Grandparents are there to help the child get into mischief they haven’t thought of yet.Gene Perret
Windenburg Cameron Lake House
Blaine entered his home studio in the basement, where he sharply said
“Hey! Kid! Whatcha doing in here?! Step away from that!”
“I was just looking at it, grandpa.” Everett had quickly turned around, looking guilty.
“Your parents didn’t teach ya that you look with your eyes, not them grabby lil paws?! Hands off the merchandize, Rett! You kids know you have no business in my studio!”
“I just wanted to see how it feels … and sounds …. “
“Well, spoiler alert: sounds like a guitar, and feels like one too, because – SURPRISE – it’s a guitar. Now get that grabby teen butt out of my studio. There is a lot of expensive shit – ahem – equipment in here. Out. NOW!”
“Ooooh, I will tell grandma you cursed in front of me … unless, of course, you teach me how to play.”
“Ah yeah?! I’m going to teach you how to run real fast, unless you want to wear your feet as earmuffs kid, if you come at me like that! Blackmailing his own grandfather!”
“Grandpa, please. I want to learn. PLEEEEEEASE!”
“You guys have a keyboard at home. Get your jelly fingers on that, not ruin my guitar. That thing is very important to me. Had it for almost all my life and will probably be buried with it one day.”
“Okay, I’ll just wait to dig it back up then and THEN I will play it!”
“You are going to be buried long before me if you keep that attitude up!” Blaine growled.
“Grandpa, don’t you want someone to follow in your footsteps?”
“NO!” Blaine roared.
“Come on, sure you do. Please. Just let me try a few notes and if you think I have no talent, I’ll leave it alone.” Everett begged.
“First of all, you brat, it’s called chords …”
“Chords! Got it! See you already taught me something and I already learned! I can do better. Pretty, pretty please. PLEEEEASE! Please, please please, PLEEEASE!” Rett smirked at Blaine, making begging motions with his hands.
“Oh dear Lord. Fine. Besides, you are fruit of my loins, even if only indirectly. Of course you have talent. How could you not? All right, so pick up that guitar … CAREFULLY … no not like that! Hold it gently, but firmly, like a woman’s ass.”
“Uh, grandpa, I am not even 15 yet … I have no idea …”
“Seriously?! That spiel with me?! Really?! You think I don’t hear the stories from your parents? Your game with the girls is already legendary, Rett! Take away them freckles and the fire engine red hair – wherever you got that from anyway – and I am looking in a mirror!”
“OK, fine, you got me, I like girls and they like me, but apparently I haven’t got your mojo with the ladies when it comes to getting into – well – ‘up-close combat’, so to speak. All it ever got me so far was slapped.”
“Case in point, too much, too fast, before you or anyone is ready. Life lesson right there for ya, kid. All right, fine! Let’s do this guitar thing then. For starters, don’t ever again grab my guitar like the last crableg at the buffet! You want firm but GENTLE and respectful. Like you mean it – but nicely. Yeah, like that … that’s better. The old girl has been through a lot with me, so you treat her right. True fact: men who know how to handle instruments always make better lovers too. For future reference, when you are old enough that such facts won’t get me into trouble with your parents and grandmother anymore, whenever that is.”
Everett grinned proudly, then ran his hand across the strings, which got him a light whack in the back of the head.
“OUCH! What was that for?!”
“Did you hear me say fondle it now, you jabroni? Cos I didn’t hear myself say that! I clearly remember saying pick it up. That was all.”
“Well, why am I holding a guitar if I cannot play it?!”
“Fine, you over-zealous little bastard, then play it. Just remember that is the instrument of a seasoned musician, meaning your baby-skinned fingertips will be finely grated on the floor unless you use a pick at least in the beginning.”
“Oh man! Come on grandpa, teach me please. Just a few … chords. And do you have a pick thingy? I really would like to try playing. Just a little and I will be really careful, promise.”
“Well, yes, I do have a pick you can use, but if you ever call it a ‘pick thingy’ again you will be digging it out of your butt! All right, loosen up, widen the stance, declaw the fingers, you’re neither in rigor mortis, nor picking up dog shit here, but pouring your soul into the instrument … Here is a pick, this is used with care and not like stale bread to clean out the last rest of chili from the corners of an old bowl! “
When they surfaced from the basement hours later, I honestly had no idea Everett had even still been at our house, as Declan had gone home long ago.
Rett looked exhausted, but his eyes shone and had a certain sparkle in them. I recognized the look right away, Blaine had the same one when we were about Rett’s age and my mom and I had saved up all our money to buy that guitar for Blaine. Uh oh … this wasn’t just harmless dabbling. This was the beginning of something.
“Thanks grandpa! That was so much fun. You were right, my fingertips are totally numb now, and that’s with using the pick. I will come by every day now after school till dinner time to practice!”
“Whoa whoa whoa! Every day? What the hell kid?! Don’t you have a home?” Blaine complained.
“I do, but that doesn’t have a guitar in it! Or you. I need both.”
“Talk to your parents about getting you a guitar then and your father can play very well, he can teach you! Brendan can’t sing worth a damn, but the guitar he has mastered. I am neither the salvation army not some guitar tutor! Also, I don’t want you here daily! Babygirl, tell him that’s not an option and make that awful kid go away now!” Blaine told me.
“Oh Blaine …” I had to laugh.
“Nah babygirl! I already put up with that brat all afternoon, my poor ears! My patience is on crutches by now! And don’t even dream about it, I am not giving up my guitar! Have your dad buy you one and teach you. And you go home now! I am all out of social for today! Don’t you dare show up here tomorrow!” Blaine warned, but of course Everett knew him too well.
“Yeah, yeah. Bye grandpa, bye grandma, love you guys. See you tomorrow then!” Everett disappeared into the hallways.
“Don’t you dare! You hear!” Blaine called after him.
Blaine only half-meant it. Rett could be exhausting, but Blaine loved his grandkids and loved being around them, even though he very much enjoyed playing the grumpy old man sometimes. It was all a rouse.
Oh, but what wouldn’t turn out to be a rouse was the ghosts that were called forth that very afternoon. Everett had fully inherited Blaine’s passion for music and performing, every single ounce of it and then some. He had the personality for it too, a natural showman, had the desire to work hard on it and he got good at playing quickly. Once that genie was out, there was no way to get it back in the bottle. This was going to happen, the trick now was to steer him and shape him into a solid enough character to withstand the stormy seas ahead.
Everett really did show up at our house every single day now. EVERY. Single. Day.
One afternoon he was practicing with Blaine in our living room when Everett started singing, following Blaine into the kitchen like a puppy while still strumming on the guitar.
“What are you doing, kid?!” Blaine asked irritated, stopping so short that Rett almost ran into him.
“Singing … ” Everett replied in a sort of sing-sang voice, matching the chords he was playing.
“Why?!” Blaine growled.
“Because that song has words … and I like to sing. SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!”
“Oh, knock it off, will ya?! So you think you are a musician and singer now, huh? After just a few weeks of practice, yah? Okay, let’s have a taste then, shall we? Play, sing and look at me. Don’t look away. Straight at me. Right up here in my pretty little eyes.”
“But grandpa, I need to see the strings … I only just started with this.”
“Exactly! You are not ready to howl along with the noise you are creating. One step at a time.”
“Oh, come on …”
“Okay, give me the guitar and get the heck out. Find guitar lessons elsewhere.”
“NO! Fine! We’ll do it your way! Man, grandpa! Why are you so tough on me?! I am really trying here, aren’t you even a little proud?”
“Proud? Sure I am proud and flattered and all that crap, how could I not be, with your constant fangirling, but I don’t let that cloud my vision, because I am no idiot and because I love you, kid! One day you will think back on this very day and thank me in your mind. Think of me what you will now, think I am tough, a dick, anything you want. Truth is, I know exactly where all this is going to lead. You are going to get better and better, clearly you have talent, then your parents will show up at my doorstep to yell at me because their lovely son wants to be a musician now, I am going to get my ass reamed by the whole Cameron family tree up and down for leading you down that slippery slope and none of them will ever – could ever – understand the exhilaration we both feel when we create music! I know I cannot talk you out of it, nobody can anymore, you already licked blood now, nobody could ever talk me out of it, so instead I try all I can to get you ready for all that’s forthcoming, as the entertainment biz is a fickle mistress with a very bad temper! Were I to baby you now, sure, we’d have some lovely grandpa-grandson moments for the photo album, but then you run off to do your thing chasing the illusive fortune and fame, but the music biz will swallow you whole and shit you out so fast, you won’t even know which way is up! You are not ready for any of that, not for a long time, until I say you are! And when you are, you will be able to play blindfolded and sing underwater without ever missing a beat, you will know how to write music, how to record, and how to produce and nobody, no talent scout, no producer, no manager, no groupie, no fan and no journalist could ever say ANYTHING to you that would faze you at all! You will be the one swallowing them whole and shitting them out instead. THAT, my boy, is why I am such an asshole now. Because I love you and you wanting to follow in my footsteps is the greatest compliment any grandson could give his grandfather.”
“Oh. Wow! Oh. Ooof. Wow. All right. O man. Okay. Uh huh. I got it, I think. Is it really that bad in the biz?! Oh and I love you too grandpa.” Everett mumbled overwhelmed.
“The biz?! Don’t use slang you are not familiar with, okay kid? And it’s not that bad, it’s WORSE! Tried to kill me so many time I lost count. You had better toughen up good or find yourself a good woman, cos you’ll need it. And if I ever even remotely sense you even thinking about anything drug related or if you ever drink one single drop of alcohol when you shouldn’t, I will skin you, filet you and hang you up to dry, then restring my guitar with you! Is that understood!?”
“WHOA! Who said anything about drugs?”
“I DID! SO DID YOU HEAR ME?!”
“Yes, Sir, loud and clear.”
“Good, and did I say stop practicing?!”
“Dang, I though mom was tough about chores ….”
“What was that?!”
“Said I love you grandpa! You’re the best.”
“That’s what I thought I heard. Also, there are very few active musicians of any age that have hearing problems.”
“Uh oh. Noted. But for what it’s worth, my mom really is tough.”
“Would you ever do a single chore if she weren’t?” Blaine asked.
“Uh … nah, probably not.”
“Exactly. Same with me. So, play, and shut up kid.” Blaine growled, trying to hid a smirk.
And that would become our new normal, for a very long time.
Before you think how wonderful this is, please remember how hard that road to fame was for Blaine, and by extension me. None of us were truly pleased with this development and while Rett was still so very young, we already braced for the aftermaths of all this …