Julia burst into the kitchen. “Grampa George, you’re not in the newspaper!”
“Julia, what in the world are you talking about?” Julia’s dad glanced at his father with a question mark eyebrow. Grampa George continued shucking corn into a brown paper bag.
“The store clerk helped me look in the abit-you-airy for Grampa George and he’s not in there,” Julia explained.
Confusion washed over her dad’s face. “Dad? Care to explain to me what Julia is going on about?”
Without raising his eyes, Grampa George shrugged. “Guess the old ticker lasted another day. Might want to check tomorrow …ya never know.”
“Dad!” Julia’s father quickly composed himself. “Grampa George isn’t going to die any time soon, sweetie. You don’t have to worry about reading his name in the obituary.”
Julia frowned. “You mean the people in the newspaper are dead?”
“That’s correct. Families write something nice about loved ones who have died. They put it in the paper so that everyone can remember them.”
“Did you do that when Gramma Betty went to heaven?”
“Sure did,” her dad replied. “We added her wedding picture too.”
Grampa George stopped shucking the corn. Julia reached for his wrinkled, sun-browned hand.
“Do you miss her, Grampa?” Julia’s green eyes softened.
Grampa George cleared his throat and roughly pulled his hand away as he stood. “Call me for dinner. I’ll be in the garden.”
“Secluding yourself in her garden isn’t going to bring Mom back. You have a choice to reconnect with your family and get to know your granddaughter. Instead you make jokes about dying?” Julia’s dad scowled.
The only response was a slap of the screen door.
With a sigh, Julia’s dad returned to dinner preparations. Julia escaped into the family room and dug in her pocket for the business card, given to her by an elderly woman at the convenience store. She laid it on the table and sounded out the words as she read:
The Heart Factory
We repair or replace hearts of any size or shape.
Call 694-3278 (M-Y-H-E-A-R-T)
Julia quietly picked up the phone.
A little while later, Julia wandered outside to the garden. “Whatchya doing?” she asked as she approached Grampa George.
Head down, he replied, “Picking carrots.”
“I made an appointment for you.”
“What kind of appointment?” he asked, frowning.
“It’s with The Heart Factory. I told them about your broken heart. They’re going to send a car tomorrow morning at 8 am. They said that it doesn’t hurt and that I can come with you in case you’re scared.” She handed him the creased business card.
Grampa George sat back on his haunches, wiped the dirt off his hand and took the card. “8 am, eh?” Julia nodded. “Well, I suppose that we’ll have to get gussied up. Maybe after dinner, you can help me pick out something to wear.”
Julia threw her arms around his neck. “Thanks Grampa.” He stiffened, thankful when Julia’s dad called them in for dinner.
The next morning, Julia arrived at breakfast wearing a pretty dress and sandals. Grampa George wore the neatly pressed slacks, white dress shirt and sports jacket that she had chosen.
“What are you two doing up so early?” Julia’s dad asked as he entered the kitchen.
“We’re going on an adventure,” Grampa George responded gruffly.
“Is that so?” Julia’s dad stared open-mouthed.
“The taxi’s here!” Julia shouted from the window.
The car drove them to the outskirts of town. They pulled up to a brick factory with no signage, except for a large red enamel heart that decorated the facade.
Grampa George looked skeptical as they were greeted by the elderly lady that Julia recognized from the convenience store. She was wearing an enamel heart pin, identical to the one on the building.
The lady escorted them into a sunlit office where they were introduced to a man wearing a blue tie covered in hearts.
“I’m Mr. D’Amour. Welcome to the Heart Factory.” He shook Grampa George’s hand. “Julia has explained your situation. We can offer two options: replacement or repair. Of course, each has its own set of benefits and limitations. A replacement would provide a brand new heart that would last longer. Unfortunately, you would lose any cherished memories of family that have passed on.”
“I’d forget Betty?”
“I’m afraid so,” he continued. “A repair, on the other hand, wouldn’t provide any additional years, but it would fill the lonely places with happy memories and make room for new ones. In the end, the choice is yours.”
The office was quiet as Grampa George mulled over his decision, avoiding Julia’s anxious gaze. “Sign me up Mr. D’Amour. When do we begin?”
Mr. D’Amour smiled. “You’re in luck Mr. Cooper. We have an immediate opening. We’ll have you fixed up in a jiffy.”
A few hours later, the cab ride home was quiet. Julia noticed a hint of a smile tugging at the corner of her grandfather’s mouth. She cautiously touched it, giggling when it broke into a wide grin.
“What did you love most about Gramma Betty?” Julia asked.
“I’ve always been afraid to talk about her because it hurt too much.” He looked into his granddaughter’s eyes. “You remind me of her. She adored life and everything in it, from the tiniest ladybug in her vegetable garden to the coo of her newborn granddaughter. She always said that time was a gift because you never truly knew how much you had left. I spent too many years missing Gramma Betty, and not enough appreciating the things right in front of me.”
“Like what?” Julia asked.
“Like you.” He touched the tip of her nose. “I’ve got lots of catching up to do.” His eyes sparkled. “How would you like an ice cream cone?”
“It’s morning time!”
“Oh! Your dad probably wouldn’t approve.” Julia slumped. “Better make it two scoops then,” he said with excitement.
Julia’s shock faded as she snuggled next to her grandfather and placed her hand over his newly repaired heart.