I won’t pull all the way into his driveway.
Joey’s biological, maternal grandfather. The man Joey calls “Pops.”
I call him “Pig.”
Among other things but, this mornin’, I told myself, “Clean up your language, man. What kind of example are you?”
And the truth is, the past 6 years, I’ve, at the most, let only 2 or 3 cuss words slip.
Not bad. Not perfect but not bad.
Not a bad example for Joey. Though I could do better.
But, anyway, I won’t pull all the way into Pop’s driveway. I pull in far enough to get out of the road. But no further. I park between the open halves of his entrance gate. I ring the cell phone of Joey’s mother. 30 seconds later, Joey walks out the front door of his grandfather’s fortress/mansion and gets in my car.
He says, “Why didn’t you pull all the way up?”
I say, “You know why.”
Joey rolls his eyes, digs in his pocket and pulls out a 20 dollar bill. “I told you I have my ways,” he says.
“Where’d you get that?’
“Found it in some sheets of Poppy’s.”
“You goin’ through your grandfather’s sheets?”
“Well, okay, but half of that’s goin’ on your school lunch bill.”
“But mom says my lunch should be free.”
“And your first lunch is free coz you’re on the program but your 2nd and 3rd times in line aren’t part of the free lunch thing.”
“I tried to tell Mom but…”
“I know you did. Just tell her I took care of it.”
“The last time I did that she put me in timeout.”
“For talking about bills, about expenses.”
“Okay, don’t say a word. I’ll take care of it.”
“So I can keep all…”
“No, you’re givin’ 10 bucks to the lunch lady. We owe 80.”
“Okay, I’ll give her the money. But we’ll still owe 80 after I’m done with my lunch. It’s pizza today and I’m hungry.”
And I’m pissed.
Joey’s poppa, a self-described livin’ large in a big house on the water, with a Humvee, Harley, landscaped island paradise theme park olympic size pool big shot…
Joey’s poppa, the man who, 20 years ago, told me I had “best not fuck with'” him coz he had “money…”
Joey’s poppa, the same man who said he made “10 Million Dollars” in 2004…
The same man who brags about comin’ from the “mean”, middle class “streets” of small town, tourist trap Florida to become a “pillar of the community,” Joey’s poppa, the same guy who lied about writing a “9 thousand dollar check” to cover his grandson’s return to private Catholic School, is the same man who hasn’t really paid a dime toward Joey’s education or general welfare, except for housing and the occasional pizza, in at least 3 years.
Most or all of the money has come from Joey’s granny, a woman Joey’s poppa despises, and me, a man who traded in a low-payin’ job working as a mental health/substance abuse counselor for a low-payin’ job workin’ as a musician.
Joey’s granny was my partner for 13 years and, though we’re no longer together, we are life long friends. She is not the “witch” nor the “crack whore” nor the “bitch” Joey’s poppa has, for over two decades, claimed her to be. She’s generous and she provides for her friends and her grandson.
I love music and my gig schedule allows me to take Joey first to breakfast then to school. I usually pick him up from daycare, review homework, take him for a snack then take him to the playground then home.
Joey’s playin’ McDonald’s Monopoly and hopes to win a million dollars. He pulled the “Park Place” piece from his french fries yesterday and all he needs now is “Birdwalk.”
I went to church with him this mornin’ and the priest’s homily focused on “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened.”
At the end of mass, Joey starts bangin’ his knuckles on the pew.
I say, “What are you doin’?”
He says, “I’m knockin’, man, I’m knockin’.”