Eleanor was always excited when Grampy came home. She would rush to the front door when she heard his truck honk at the end of the long dirt drive, flinging herself down the stairs to greet him as he unfolded himself from the front seat of the pickup. He would scoop her up into his arms and swing her round, before pulling her in tight with an almost crushing hug. He always smelled of salt and sweat and fish, which she could never tolerate for too long—but it also smelled to her like homecoming.
He would place her back on her feet, grab his bag out with one hand, and hold her little hand with the other, and they’d make their way back up the porch steps. That’s usually where they went their separate ways. Grampy would stop for a second to hug Eleanor’s mother, his only daughter, and then march his way upstairs for a shower and quick shave. Eleanor would dip into the kitchen behind her mother, and start preparing Grampy’s lunch.
Ever since she was six years old, Eleanor insisted that she make it herself, carefully slicing pieces of bread off the big loaf (under her mother’s watchful eye) lathering them with mayonnaise and mustard, before carefully stacking lettuce, tomato, cheese and giant chunks of ham between the slices. She’d leave her mother to cut the sandwich into quarters, while Eleanor ran to the fridge for the potato salad and pasta salad that she and her mother always made the night before Grampy came home. With two heaping helpings of the salads, and the quarters of the sandwich carefully arranged on the plate—The plate was set down at Grampy’s usual space in the dining room.
During the meal, it was her mother’s turn though. While Grampy ate, he and her mom discussed the farm in the weeks since he left, what animals were doing well, doing poorly, and discussing the thoughts and plans that her mom had come up with while she was running the place. They stayed at the table until all the business was discussed. Eleanor never spoke during this, but she listened to every word, absorbing as much as she could. After all, one day it would be her job to run this place, and she didn’t want to disappoint them by doing anything wrong.
But once the business talk was done, it was Eleanor’s night again. They went to the living room, where Grampy would sit in his usual spot on the couch, leaning heavy on the couch cushions, propping his feet up on the coffee table. Eleanor stretched out along the length of the couch, resting her head gently on a pillow placed on Grampy’s knees. He would start telling her about the trip out on the boats for the last couple of weeks. She knew all about exaggeration and “fishermen’s tales” but she would still shut her eyes and listen to the stories, imagining them all happening exactly as he described them. Eventually, she would fall asleep there on his lap, visions of giant fish and wild storms chasing her and her Grampy through her dreams.
The next morning, she would wake up in her own bed with no memory of how she got there—and would hurry to get dressed, desperate not to waste a moment of her Grampy being home before he went back out onto the boat again.