"Oh uh...where were we again?"
Dana (6 years old last Thursday) looked up at her grandfather, sullenly staring at his wispy grey eyebrows. She smacked her grandfather's thigh where she was sitting, with all the strength she could muster to convey her annoyance.
"You and Grandma were hiking up the mountain, and you came across this big lion, and then this big bear attacked it and then you bopped it on the head with your walking stick and ran away...and then what?"
He chuckled, "Oh of course, the lion and the bear. How could I forget?
"Weeeell, it was still early in the afternoon, and your Grandmother wanted to get all the way to the top of the mountain before the sun set. By the way, I think it was a lioness that was stalking us - must have been tailing us up the mountain for the better part of a morning. And that bear must have been 4 metres high!" He waved his hands ferociously (but carefully, of course) above her, demonstrating how fierce the bear was, and how big his paws were. After a few moments of terrorizing his grandchild with playful tickling, he continued.
"We still had such a far walk to go, and I complained a lot (though I'd just bopped a bear on the head!), just like you do when you're tired and you don't want to walk to the shops. Your Grandmother absolutely hated me that day! I kept complaining and complaining - 'How long til we get thereeee?', 'I'm tired', 'I'm hungry' and 'Let's go back!'. I wanted nothing to do with that summit. That fight with the bear had taken a lot of my energy - and there was much more fun things to do down the mountain anyway. It was a dumb mountain and, as I told you yesterday, it was a long hike. I wanted to go home as soon as we'd seen those dangerous beasts.
"But she wouldn't let me - 'Thomas,' she said. 'When I want something done, it will be done, and -
"- if you try to be more happy, it'll be more fun!" Dana interjected excitedly. Thomas laughed at her imitation.
"Exactly. She hasn't changed in 40 years! Always harping on with that damn phrase, she was. I'll never know where she picked that silly thing up.
"But when we got there, it looked brilliant, absolutely radiant! The sun was just about to drop below the horizon, the wind was refreshing; the view was absolutely spectacular! We stayed up there and watched the beautiful sunset and then-
- and then she turned to him, with her big, round, brown eyes and whispered to him the four words he had long wanted to say himself. He stared, surprised and dumbstruck, as she had just pre-empted what he had planned at the bottom of the mountain for them. It was just like her, to anticipate his every move, and beat him so soundly at it. It was what he loved about her. It wasn't just her hair, or her eyes, or her style. It was how she could persuade him that up was down, the way she curled that little tuft of hair as she ate, her pursuit of beauty in everything he did, and the annoying way he would never, ever be able to beat her at planning. The only thing he would ever be able to organize better than her were his vows, and that was because she was in charge of literally everything else. His vow was a promise, a dedication, a binding oath of what their lives would be in the future, and what he would do to bring it about (hers would be rushed, but still beautiful). He squeezed her hand, and thanked the heavens that this ray of sunshine sent down to him would love him with all of her heart and illuminate the dark places within him. He trembled as he spoke, knowing of the amazing life they were going to share...
- and then we ran all the way back down, being chased by all the lions and tigers and bears on the mountain. I think your Grandmother even hit one on the nose on the way down!" He tapped her on the nose as he said this. The doorbell rang, and Dana rushed to the door.
"Mum! Dad! Grandpa told me about how he hit a bear and then ran away from all these LIONS!"
"Oh really? He must be very brave, huh?" her dad said. Dana nodded.
"One day I'll have to go up there and see them for myself!"
"Well then, you have to practice being brave now and go get dressed so we can go out!" her dad chased her up the stairs and she yelped "No!" to the prods and pokes as she clambered up.
"Hey, Dad," Thomas' daughter approached him, speaking softly. "Let's go help Mum."
Thomas gruffly nodded and took up his walking stick.
She'd need all the help he could give.