Well, she was happy to see me, a couple of days later, when I showed up unexpectedly at her house.
"It's me, Grandmother! It's Harold!" I cried, throwing my arms wide when she opened the door.
"Harold!" she cried after she recognized me. "It's been years! Come in!"
Her house was as resplendent as I'd remembered it, full of fine antique furniture and vases and such. But the finest antique of all was Grandmother, who looked to be about 106 years old and kind of shuffled along, her shoulders stooped.
Man, ol' Ralph was right! She had aged! "Now, how have you been, dear Harold?" she asked a few minutes later as we sat at her solid oak kitchen table sipping weak hot tea.
"Oh, fine, Grandmother," I said. "I've been, you know... busy." "I'm sure, dear," she said, reaching across the table to pat my hand. "What have you been doing?"
"Well," I said, "for a while... you know, I had this web page."
"I'm sorry. Page?" she asked, turning, as she went to the refrigerator for cream. "Page? You're a writer?"
"Uh...yes," I fibbed. "But my last... book... didn't sell many copies, and I'm, you know, kind of..." I trailed off. (No! This wasn't the time to bring up money! That would wait until her will was read!)... kind of working on another book, now, and I'm sure this one will do fine!"
"What do you write about, Harold, dear?" she asked. "Uh... write about... well, computer stuff. They're very popular now, you know."
"Oh, I know!" Grandmother said.
"You know about computers, do you?" I asked her, laughing inside at the very idea.
"Why, Ralph and Eddie chipped in and bought me one for Christmas," she said.
"Indeed! Well, that was very...generous of them. Are you on-line? Oh. 'On-line' means your computer is connected to a mo-- "
"Oh, of course I'm on-line, Harold, dear," Grandmother said. "Well, that's very nice. You can get lots of recipes and crochet patterns and things like that from the-- "
"Oh, no, dear!" Grandmother said. "Not recipes! Chat rooms! Why, I've met the most interesting people in chat rooms!"
I nodded, trying and failing to picture this old lady sitting at a computer. Gosh, her arthritic fingers would be slowly hitting one key every forty seconds... well, she probably went to some Old Folks' Chat Room-- Geriatrics R Us or something.
"And I met Rosie there!" she went on.
"Well, that's nice," I said. "Yes, indeed. People can find fine friends in chat rooms. Happens all the time. I'm very happy for you, Grandmother. Does she live nearby?"
"'She?'" Grandmother asked. "She who, Harold, dear?" "Rosie," I said, trying not to show my impatience. "You know. Your chat room friend."
"Oh! Rosie's not a 'she,' dear. He's Roosevelt. And yes, he lives quite nearby. Quite."
"Well, that's... fine. Yes. Well, I must be going," I went on rising.
"Please, Harold, dear, I'd like you to meet Rosie. I've invited Ralph and Eddie over for dinner next Sunday afternoon at two. Rosie will be there. I'd like my family to meet him. You can make it, can't you?"
"Why... I'd like nothing better than to meet your new friend," I said, lying like a rug. "I'll be there!"
When I met him I knew he was bad, bad news. That Sunday the five of us sat at Grandmother's lace-covered dining room table. As we chewed the fat and the food, I kept sneaking glances at Rosie.
What was his angle?! Why was he fawning all over my grandmother?
"Well. So. How old are you, Rosie?" I ventured. "Harold!" Grandmother scolded. "That's rude!" "It's okay, Pumpkin," Rosie laughed. "I'll be 58. Next week."
"Happy birthday," I murmured.
"And my little Puddin' here," he went on, nodding lovingly at Grandmother, "well, she may be a decade or so older'n me, but at our age it doesn't matter."
A decade?! I thought, trying to figure out my grandmother's age. When I'd finished the mental gymnastics, it come up to a lot more than a decade.
And here he was, the lousy bum, coming on to a probably senile old lady who was old enough practically to be his mother.
Why couldn't my grandmother see that Rosie was interested only in her money?
And how dare he?!
How dare he take advantage of my grandmother?! He wasn't even a relative!
During the weekly Sunday visits after that, all Grandmother talked about was Roosevelt.
It was getting serious between them! Grandmother was serious about Rosie, and Rosie was serious about her money.
I couldn't let them marry! He'd take her for all of her money! My money!
On the following Sunday I rang her doorbell and, to my surprise, Ralph answered the door.
From his long face, I knew something bad had happened. To Grandmother? Could it be that the poor dear had suddenly taken a turn for the worse? After all, they had said she was aging. Rapidly.
I tried to look worried. "Whutsup?" I asked Ralph. "Nana has a terrible cold. She's coughing dreadfully and has a high fever, too," he said, stepping aside as I entered the house. "She called Eddie and me to come over when she woke up sick this morning," he went on.
Interesting. She'd called them and not me. But still-- she hadn't called Rosie, so that was encourag--
"She called Roosevelt, too, of course," Ralph went on, "but he wasn't home."
"Nana's up in her bed," my cousin added. "I... I think I'd like to see dear Grandmother," I muttered, starting up the stairs.
"Of course," Ralph said.
A man's got to do what a man's got to do, especially when a man's XXX-rated website didn't do well and he owes a lot to his bookie and...