Joey sat at the kitchen table, reading the sports page of the morning paper. He heard his grandfather coming down the stairs. When his grandfather came into the kitchen, Joey could see he wasn’t his usual happy self.
“Morning, Grandfather,” he said. His grandfather sat across the table, looking glum. He didn’t pick up the paper to read. Instead, he asked, “Joey, is anything happening in town today?”
“There’s a ball game between Doraville Middle School and my school tonight,”Joey told him. “It’ll be a close race, but I think we’ll win. Would you like to go?”
Joey felt bad for his grandfather. He knew he couldn’t read. His grandfather had told him often, “I didn’t have the chance to go to school regularly. Looking after the animals and tending to the crops on the farm were much more important in those days than learning to read.”
Joey always listened carefully when his grandfather told him how proud he was to have lived on a farm. He told him about caring for the animals. He described trips to the market to sell produce from the farm. Joey could see how rough and callused his grandfather’s hands were. He spoke proudly to Joey about working from sunrise to sunset. Joey noticed how sad his grandfather’s face looked when he remarked,”I would have liked to have gone to school more often, but there wasn’t much time’
The kids at school would always make fun of Joey for his illiterate grandfather, and it agonized him greatly. In spite of their taunting, he still loved his granddad and wished to do right by him.
One day Grandfather asked Joey,”Joey, would you go with me to the grocery store? I need several things.” In the store, Joey’s grandfather walked up and down the aisles, looking at all the pictures on the cans. He saw a can without a picture on it. “What’s in that can?” he asked.
Joey, reading the label, said,”It’s a can of chicken soup’ His grandfather walked to the meat counter, but he couldn’t read the prices or the labels. Finally Grandfather gave Joey the grocery list and stomped out of the store.”I’ll meet you at the car,” he said. Joey watched him go through the door, and he thought, I wish I could help him out, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I wouldn’t have any idea how to start.
The next day was Sunday. Joey and his grandfather always took a walk into town on that day to attend church. Joey stopped at the library to look through some books while his grandfather went down the street to talk with old friends. He was unhappy because he knew his grandfather couldn’t even read the street signs.
Going into the library, Joey saw a sign on the library wall. It read:”Do you know somebody who doesn’t read? We can help. Just call this number.’
When his grandfather returned to the library, Joey showed the sign to him.”Somebody can teach you how to read. It says so right here,”Joey explained. Joey jotted the number down, and they hurried home.
Several days later, Grandfather put on his best suit of clothes for his first day of school. He arrived at the library an hour early and met with his teacher. During that first class, he was so worried and nervous that he couldn’t concentrate. He couldn’t remember anything the teacher said.
A few weeks later, Grandfather was studying when he looked up at Joey and said, “I’m too old to learn all of this:’ He closed the book in frustration.
“Oh, Grandfather, don’t get discouraged,”Joey said.
Grandfather was stubborn. “I can’t do it,” he said.
“How about letting me help you?”Joey asked.
Grandfather didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so he said, “Thanks, Joey. I’m sure that would be a big help.”
They studied together and worked hard on Grandfather’s lessons every day. Joey took over all the chores to give his grandfather more time to study. He told his grandfather he could study in his room, where it would be quieter and the phone wouldn’t interrupt him.
Months later, his grandfather called Joey into his room.”Joey,” he said, “I just got a letter from Aunt Helen. Let me read it to you.”As Grandfather read, he pronounced each word very slowly, and tears came to his eyes.
When Joey’s grandfather had finished reading the letter, Joey was crying, too. He was so proud of his grandfather for overcoming a lifelong obstacle that his chest felt as though it was about to burst with joy.
Grandfather looked up from the page and locked his tear-filled eyes with Joey’s. “Grandfather,” said Joey, smiling,”great job! I’m so proud of you” Grandfather smiled back, and then he broke into a grin—a grin so big, so wide, that Joey knew Grandfather was proud of himself, too.
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