“Well, you can stay here if you like!”
I had it all figured out right up until I found out that Grandma Hyland wasn’t at the address I had and there I was standing on a porch trying to explain to a very old, lonely woman who I was, where I had come from, and why I was there when she politely cut me off and said “Well you can stay here if you would like….” I felt like a deer in the headlights, but sleeping inside a house, and knowing this lady could cook, I mean all old ladies could cook right? This not only sounded really good, but it was also really my only option till I could figure out my next move……
What a beautiful area this was. It was Fall and I had never seen so many colors of leaves on the trees. The little house was backed up to the base of a mountain, well at least being from Texas it appeared to be a mountain. This was definitely a good spot for a rest.
Right away this lady introduced herself as Mary and hustled me in showing me a room where I could stay and suggesting I get a shower. “I will cook some dinner,” she said. Bingo! Bingo! Bingo! and I’m not talking Four Corner Bingo this is Blackout Bingo – a bed, a shower, a meal, warmth, and I bet she had a TV too. After getting showered and cleaned up I went back to my room to find my cleanest dirty clothes and well it was weird. My backpack had been emptied and all my stuff was organized in small piles except for my clothes which Mary had decided to wash. She had laid out some old farmer blue jean overall thingy for me to wear. Ok. I was still willing to play along at least until after I ate, but I thought “This ain’t normal, right?”
Well, dinner was amazing, but probably anything would have been good compared to what I had been eating. Even to this day every time I eat meatloaf, I can float right back to old Mary’s house there at the base of some mountain in Pennsylvania. Mary had expressed how Grandma had moved out to a town called Batavia to be close to some friends of the family who were better suited to take care of her. All in all, it was nice to be indoors, warm and fed, but something felt off. I just thought it was weird how Mary never really inquired much about what I was doing, how old I was, or why I was out on my own. I mean the only thing she really offered up and it was because I asked was information about Grandma. Logic would have been more along the lines of trying to find out my story and at least snitching me out to my family, but that wasn’t possible as she had not yet inquired at all on any personal type information.
Next thing I know she announced it was bedtime and I was thinking “Hello, it’s not even 9 pm!” I lay in bed and played so many scenarios in my mind about how weird this was and wondered if this lady would creep around at night, was I replacing a lost child, and what would happen if she didn’t let me leave? Hey, wait a minute. This lady did not have a TV and I had never seen a car either! OK, I decided I was out of there in the morning because it just didn’t feel right. Needless to say, I looked forward to sleeping in a nice bed, but I didn’t sleep a wink and yes, she did creep around at night – I could hear her! Long story short, in the morning I gathered my now clean clothes and all my stuff, packed up and said thank you and off I went.
What an amazing feeling it was once I was back on the road. There was comfort in just being alone with my own thoughts as I tried to figure out where I was going next and then it occurred to me, “Hey, I have another grandma.” Erie, Pennsylvania to Buffalo, New York was just up the road so off I went with another plan.
Most of my memories of Grandma Ag were that she always lived in neat houses and usually big ones, well not this time. Knock, knock on her at best one bedroom apartment and there it was “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Your Mom is worried sick! Where have you been and how did you get here?” I thought to myself “Well, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all,” and sure enough right off the bat Grandma says “You’re not staying here! You are going right back home. I’m calling your mom.” “Wait, wait, wait! I was just stopping by to say hi. I’m on my way to Batavia to stay with Grandma Hyland and I’m not going back home!” This slowed her down a bit. She suggested that I eat first and I was good with that. I knew she was in the other room making phone calls as I was thinking “Now what do I do?” Sure enough, Grandma comes back with sandwiches and chips and states “Ok, your mom says you need to call and she will get you back home somehow.” Well, this whole living on my own sure was complicated. I eat, kiss my Grandma Ag and off I went. Maybe Grandmas weren’t the best plan.
Well, eventually I did arrive at my Grandma Hyland’s house in Batavia, New York and was welcomed with open arms. Afterwards, things even reached a point of some normalcy.
Now as I had mentioned she was close to some folks who appeared to be overseeing her care and living arrangements. Granted this was done from a distance of eight miles to be exact. See the family looking out for Grams lived in Alexander, New York and that’s where I ended up living during the week. I would go back and forth on the weekends to Grandma’s in Batavia. It appeared there was a consensus or concern that grandma would not be able to handle me, you know with that black fog that followed me around and all. Not that I was dangerous, but I was a bit unpredictable, at least that was my best guess. With that Mr. and Mrs. Cavanaugh, Grandma’s caretakers, were up for a challenge. I mean what could go wrong? He was a retired Air Force Colonel and now worked as a cop at some base in Niagara Falls and Mrs. Cavanaugh, well you probably think I’m making this up but she worked at The Attica State Prison just down the road. Did I mention they had a son? Oh yeah, Marty. He was a state champion swimmer working on a full-ride scholarship to Penn State and all he had to do was graduate from high school this year and of course, not get into any trouble. Back in Texas, we would have labeled old Marty as a goody-two-shoes type, a jock, maybe even a nerd.
All I can say is buckle up because this is going to get good. As it worked out, me being a country boy and cowboy from a big city in Texas elevated me to Rock Star status at least with the girls. You see this town was so small that to call it a one red light town would be a stretch and kindergarten to 12th grade, you guessed it, was all in the same building. The graduating class from the previous year was a total of six students and the population in Alexander was at best 1900 people (lots of old church-going folks). Let’s just say it was my job to make sure Marty graduated and went to Penn State. Yup, I now have a purpose.