I didn't have the heart to correct her pronunciation of his name.
The fifty-something-year difference in their ages fazed her even less than his wife and the three states that separated them. Love knew no obstacles.
Her siblings had their special interests, the same as she did. The oldest charged through the door and up the stairs with the same request each time. "Gramma, do you have candy?" The baby still flung her arms open for a hug.
Lover girl Fiona scooted right past me, eyes aglow, and lifted her sweetie's book off the end table. All five pounds and nine hundred fifty-seven pages of it. Usually, by the time she finagled and balanced her load, and lugged it across the room, the baby was through with me and I sat, prepared on the couch.
With a grunt, Fiona hoisted the tome onto my lap, ecstatic over the cover. "Gramma, can we read Bill Clintock?"
Fortunately, at barely-three-years-old, looking at the pictures was enough reading to satisfy this child. She still hasn't figured out that choosing My Life as a bedtime story might delay bedtime a couple of weeks.
She clasped her tiny hands, closed her eyes, and waited for me to open to the pictures, every time, with the anxiety most children save for Santa.
"That's Bill Clintock's mother, holding him when he was a baby. There's his first dad." She dutifully pointed at faces, rushing through preliminaries before grabbing her chest and returning her idol's huge smile on the bottom of the third page of pictures. Young, not-so-young, formal, informal, playing the trumpet in sunglasses, in a crowd, from behind – she found him in every picture and got more excited with each one. Aren't first loves special?
Gramma called dibs the night before Bill 'Clintock' Clinton's television interview and had Lover Girl sleep over, not that anyone slept much with all the excitement in the air. Fiona was up and pacing long before the early morning interview, chanting, "I'm so excitick. I'm so excitick to see Bill Clintock."
The excitick was contagious. I rang my hands with her, thinking it was the longest ten minutes I'd known in a while.
The anticipated face finally came on the screen. Fiona grabbed her chest and screamed, like he was Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, or Spongebob. She ran to the televison and watched in silence, until he said the magic words.
"Gramma." She gasped, and turned with tears of adoration in her big eyes. "He said 'children'. He likes children!" I believe her life was complete. That was all she needed to be happy forever, or at least until her brother had something she wanted.
The obsession lasted over a good year. Not bad for a first love. My friends said his name, just to watch her grab her chest and light up the room with her smile. She lugged that book around until she looked like a body-builder. The pictures in my book showed signs of attrition.
Then, almost instantly, she stopped asking about him. Maybe she realized she had the name wrong, and was embarrassed. She might have heard rumors, or learned married men were off limits. I missed her crush.
"Don't you love Bill any more?" I asked, immediately wishing I hadn't when her shattered heart poured through her eyes.
In a broken voice, she explained. "He can't be my boyfriend when he doesn't even know where I live."
Originally published: January 30, 2007