Background on this post can be found here: An Open Letter to all Serious Presidential Candidates
“Grandpa’s here!” shouted Joel as he peeked out the living room window.
The rest of the kids, including Beatrix, ran to the front door. Aidan yanked the door open, grinning. The boys danced in anticipation.
“That’s not grandpa!” Ryley shot an accusatory glance at Joel. “Don’t you know grandpa when you see him?”
“Well who is it then, huh, huh, huh?” retorted Joel.
“Mom?” The kids turned to me, “Who is it?”
“It’s Senator John McCain. He’s running for president. Let’s make him feel welcome!” I smiled at them.
Ryley held the door. “Hi, Senator!”
Senator McCain offered his hand to all the kids. I really must have a hand-shaking clinic soon, with all these presidential candidates coming to our house. My kids gave him high fives. They smacked him characteristically hard, as if Mr. McCain had just convinced daddy to go to Dairy Queen after dinner.
The Senator was very gracious when he asked for some ice. His hand was rapidly swelling. I fetched a bag of frozen peas from the freezer and wrapped it in a tea-towel featuring a blue bonneted goose.
“Would you like to sit?” My husband asked.
Before we could move into the living room, Tommy was handing the Senator the guitar from Guitar Hero III and instructing him on star power.
“Tommy, let’s give him a few minutes to rest and talk.”
“Okay, but I want him to play Slow Ride when you are done.” he said as he scampered out of the room.
I turned to Senator McCain. “So.”
“Dinner smells delicious.” he said.
“I’ve heard they are nice.”
He shifted on the couch. Unfortunately, it is worn and sagging, so his knees were higher than his lap, making his pants high-watered. I noticed his socks were mismatched. One was navy and the other was black. It must be an occupational hazard, living in hotels on the campaign trail, dressing in the newborn hours of the morning, being in the sunset years of life. But it was also a little endearing and I saw him as vulnerable—everyone knows the grumpiest old man on the block hides a secret affinity for wee kittens, double rainbows, and Pepperidge Farm cookies.
I asked him if he plays chess. He answered that I must have been thinking of Kasparov’s comment about his foreign policy prowess. He repeated it verbatim. “The Russian ruling elite is rooting for Hillary Clinton, who represents a known and predictable entity compared to Barack Obama. John McCain has been outspoken on behalf of democratic rights abroad, including Russia. Regardless of the doubts about Mr. McCain’s conservative credentials at home, the thought of him in the White House strikes fear into authoritarian leaders everywhere.”
Sam said, “Say wha?” and booked out of the room.
Joel joined him, shouting “So long, suckers!” which absolutely mortified me. I have no idea where he got that from and he only uses it at the most embarrassing moments: Exiting Sunday School, to the staff at the doctor’s office, and now to a man who could be President.
The Senator cocked an eyebrow and stood. “I have another meeting this evening…” his voice trailed.
“The table is set, and the roast is done. Why don’t you take a seat at the dining room table? I’ll gather the kids and we’ll eat.” I offered.
I had to round them up from the basement which took more than a few minutes. They were busy playing King Emperor President of Everything and his Four Puppies of Power. I think they had just invented it.
We settled around the table. Milk was spilled. Silverware clacked. The potatoes were perfect.
The conversation was mostly chit-chat about state capitals and anecdotes about childhood pets. All through dinner, Mr. McCain was gracious and patient with the kids.
My husband shoed the kids away from their half-eaten plates after about 20 minutes. They were glad to go back to their game. It was Ryley’s turn to be King Emperor President with a twist: he was going to be King Emperor President Indiana Jones Skywalker and bedtime was lurking.
“Why do you want to be President?” my husband and I asked in unison.
“Isn’t that what you call a jinx?” noted the Senator, who continued, “Because I am the most qualified and I love this country. We have a lot of work to do. I hope I can count on your vote in November.”
It sounded rehearsed, but doesn’t all political speech? We told him we were still expecting the Democrat front-runners to come to dinner and couldn’t commit. But we were glad he came. We stood. He ducked into the powder room, which I had to unlock. I locked it earlier in the day after I cleaned so the kids wouldn’t be able to gross it up.
I gathered the kids so they could say goodbye. This time, they shook hands. I was proud as they lined up by the door almost like a little Von Trapp family. I half-expected them to break into So long! Farewell! Auf Wiedersehn! Goodbye-eye!
But they didn’t. They bounded up the stairs to find pajamas and books. Soon, they’d be safe in their beds.
I just want it to stay that way.
Note: the above events are purely fictional and not an endorsement or attack of John McCain. The invitation to dinner is still open, BTW. Stay tuned for future dinners…
John McCain’s official website: McCain