This is a follow up to “Alone at the Table”. The theme is somewhat different, though related, as both entail an element of philosophical exploration and frustration.
For this one, we actually have to go a little further back in time to the year 1995. I was a strapping young lad, all of 15 years of age. The story takes place in Naperville, a suburb of Chicago. Hormones raging and visions of grandeur, I was a legend in my own mind. On top of the world, the sky was the limit.
Yiayia (the endearing Greek word for grandmother) was visiting. She spoiled me. She still does. She only recently stopped giving me money – “a little something for later” – as her and Papou (the endearing Greek word for grandfather) would say. At the time of the story, I just turned 15 so naturally driving was at the forefront of my mind.
And so goes the story, one memorable summer evening. I had my permit so I coaxed Yiayia to sit shotgun and let me take her to McDonalds. She of course complied and I had the privilege of driving without my mother or father’s strict requirements. I was like a kid in a candy shop.
And so I drove like the wind, Yiayia by my side, for my 20 piece nugget (BBQ and Sweet and Sour Sauce please), Big Mac, or Double Cheeseburger (decisions, decisions, those were my typical poisons). I’ve long since changed my ways. Not driving, I still tend to see the speed limit as more of a general guide, but my food habits have certainly changed. You ever see Supersize Me or Food Inc? They will rock your world.
I eat a lot of organic food now and haven’t sported fast food in a long while. But I digress.
You have to understand. I didn’t mean it. I try to explain to Yiayia to this day but it’s still a sore spot. I mean, how much can one empathize being locked in the garage in the dark, even by accident? Yes, I accidentally locked my grandmother in the garage. In the dark. All by her lonesome.
Let me explain.
So the smell of that food was tantalizing. My 15 year old hormones surged to bite into that processed potpourri of fat, salts, and preservatives. I had consumption on the mind. It don’t think it helped that I was particularly hungry that evening. My habit, when I got home, was to run inside, flick the garage light off, and hit the switch to close the garage. Like clockwork. Run inside. Light off. Hit the switch.
It is with great regret, though I must admit some amusement (this has become a classic family story), to say that is exactly what transpired. Naturally, Yiayia started getting out of the car, passenger side. By the time she took a few steps, she would see her grandson go flying by, shut the garage, and turn off the light.
I don’t recall how much time passed. As is clear by this point, I had other things on my mind. Enough time passed, however, that my mother inquired. “Where’s Yiayia?” I was of course scarfing down my greasy toxic prize. Mouth full, ingrained in contemplating my next bite, I was awoken from my stupor.
I sprang towards the garage door. I heard the faint sound of screaming as I grew closer to the source. Still closer, I opened the laundry room door, right outside the garage where the screaming was heard in all it’s glory. I opened the door and turned on the light. There was Yiayia, trying to feel her way towards the door and the small glimpse of light. Naturally, there were many obstacles, so she didn’t get very far.
I don’t know exactly what I said. All I can recall was “I’m sorry.” She was fine (angry, but fine), so naturally I began to laugh. I apologized again, but with my smiling and laughter, it only exacerbated her response. Needless to say, she was furious. It probably didn’t help that my mother and father were nearly rolling on the floor.
It’s a deep story, with many parallels. It’s frustrating. Being locked in the dark by your grandson whom you just purchased dinner isn’t flattering. It’s funny. My family and I still can’t help but laugh when we look back and reminisce. It’s philosophical – almost Platonic – like the Allegory of the Cave.
The philosopher often feels she is in the dark, searching for the light. We’re chained to wall and all we can see is the shadows. Is there more than just chains and shadows? What is the true source of the light? Is there even a light to be searching for?
Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” He also said that all he knows is that he knows nothing. And so Yiayia, I tip my hat, from one philosopher to another. Sometimes in life, we’re in the dark, clutching, grabbing, and searching for the light. But let us not lose heart Yiayia. Sometimes in the dark, in searching for the light, in realizing how lost we are, we’re that closer to being found.
And Yiayia, your grandson loves you, more than you know. In laughter and love, thank you for lighting up my life.
Image credit: Bob Gillis