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Independence Day - Part 1 by htflatnc
Independence Day - Part I
"That’s it, let it out nice and easy. And shift," my grandpa was saying. I almost had to laugh. There was almost nothing "nice and easy" about my grandpa.
I looked down at my feet as I was shifting gears, and my bangs which hung down from a center part to the left and to the right flopped in my eyes. I flicked my head back to get the hair out of my eyes. And my grandpa noticed and pounced, "You know, if you got a proper haircut, you wouldn’t have the problem of all that hair in your eyes. I don’t see how you stand it. Plus you can see that it can be dangerous. What if there had been a truck coming?" He then looked in the rearview mirror and said, "What’ve you got that s**t-eating grin on your face for? The same goes for you as well." My grandpa was looking at my twin brother Mike in the back seat. We weren’t identical twins, but we did have the same haircut with long center-parted hair.
I didn’t say anything but grinned at my grandpa. Mike, however, did say something. No backtalk, just an "aw, grandpa," but that was enough to keep the rant going for another four or five minutes. Throughout, Mike just kept the same s**t-eating grin on his face.
I loved my grandpa. Seemingly tough as nails, but to me he was a marshmallow. I reached up and touched my hair unconsciously flicking it out of the way during his rant. I had been thinking about cutting it. But now wasn’t the time to talk about it. He wore a flattop in keeping with his 25 years in the Marine Corps. I’d always known him to have a flattop and as far as I was concerned it was part of his identity. He got his hair cut once a week and would invite me and Mike along on his excursions, but neither Mike nor I had taken him up on the offer since we were about eight years old.
That Sunday afternoon, Mike and I were taking our first driving lessons in his pickup truck as we learned to shift gears. We both were 15 and had finished driver’s ed classes and the driving portion as well. None of the cars used in the class had a stick shift though. While we both had a learner’s permit, neither of us had a license. Being able to drive a straight shift was a good idea as my tough-as-nails-marshmallow grandpa had also talked about buying a new truck and letting his two grandsons inherit this one. That same conversation had also revolved around us going this coming summer to a Marine Corps boot camp for teenagers. Most of the kids going there were going because they had disciplinary problems or they were pudgy and needed to get into shape. That didn’t fit either Mike or me. We both may have been spoiled, especially considering the upraising my grandpa and my father had, but neither was a disciplinary problem. While I could see that we would be in fantastic shape for football in the fall especially if we went there late summer, we wouldn’t have the summer to play baseball, as both of us wanted. Plus, there was the haircut. I watched a video online of initiation and also the physical conditioning the pudgy kids were undergoing. I figured the physical conditioning would not be too much of a stretch since Mike and I were both used to working out since we both played sports year round, but the haircut was another matter. There were also a few gung-ho Marines in the making. That wasn’t Mike or me either though our father and his father had been in the Marines. Our dad, though, had not been a lifer like grandpa. But he had grown up as a Marine Corps brat. All of this was whirling around in my mind as I was driving and learning to shift.
After about an hour of driving and shifting gears, including learning how to shift from a stop on a steep hill without rolling back down the hill and killing ourselves, it was Mike’s turn. Mike had the same problem when he looked down at his feet with the hair plopping down in his eyes drawing grandpa’s ire. Mike continued to make the mistake of answering back when grandpa went on one of his rants. Again, he only said, "aw grandpa," but that was enough to get grandpa going for another few minutes talking about our long hair. He told us that if it weren’t Sunday, he would be driving us over to the barbershop right now. He probably meant it too.
Grandpa had about enough after a couple of hours of us driving around on country roads learning to shift gears and go on his occasional rants about our long hair. Grandpa took over the wheel, finally, and made a point of driving past Jerry’s Barbershop where he got his flattop sculpted every week. "Now there’s where you boys can get a good haircut rather than going to that fancy salon you go to. It’s probably only about a third of the price as well. And you can shoot the breeze with other guys while you’re there too." But it was closed since it was Sunday. We were saved - at least for now.