When Grandma Rose invited me over for dinner, I readily accepted. Cooking on The Gypsy was limited and I was getting tired of sandwiches. When I walked in the door I was greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread. “Yum! Something smells good!” I said as I gave Grandma Rose a hug. “I made your favorites, Jac. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. The bread is for you to take home- I am hearing that you are making a lot of sandwiches.” We laughed. I guess maybe I had complained about my sandwich making to Grandpa Joe.
Grandma Rose shooed me into the living room. “Why don’t you practice a bit. Joe and Billy aren’t here yet- they ran into town to get Billy some warmer clothes. He didn’t realize it still gets chilly at night here in Wisconsin. He’s used to California weather.” She laughed. “We’ll get him straightened out yet.” She went back into the kitchen as I went to the piano and opened the keyboard. I ran my fingers lightly over the keys. I hadn’t played for awhile. I sat down and started with some simple warm ups and then started to play some of my favorites. I was singing softly to myself as I played. It felt good.
I was concentrating on my music and working on some pieces I hadn’t played for at least a year. I was stumbling through a few stanzas of Midnight Blue. Melissa Manchester does a good version. Her version uses an electric piano. My version on a regular piano makes it seem like a different song. I used to play this song as part of my set when I used to sing in Madison. It’s a good couples song, good for late at night.
All of a sudden, I realized that someone was singing harmony. I looked up to find Billy Richards standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He was wearing a brand new blue Sampson’s sweatshirt. They must have stopped by to see Amy. “Hi. Nice sweatshirt. ” I said as I stopped playing. “Hi. Thanks. I got three in different colors. I’ve been freezing my ass off. ” He said back. “Don’t stop playing. You almost have it. Scoot over.” He came and sat next to me and pointed out a few things on the sheet music. “I think this is where you are getting hung up.” He showed me how he would play it. I practiced a few times and finally got it. We played and sang the entire song. It wasn’t half bad.
Grandma Rose called, “Dinner’s ready, kids.” Billy and I got up and went into the kitchen. Grandpa Joe was already sitting at his spot at the table. Billy and I sat down. I was in my usual spot and Billy went straight to the other side of the table, so I got the impression that was his usual seat. That was where Mick used to sit. Grandpa Joe said a quick prayer and we got to eating. It was delicious. We all ate the first few bites in silence. That is a sign of a good meal. After a bit, Billy started to tell us funny and interesting stories about his life and also asked about our lives. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Rose told the story about how they met and got married. That’s a good story. I didn’t say much.
Towards the end of the meal, both Billy and I told Grandma Rose it was the best meatloaf we had ever had. We meant it. “That’s because you both are starving yourselves!” Grandma Rose exclaimed. Billy laughed. “That’s true… I used to just drink instead of eat. I am going to have to figure out how to not drink anymore while trying to not get fat from eating Rose’s food. I have a rock star figure to maintain.” I smiled. I was surprised how open Billy was about his drinking.
“I’m not trying to starve myself, I just haven’t been very hungry.” I confessed. Everybody looked at me. “Do you know what’s going on?” I asked Billy. He nodded. “Yes, I am sorry to hear it. I don’t know the gory details, but I got the gist. I am sorry that is happening to you Jac, you are in a tough spot. That’s the kind of thing that usually happens to me! If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.”
I was getting a little choked up. I think everyone could tell. I got up to clear the table. “Billy, you can help by going into the living room and playing a few songs while Grandma Rose and I get the kitchen cleaned up. Grandpa Joe will keep you company.” Billy and Grandpa Joe went into the living room. I stood at the kitchen sink with my hands in the hot, sudsy water and washed dishes. Grandma Rose stood next to me and dried. I bowed my head and cried a few tears.
All these changes were a lot to absorb. Mick had a son, Billy was sitting in Mick’s spot at the table… I was living on a boat and playing music with a rock star. Grandma Rose let me cry. She understood. Billy played a bunch of songs from his Greatest Hits album. He kept it light, playing only the happy songs. I think he knew I needed it.
The rest of the evening was spent playing music. Billy brought down his guitar and played for us. He played a bunch of stuff… his famous songs, plus some old time tunes that everybody knows. Grandma Rose played as well. It was clear to me that they had played together before – they were good. It was a nice evening. I was tired though, and before long I just laid down on the floor, put a sofa cushion under my head and listened to Billy. Paulie came over and circled three times and laid down next to me.
Before I knew it, it was 10:30 and it was time for everyone to go to bed. Grandma Rose wanted me to stay, but I told her I would be fine. Paulie and I jumped into my Volvo and headed back to the marina. I swung into my parking spot at the marina and Paulie and I walked up the dock to The Gypsy.
As I stepped onto the deck I could see Smitty McCoy flashing his flashlight three times from his upstairs deck. I didn’t have a light, so I yelled, “Goodnight Smitty!” He yelled back, “Goodnight Jac. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Someone from a few docks away yelled, “Get a room!” I could hear Smitty laugh. I smiled, shook my head and went below deck with Paulie.