, “Daphne, I know I shouldn’t ask, it’s none of my business, but are you managing ok financially?”
Daphne thought a moment, then thought it’s her son and grandchildren. Of course, she has a right to know.
“To be honest, Mum, it’s difficult. We don’t go short on the essentials. I cannot stretch my meagre salary to anything extra. Thank you so much for all this baking. We only have to hang in there for a few more years. Once Harold is qualified, he will get a job doing what he wants and the difficult financial situation will disappear. You must not worry about us. We’re doing fine.”
The old lady set her mouth firmly but decided these two were so proud they would never ask for help. She determined to see there were treats baked and delivered regularly and the boys would get money for their birthdays and Christmas. That way, they could buy the treats they wanted.
The door banged. “Hello guys, I’m home.”
The boys raced to greet their father when the hullabaloo quietened he moved into the lounge to greet his parents.
Harald looked out over the sea of faces, then he saw them, his family, waving frantically. He smiled as he stepped up to receive his degree. The boys were ecstatic telling everyone around them it was their dad and he was now a medical doctor.
Later, holding hands with his wife, his boys jumping around, he looked at his parents. “You have all been so supportive. I don’t know how to thank you for all the sacrifices you’ve made and the extra work you’ve done to get me here. To achieve my life’s ambition to be a medical doctor. I will see you are all rewarded as soon as I can.”
“Great Dad, does that mean we can have an ice cream?”