|The Ice Cream Cone|
by CJ Heck
Millicent Cole was Jake's wife, Kali and Kristin's mother, and grandmother to Douglas, the eight-year-old son of her oldest daughter, Kali.
Kali was also the daughter who told everyone tonight at supper that she and her husband are getting a divorce.
It was news that rocked Millie's comfortable world for the second time that week.
Now, sitting in the front row on a wooden folding chair, Millie's eyes focused on what first rocked her world, the rosewood coffin surrounded by flowers at the front of the room.
She was there to say a final goodbye to her beloved grandfather who passed away only two days before. Already she missed him terribly.
Add that to the bomb Kali dropped tonight about the divorce and it was fair to say, Millicent Kathryn Cole was feeling very, very vulnerable, like free-falling from the sky without a parachute.
Her thoughts wandered to a summer long ago, when she was about Douglas's age. It was the summer she was given the most precious gift she had ever received.
The gift was so dear to her, and yet it hadn't come folded in soft tissue paper in a fancy cardboard box. It had not been wrapped in colorful paper, pretty ribbons, or bows, nor had it come with a store-bought greeting card. It had been such a simple, loving gift and it had come from Grampa ...
Millie had just turned eight when her best friend, Kylie, tearfully told her that her parents were getting a divorce. Her friend was miserable and Millie didn't know what to do, or say, to comfort her. She couldn't understand why Kylie's parents would get a divorce -- and Millie was about half mad at them for hurting Kylie that way.
When the driver finally opened the bus door in front of her house, Grandpa was there waiting for her on the wooden bench. She was glad to see him. Maybe Grampa could help her understand how this awful thing could happen to her best friend.
Grampa gave Millie a big hug. "Hello, Millie-Me!" [That was Grampa's special nickname for her].
Millie told him she was sad. Then she told him about her talk with Kylie and now she felt so helpless. "Why would her parents do that and hurt Kylie? I don't understand." Millie said in a voice choked with tears.
Grampa got down on one knee and hugged her again. Then he suggested they walk down to the park. Grampa spoke in a gentle voice, "I think it's time for an ice cream cone."
After Grampa paid the vendor for their cones, they walked down the little winding path through the park, under the thick canopy of trees, past an old woman feeding pigeons, until at last they came to an empty bench.
After they sat for awhile, Grampa pointed to her cone and said, “You know, honey, falling in love and getting married are a lot like your ice cream cone. You got one scoop and took a lick. Well, it tasted so good, you asked for another scoop right on the tippity-top of that one."
Millie was too busy licking the little drips that were starting to run down the sides of her cone to say anything, so she just nodded her head.
After a few more minutes, Grampa pointed up to the sky. "Today sure is hot. Yep. There isn't a cloud in the sky. The sun’s shining down on you, and it’s shining down on your ice cream cone, too. It sure looks like you’re enjoying it. In spite of all the drips running down your fingers onto your hands, it must be pretty darn good."
Grampa paused, and then he said, "The faster your ice cream melts, the faster you’re licking to catch all of the drips."
Millie nodded again in frustration. It was true. The drips were coming much faster now. Her tongue was having trouble keeping up with them all around the cone.
They’ve started dive-bombing from all sorts of different angles and grabbing little bites all for themselves. With the hand that isn’t holding your ice cream cone, I've been watching you swiping and swatting like crazy to keep the bugs away."
Now Millie giggled. Grampa was making the bugs sound like real people who wanted her to share her cone with them!
Grampa giggled, too, and then he continued. "Now, what if Old Blue was here?
Let's say that old hound dog is sound asleep in the shade over there. Suddenly, he wakes up and sees the drips you’re leaving on the sidewalk down there by your feet. He would probably lumber on over here and lap up a few of those drips. He might even like them so much he'd try and take a few bites right from the cone in your hand!"
Millie thought about the melting ice cream and all the bugs. "I'm sure glad Old Blue's not here, too, Grampa! There's not enough ice cream on this cone for all of us!" She said in a loud voice.
"Well, there you are, honey. You'd be swiping at the bugs with one hand, pushing Old Blue away with your elbows, and meanwhile, the sun would still be melting the ice cream faster than your tongue can lick to keep up with it."
The bugs were being so pesky now that Millie was getting angry. She got up from the bench and tried to run away from them, when all of a sudden --
Millie frowned. She looked down at the pile of mushy ice cream and the sugar cone that had landed upside-down on the ground between her feet.
Slowly and sadly, Millie walked back over to the bench and sat down beside Grampa.
She sighed, and after taking one last peek at her ice cream mess on the ground, she asked, “Grampa, why do bad things have to happen to good people?”
“Sweet girl, there is no particular reason. Sometimes they just do.
You know, getting married can be just like your ice cream cone. It was exactly what you wanted, when you wanted it, and it was wonderful, too. The love part truly is wonderful.
Sometimes, though, there are just too many inside and outside things that get in the way. Each of those things is taking big bites, little bites, pushing, pulling and shoving, until they've melted down all of the really good parts."
Millie thought about her grampa's words. Getting married sure sounded like a lot of work -- and a whole LOT of problems. Millie made up her mind. “Grampa, I don't EVER want to get married!”
“Millie-Me, that ice cream cone sure was good ... wasn't it?"
"It was the best, Grampa, but it's all gone now!" Millie sniffled. "And it was my fault."
"Yes, it finally dropped on the sidewalk, but we both know you worked real hard to keep it, and I'm proud of you. I hope you'll always remember, that while you had it, it was good -- it was really, really good. Wasn't having it worth all the work in trying to keep it?
It doesn't have to be anyone's fault. Sometimes, what finally happened to your ice cream cone just happens, and in real life, that can happen with a couple's marriage.”
Millie nodded. She finally understood.
She gave Grampa the biggest hug she could muster and he hugged her right back. "Yeah, Grampa. It was worth all the work. Thank you."
Grampa smiled and kissed the top of her head. "You're welcome. C'mon Millie-Me. Let's go home."
It was such a perfect memory, and I'll always treasure it. Oh Grampa, you will be so terribly missed ...
"Hi, Gram." Millicent was surprised right out of her daydream. She looked up to see Douglas's tear-stained face as he plopped down in the chair beside her.
"This is a double-dang, triple-dang BAD day, Gram. First Great-Grampa died, then Mom and Dad said they are getting a divorce. Why, Gram? I don't understand why they are doing that."
"I know, Dougie, I know." Millie said sadly, as she wiped at a tear escaping down his cheek. Then she hugged him. "Let's go see your mother. I think it's time you and I walked down to the park for an ice cream cone."
Then, after wiping a misbehaving tear of her own with a tissue, Millie added, "Dougie, let's go make a memory ..."
“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck