They arrive at Elijah and Susan’s around eleven thirty. They pull up into their driveway and Abraham turns off the engine. He waits for Lucy to find something she is looking for under her seat. She pulls out a square box covered in a wine glass wrapping paper. “Oh, sweets, when did you do this?” says Abraham.
“I just got it, you know, around.” Lucy giggles. “Here,” she says, “take it. You can open it now.”
He takes it from her and kisses her on the lips and it makes a big smacking sound. He peels back the wrapping paper with its little glasses of red wine and it is a wooden plaque with lyrics to a song carved into it.
“Oh, sweets. Lu.” He brushes his old fingers over the words carved in the wood. “...a dream by strangers quickly told…”
“We can put it over our bed,” she says.
They kiss for minutes before they see the living room curtains drawn back. There is a little boy in the window. He sees them in the car and waves. Grandpa Abe waves back and the little boy walks away and the curtains fall back and the front door opens. They get out of the car and the little boy runs down the stairs to Grandpa. Behind him is a blonde-haired man in a pin-striped suit wearing a glossy pink tie. He is holding a small box. Behind the man is a tall black-haired woman, much taller than the man, in a champagne-colored dress. She is holding a bouquet of flowers. Grandpa hears a number of voices say, “Happy birthday!”
Grandpa bends down on his bad knees and lets the boy hug him. Grandma hugs her son in the pin-striped suit and just as soon as she does that, the woman in the dress takes Grandma by the arms and puts the flowers in her hand.
“These are for you,” says Susan.
“For me?” Grandma asks, “Why do I get flowers on Grandpa’s birthday?” She laughs.
“Because, just because we love you and we’re appreciative of you and taking care of him and I don’t know.” They hug again.
Joseph steps away, but is caught between Dad hugging Grandpa. He looks out between their legs at Mom and Grandma talking and pointing at the flowers Mom bought from the gas station this morning.
Dad and Grandpa stop hugging and Grandpa asks, “So, where are you taking us? Are we under-dressed? You guys look pretty fancy.” Grandpa looks down at Joseph and rubs his big hand through Joseph’s combed wet black hair. Joseph is wearing a white dress shirt that is too small for him and a blue clip-on tie that he hates.
“God, Dad. No, you’re not under-dressed. You are looking good, just fine. We’re going to Cezanne. It’s a French bistro. You’ll love it - oh, Mom, you’ll love it too. Susan and I, it’s our favorite place.”
Grandpa and Grandma nod at each other, smiling. “I’m sure we’ll love it.”
They all get in Dad’s car. Grandpa sits in Mom’s seat and Dad drives, but Grandpa wants to. Joseph sits in the backseat next to Grandma. Next to her is Mom. It is weird that Mom is sitting in the backseat and it is a little funny. Grandma smells very strongly of perfume, but Mom and Dad told Joseph not to comment on it. He feels proud that he is mature enough not to comment on it. He is getting better at not commenting on people. He only talks about it later.
Grandma tries talking to Joseph on the way there, but Joseph does not turn to her. He only looks out the window, watching the trees wave past, and saying “yeah” to any question Grandma asks. Not all of the questions are yes or no questions. She moves all of the conversation over to Mom.
Joseph does not care about the trees. He is listening to the conversations in the car. Dad asks Grandpa how his week was and how the drive was here. Dad wants to know if Grandpa is still a good driver. Grandpa says oh, that it was a good drive here and well, you know Mom. She loves adventure and so, we stopped at a cemetery on the way here. In the backseat, Grandma is talking about the cemetery too, telling Mom about it. And the two conversations mix when Grandpa asks Grandma to describe how beautiful the view was from the top of the hill. It sounds gorgeous, Mom says, you’ll have to take us there. No, Grandpa says, we decided that you kids are gonna have to bury us there. So, I guess in a way, we will take you there, as long as you promise to take us there! Joseph hardly remembers the conversation. It was something about graveyards.
They walk into the bistro, Cezanne’s, and Grandpa takes off his hat and combs his wispy white hair with his fingers. Grandma unravels her scarf and Mom rubs her arms, because she is cold. She didn’t know that it was going to be this cold. Of course it is, Grandma says, it’s still winter! No, Winter ended yesterday, Joseph says. Either no one hears him say it, or they are so shocked to hear him say more than one word, they cannot speak one themselves. Dad is talking to some man in a black and white suit. Joseph looks around and he wants to stay close to Mom and Dad, because he was told that he had to be on his best behavior at Cezanne’s. The walls are wood panels and there are trees in pots. A man in a black and white suit comes by and asks Grandma and Grandpa if he can take their coats. Grandpa lets him take his coat and he takes a dollar out of his back pocket, but the man will not accept the dollar. Grandma does not let the man take her coat. She turns around and gives her coat to Mom and Mom says thank you.