Author's Note: This is the final chapter for this fic, and also the longest one. Every movie and book have a great finale, and I hope this would tie up all the loose ends and will make you, the readers feel satisfied with this story.
Legal junk: I don't own Hey Arnold, but Nickelodeon does and Mr. Craig Bartlett created it. But this fic belongs to me. Clear? Good.
Chapter 9: He was a great man
Grandpa Phil died peacefully of natural causes, leaving a widow and a married son. His family was at his side during his final moments. He died a few years earlier than the intended 'family curse' age of 91. By the next day everyone in the neighborhood had learned the sorrowful news of his death. Phone in the boarding house rang off the hook where close families, neighbors and family friends called to show their sadness and grief and to offer their condolences to the family of the dearly departed. Neighbors living near the boarding house came to comfort and console the family.
Meanwhile, the door to Mrs. Vitello flower shop was opened, and alerted the old woman who was watering the flowers to keep them fresh. The customer was Arnold, wearing mourning clothes, because the funeral was about to start in a couple of hours.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Vitello."
"Good afternoon, Arnold," she greeted back. "You're coming here to ask about the flowers aren't you? Don't worry about it, I've sent all the flowers to the funeral parlor myself."
"Well, thanks for telling me that, but I'm here to buy a few flowers, for… you... y-you know..." He informed, with a melancholic voice.
"All right… what any suggestions in particular?"
"Something nice, but at the same time it has to show sorrow and grievances."
"I think I have just the perfect one for that." She said with her pointing finger extended. "My goodness, all these preparations kind of reminds me when my husband Mike died a few years ago." She sighed wearily as she walked off from the counter to the flower displays.
"Mike?" Arnold thought incredulously.
"Uh… Mrs. Vitello, forgive me for asking this but, isn't Mike the person who you used to hate a lot?"
Mrs. Vitello was taken aback, she was slightly offended at the question, "I loved my husband very much, Arnold. Where did you get that idea anyhow?"
"I'm sorry if I offended you, Mrs. Vitello, but when I read my grandparents' letters they sent to each other back when they were in their 20's, I thought—"
Mrs. Vitello cut him off, letting out a soft chuckle, "hold on a second, you mean, the letters that they sent during World War Two?"
"Yes ma'am, I'm sorry if—"
"Oh, no apologies necessary, Arnold," she laughed, "Well, we all did pretty crazy things when we were young, and hating him was one of the stupidest thing I did." She said jovially. "You see, among our gang during that time, he was the crazy one. And I mean crazy. He always babbling incoherently to himself, did the silliest things like burying his head in the sand at the riverbank, and especially love to annoy the girls, and I was his favorite target. He had always thought that I was his girl, ever since when we were kids." She explained as she picked up some flowers as Arnold watched her.
"I thought he would never change, but during the war, something happened to him. Something radical. He became more mature, caring and compassionate, though his craziness was still there, but not as nutty as it used to be. He wrote to me a lot of letters, but I never read it until the final days into the war. The letters kept on coming, and I said to myself, 'what the heck,' and give 'em a try. Surprisingly, his words were moving, touching and extremely beautiful, something that I never expected from him. Then it hit me, he was the perfect man for me." She explained more as she cut the stems off the selected flowers.
"When I heard that he was coming back, I was ready for him. I quickly ran to the docks searching for him frenetically. Heh," she chuckled, "when I saw him, I practically flung myself into his hands, and him and I dropped onto the floor with me drowning him with smooches." She recalled back with a pleseant voice. "Then after a few months we got married and the rest, is just like what people always say, is history." She finished it with a smile as Arnold listened to her with keenness.
"That's very sweet, Mrs. Vitello." Arnold could only say with a soft smile as he took the flowers from her. "If you don't mind me asking, when did he… well, passed away?"
"Oh… yeah, you don't remember do you? You were just a little tot back then. He died some eleven years ago, back when you were just a toddler."
"I see. But... how come people still calls you Mrs. Vitello?" he inquired further, it was a question something he was meaning to ask her for quite some time.
"Well, Vitello is my family name. But you have to ask yourself, if one saw a large signboard outside my store with 'Vitello's Flower Shop' written on it, one should assume that the owner's name is Mrs. Vitello. And that's why honey, the name sticks." She informed with a smile. "Enough Twenty Questions, sweetie?" she asked sarcastically, but good-naturedly.
"Yeah… thanks Mrs. Vitello," Arnold said with a broad smile. "It's nice of you to share your stories with me."
"Don't mention it, dear. It's nice to have a youngin' such as yourself to hear stories from an old woman like me. Most people your age couldn't even bear a second of me reminiscing the good old days back when I was a youth." She said as she got back behind the counter again.
Arnold replied with a soft smile, "Are you coming to the funeral, Mrs. Vitello?" he said as he paid her.
"Of course I am. Your grandfather was a great man, and Gerthie is lucky to have a man like him."
Arnold walked away from the flower shop, thinking about his grandfather as he strolled along the sidewalk. After a while he stumbled upon Harvey, the neighborhood mail carrier.
"Hey, man," Harvey greeted, "sorry to hear about your grandpa. You're feeling all right?" he asked him.
"Yeah, just feeling a little sad about it, that's all." He replied, not emphasizing the word 'little'. "Say, where are you going?"
"I'm going back home to change man,. I am going to the funeral, you know."
"Thanks." Arnold replied with a soft smile. "You really like him, do you?"
"Oh, man, of course! He was like a father to me, Arnold. He was the one who encourage me to sing the blues, man. I owe a lot to him." He informed something that Arnold never knew before. A pause between them for a brief moment.
"Well, I should be going. I don't want them to wait."
"Same here. See you there, man."
"Grandpa was such a great guy…"
The weather was breezy, chilly and cloudy, setting a somber mood at the cemetery. It was like as if the world itself grieved of grandpa's passing. The funeral was attended by a lot of people with the numbers nearly in the hundreds. Arnold saw a great number of people who he never met before. Most of them were war veterans who fought alongside with his grandfather during the war, his grandparents' friends he never saw and distant family members he never met before.
But there were some faces that he recognized. Most astoundingly, even grandpa's arch nemesis Rex Smythe-Higgins and his Chinese Checkers rival Robby Fischer came to his funeral. Jimmy Kafka, his best friend, could be seen trying to hold back his tears. Dino Spimoni and Don Reynolds stood next to each other as they hung their head in mourning. The neighbors, Harvey, Marty Green, Dr. Murray Steiglitz, Mrs. Vitello, and even Arnold's grade school teacher Mr. Simmons and Principal Wartz showed up.
Some of Arnold's friend came, to honor a friend's grandfather. Surprisingly some of his friends' parents also came to the funeral. The Johanssens, Patakis, Lloyds, Hyerdahls, came to offer their last respect. Arnold was shocked to see Big Bob came, since he knew that neither grandpa and Bob liked each other, and both of them see each other as a nuisance and a pain in the neck. Maybe he was there vecause he wanted to honor his golf rival. The boarders were there as well. Ernie could be seen with his girlfriend Lola. Mr. Hyunh and Mai Hyunh came. Oskar was not in his tomfoolery self during the service, something that his wife Suzie appreciated. She was there too; but they didn't bring their babies along, because they left them at Suzie's cousin's place.
His twin sister Mitzy also came, looking very dejected as she listened to the minister. Miles tried not to show any emotions during the service, but Arnold knew that deep down, he was deeply saddened by the death of his father. Stella could be seen in deep sorrow with her head lowered down. And grandma, she neither wailed nor looking forlornly, but she sat down quietly, listening to every word that the minister said. Arnold could see her muttered some words, prayers maybe, as she looked down at the casket with deep melancholy. Arnold himself tried to be just as tough as his father, but he couldn't, and he broke down weeping. Phil was just as much as a father figure to him as his own father today. He promised himself that he will never forget all the things that grandpa told him, the advices he listened from him and sacrifices that grandpa made to raise him when his parents were gone.
After the service was over, he couldn't believe his ears, the so called 'arch nemesis' and 'bitter rival' did not say any ill words about him. And everywhere he went he heard nothing but words of praise and fond memories from the mourners about his grandfather. Not once he heard words of resentment about him. He then walked to his group of friends, as they were talking amongst themselves. When Arnold arrived, they offered their sincerest condolences to him and to his family. After the funeral, a few of them gathered at the boarding house to reminisce and recall their stories about grandpa. Each and every one of them had their own stories to share.
"And he said to me 'don't you have anything that would make that anaconda of yours jolt a bit?' and I finally remembered something, thanks to him." Miles told the crowd in an enthusiastic voice, "Larry, that anaconda of mine loved this record called 'Mating Hisses of the Female Anaconda' so I played over the school P.A. system and not a minute too soon, Larry came crawling back to me!" he ended it with a laugh, and the crowd laughed with him.
Grandma could be seen smiling softly as each of the guests recalled their fond memories with Phil.
"There's this one time when me and Phil along with the boys went for a road trip to Washington, since its Veterans Day and all." Martin Johanssen told, "We were exchanging war stories, when all of the sudden he was about to tell us about the time he went to a farmhouse—"
"Oh yeah, that story!" an old man intervened, presumably grandpa's friend, "When we were at the frontlines, he always bragged to us about that!" the old man said with a laughter, and some of the the war vets laughed with him.
And Martin continued, "as he was about to tell me about the 'good stuff' he had with that French girl - I quickly cut him off because the kids were at the back!" and the crowd laughed. "I mean really, was he going to tell such a sultry story with nine year old kids at the back?!" he smiled as he shook his head. "It's crazy!"
"I remember the time when we were guarding the frontlines," yet another old man said, "it was very cold, Christmas was just around the corner, and all of us were very weary and dispirited. Out of nowhere, Phil suddenly started to sing a Christmas Carol." Which drew a few chuckles from the crowd, "The captain ordered him to shut up, but he didn't and he kept on singing. And then, one of us started to follow him. And the other one followed suit. Then another, and another. Soon the entire platoon started to sing! The Captain shook his head, gave up and he too joined us!" the crowd laughed at the humorous story. "Somehow, it lifted our spirits!"
Arnold was standing at the corner with his arms crossed over his chest, laughing softly at the stories. He then scanned around the room, and saw Gerald sitting alone on a couch as he flipped an old photo album. He decided to join in. "Hey, Gerald. Thanks for coming."
"Don't mention it, man. This is the least I could do to show some respect to your grandpa." Gerald replied as he patted Arnold's back softly.
Arnold replied to him with a smile, and said to him, "what are you looking at?"
"Your grandparents' photo album. I saw this one lying on the coffee table, so I thought 'why not'?" he shrugged.
"Oh, man… just look at them, happy as a clown." Arnold said referring to a picture of grandpa doing a grappling maneuver to his friend. "And this one," Gerald pointed to another picture, with two young women hugging each other as they looked at the camera euphorically, with the word 'Best Friends' written below it. Arnold could assume that it was a picture of his grandma and her late friend Margaret.
"Hey, here's another picture of grandma, look." Arnold said, referring to a picture with a note written below it – 'Me and the gals of the Mechanics Division, 1944.' The picture had grandma with a group of unidentified women, in their mechanics uniform covered with grease. "Man, your grandma sure was attractive when she was young." Gerald said with a smile. Arnold couldn't believe his ears as he snickered softly to Gerald's comment. "Jeez man, you're creeping me out." He said as he playfully jabbed Gerald's shoulder.
Gerald laughed at the reaction, "Hey, look at this one, 'Me and the gang – 1939.'" Gerald pointed to a picture of a group shot of grandpa and grandpa and the rest of their friends. The label below read, 'Bottom row, left to right: Phil, Jimmy, Will and Mike. Middle row, left to right: James, Craig, and Robby. Top row, left to right: Mitzy, me(Gerthie), Margaret, Mae, Diane, Cindy, Lisa and Marie.'
"They sure were happy." Arnold said with a soft smile.
"Yeah… it sure would be cool to hang out with them." Gerald responded.
Arnold nodded in agreement, "I wonder what would happen to us 60, 70 years from now… what would we be like?" both of the boys paused at the thought of them being old. They could see themselves, along with the rest of their gang getting old.
"I'm sure we'd be all like:" Gerald continued with his best old man imitation, "yelling at kids to get off our lawns and drink prune juice all day." Arnold started to laugh. Gerald carried on, "and we'd hang out at parks and play checkers all day while the girls sit on the bench feeding the birds!" And they both had a hearty laugh.
"Making fun of us old timers, huh, sonny boy?" someone suddenly intervened. Arnold and Gerald abruptly stopped laughing and looked that direction that the voice originated. It was grandpa's best friend Jimmy Kafka.
He continued, "Well, we used to be like that too back when we were your age. There was this one guy – can't remember his name, sadly, we used to call him Old Man Spittoon, or something along that line. To us, he was the grouchiest – give me some space to sit, son," he asked, and Arnold moved to the side next to Gerald. "- The grouchiest, meanest, most evil old man on the planet." He said as he sat down.
"Uh… Mr. Kafka, grandpa already told me about it. It was the time when he went straight to his eyes and said to him 'why do you always be so mean?' wasn't it?" Arnold informed him.
"Oh… he did tell you, didn't he? He was quite a storyteller I give you that."
"Yeah… he was. Say, Mr. Kafka, do you know anything about what happened to my grandma's brother?"
"What, you mean, Craig? Hoo-boy, there's a lot of rumors, stories and legends surrounding that guy let me tell you that! We don't know what exactly happened to him because the official report said that he was MIA (missing in action), but rumors says that when he was in France, he met this gorgeous French broad and decided to get married with her, and now he owns one of the largest grapeyard in Europe. Some said he went to the Vatican and become the Pope's aid. Some even said that he was the one who killed Hitler himself!"
Arnold and Gerald were in shock, as they darted back slightly, "but they were just rumors." He continued, "so think nothing of it."
"Oh yeah," Jimmy said as he snapped his fingers, "Have you heard what really happened to your grandpa during the Cham incident, Arnold? I know I've made a promise to him, but since he has passed away, I think his grandson might appreciate if I tell this story to him now."
Arnold was surprised, contemplated on the offer for a while, and said to him, "What actually happened?" Gerald was eager to know himself.
"Well…" he replied as he took his pipe out, "do you have a light? Matches, maybe?"
"Uh… we don't smoke sir," Arnold replied nonchalantly.
"Really?" he asked doubtingly, "then those teen anti-smoking advertisements campaign on TV must be working then." He turned his head to the crowd, "Hey, Robby! Toss me your matchbox, will ya!" he yelled, and Robby threw to him the mentioned box. He caught it.
"You boys don't mind if I smoke, do you?" Jimmy asked, and both of the boys shook their head. "No sir, we don't mind." Gerald replied.
"Call me Jimmy." He puffed out a smoke, "You see, during the Battle of the Bulge, he was ordered to deliver this truck full of bad Chams to the Germans. The plan was to have him disguised as a German supply truck driver so he could deliver these rotten foods to them. We believe that after the Germans ate them, they'd get all sick and hopefully, will retreat from the frontlines. And thankfully, the plan worked like clockwork." He puffed yet another smoke out.
"But your grandpa screwed up, because he accidentally spoke English to the German Captain. He was then arrested after they learned that he was a US soldier, but damage had been done: all the German infantry had ate all the bad Chams. So on the next day, they were all sick as dogs. They made a haste retreat, but they brought your grandpa with them. They put him in a POW (Prisoner of War) camp, gave him no food and drinks and was tortured all day and night." Jimmy started to slow down a bit, as he hung his head in sadness. "He… he…" Jimmy started to sob, "…was tortured son! They punched him, kicked him, shot his limbs, left him out in the cold, stabbed him…" a tear started to form in his eyes and his hands were visibly shaken, "just because he wouldn't tell those S.O.Bs our battle strategy… you just couldn't imagine how did he look like when we finally rescued him..." he sobbed morosely as he wiped the tears off his eyes, as Arnold and Gerald listened to him in deep grief as well in enthusiasm. "It was a wonder how did that man managed to stay alive..."
Jimmy composed himself for a while, pausing for a momentary break. After he had pulled himself together, he continued, "And because of him, we won the Battle of the Bulge. If he had submitted to them, the war would've taken much longer to be over. And that's why we honor him by claiming him to 'Single handedly won the Battle of the Bulge,' even though he didn't want the honor to be bestowed upon him, since he felt that everyone had their own role to win that war." He then placed his hand on Arnold's shoulder, "be proud of your grandpa, Arnold."
Arnold nodded weakly, proud of his grandfather, "I am." he said softly to Jimmy. Jimmy shot him a smile back and said to him, "Now, lets just hear what the crowd has to say about your gramps. I believe the only thing that they have are a lot good things to say about him."
Arnold, Gerald and Jimmy turned their heads at the crowd, and saw Miles again telling a story, "...and during the graduation day, when I took the scroll, I looked at my dad and saw him, he was extremely proud of me. I achieved something that he always wanted me to become, a university graduate."
That night, Arnold felt that he wanted to sleep in the boarding house in his old room. No particular reason, he just wanted to because he felt like it. Probably there was a reason of some sort, maybe by staying there he would remember the time when he was a boy, grandpa always came to him to say good night and tell him stories about his parents. Or maybe he wanted to take care of his grandmother. Either case may be, there was no objection from grandma or his parents, so he made a decision to stay at the boarding house for a night.
He was sitting on his old bed, looking at an album with some pictures of him with his grandfather. He smiled and chuckled at every picture on every page as he flipped them over and over. He cherished all those fond memories he had with him, like the time when he went fishing with him, or the time he watched Sally's Comet with him, alongside Gerald. Never forget the time he and Gerald went camping with him, and the time grandpa brought him to a horse ranch when he was just a kindergartener.
It was nearly his bedtime, but Arnold was still awake, proofreading his history assignment. He had yet to name his history project. What name would be perfect, he thought. Most of his report was based on grandpa's view, and an idea finally struck him. He shall name the report:
World War Two: From a Soldier's Perspective.
Based upon my grandfather's writings during his service in the army.
Yeah, that's what he would name it. Simple and straightforward. But he felt that it was not enough, he wanted to add more. How about a tribute? Yes, that's what he'd do.
To my Grandfather Phil: Who was a patriot, a countryman, a family man, a caring husband, father and grandfather.
He held his assignment paper and gazed at it. It was finally complete, and he smiled at the work well done. It was a school night, and without wasting any more time, he put his assignment paper into his bag pack. After he stretched his body out and done yawning, he walked to the light switch located at nearby the door. The remote gone into obscurity. Just as he was about to switch off the lights, he gazed at the brightly twinkling stars through the skylight. It was beautiful, as he could see the constelation alignment very well and the sky were almost filled with stars. Arnold smiled at the magnificent view and said,
"Thanks for all the memories, grandpa."
And he switched the lights off.
Fin. Any mistakes and errors please point it out. I'd like to thank all the people who submitted their reviews and enjoyed reading this fanfic. I really appreciate each and every one of them, and I used the comments to further improve my writings. I really wanted to write a bibliography and credits, but I think the guidelines won't allow me to do that.