Blake watched from the kitchen window as his eight-year-old grandson tossed a toy across the yard for Buddy, the retriever-mix that Blake had bought and the child had named. They were growing up together, the dog and boy. Blake watched his grandson while his parents worked and it was a good arrangement for everyone. Since the death of Blake’s wife, Celia seven years ago he had lived alone in the big house where they raised four children. Sometimes the quiet felt like a blanket, heavy upon him after so many years of noise and chaos.
They were two kindred souls, the little towhead boy and golden-haired dog, running, tumbling and roughhousing across the green manicured landscape. Joey laughed and called to the dog, which barked in return and presented his prize, a worn tennis ball.
Blake smiled and returned to the figures on the computer screen in front of him. Not a moment later, his grandson appeared at the window and knocked.
“Grandpa, the brakes on my bike aren’t working. Can you fix them for me?”“If you didn’t drop your bike on the ground every time you stop they wouldn’t loosen,” Blake chided him. Closing his computer, he headed to the garage to help his grandson.
In the garage, Buddy swirled around his beloved humans, panting and ready to run. Both he and the boy were impatient at the delay, and Joey sighed loudly.
“I hate it when things break.”
Blake found a wrench and tightened the brake. “There you go. Sometimes you just have to tweak things a bit.”
Jumping on the bike, Joey called thanks, which were lost in the breeze. A half-hour and a glass of tea later Joey returned with Buddy, both of them bounding up the front porch steps.
“Guess what, Grandpa? Buddy found a girlfriend! I think he’s in love!” Joey gushed as he plopped down on a next to the older man.
“What makes you think that?” Blake said, lifting an eyebrow.
Joey pulled the dog close. “There was this girl dog at the park and he kept sniffing her. Can dogs smile?”
“I think so,” his grandfather replied. “Love is a good thing.”
“Have you ever been in love?” Joey asked, wiping his nose with a sleeve.
Blake laughed. “Yes, twice. Once with your grandma and now with you.”
“No, I mean real love. Like a girl.” Joey rolled his eyes and let go of the dog, which found a fly and chased it around the porch.
“Yes, a long time ago,” Blake replied, chuckling. “Once, your grandmother was a young girl and I loved her very much.”
“Can old people fall in love?”
Blake found a tissue for his grandson and gave it to him. “Yes, of course.”
“Dad says you’re lonely without grandma.”
With that, Joey jumped from his chair and ran for his bike. Once again, he had knocked the brake loose and called to his grandpa, who had it fixed in a minute.
“You can fix anything! Thanks, Grandpa,” Joey called as he and Buddy hurried down the street again.
He was just about to pop frozen pizza in the oven when his doorbell rang.
“Would you happen to be Joey’s grandfather?” asked a petite, brown-eyed woman holding a little dog in one hand and Buddy’s collar in the other.
Blake opened the door and stepped out on the porch. “I am. Is he okay?”
The woman smiled. “Apparently, his dog Buddy has fallen in love with mine. Joey gave Missy Buddy’s collar as an engagement present.”
Blake laughed. “He told me that Buddy has a girlfriend.”
“Oh, yes it’s love,” teased the woman. “But even more so, the collar is broken and Joey insisted you can fix it.”
He invited her to the garage and while Blake twisted the clasp back into place he learned that Julie was not only his new neighbor, but like him, widowed with a grandchild who she adored.
“So I guess we’ll be seeing each other now that our dogs are engaged,” he said as she scooped her pooch into her arms.
“Grand-dogs and grandkids. Life doesn’t get any better,” Julie laughed and wished him a good-day. Blake watched as she moved down his driveway and onto the side walk.
Joey returned in a blur of fur and flying dirt, dropped his bike and ran up the driveway. “Hey, Grandpa. Did anything happen while I was gone?”
Blake raised an eyebrow. “As a matter of fact, son, a nice lady stopped by to show me Buddy’s new girlfriend.”
“Did you like her?” Joey teased. “I mean the lady.”
Laughing, Blake said that he did.
“See, Grandpa?” Joey hugged his dog and smiled. “Some times you just have to tweak things a bit.”
“Indeed,” replied his grandfather. “Indeed.”