“Dad, don’t worry. I’ll figure it out. But I can’t visit you at all because I don’t have any more time off at work,” Angelina told her father, Chris Harvey, 87, when he called her from the hospital.
He had called 911 after a heart episode, thinking it might be more serious. But doctors said they needed to do more tests, and there were several things to check before he could go home. He called his daughter, who lived in Miami, to ask if she could come back to Austin, Texas, and help him.
But she couldn’t.
“Okay, honey. I think the doctors are just worried about my health at my age, and they’ll tell me more soon enough,” he mumbled, holding his cell phone to his ear as he lay in his hospital bed.
They eventually hung up and the doctors asked Chris to stay in the hospital for a few days while they checked everything out and decided what treatment he needed.
“You need to go to Austin and see your grandfather. He’s all alone,” Angelina insisted to her son, Peter.
“I don’t know if I can, Mom,” he replied. They talked on the phone, and Angelina wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“Peter, you have to be there for your grandfather. Who knows how long he will live after this, especially if his heart starts to fail? And you’re his only grandson, don’t forget that,” Angelina tries to convince him. “He always said you’d inherit his house and stuff when he died. Maybe you should check the house and see what repairs are needed so he can live comfortably for the time he has left. And this is a good time to bond with him, too.”
Peter was silent for a second, and his mother thought he might have hung up. But he finally answered in a strange tone.
“Okay, okay. I’m going to go. Hannah will go with me. I think I can ask for time off from work because I haven’t had a vacation in a while.”
“Fine. Thanks, son. I trust you to help your grandfather as best you can. I love you, honey,” she continued, relieved that her father wasn’t alone after his release from the hospital.
“I love you too, mom. Bye.”
Unfortunately, Angelina had no idea what her son was honestly thinking.
A few days passed, and the doctors finally prescribed Chris several medicines after checking his test results. They let him out of the hospital, warning him not to get tired because he had to take care of his health even after he was cured.
Chris nodded at all their explanations, but he didn’t really pay attention. He was worried because Angelina had not called the day before, and she had told him that Peter was coming to stay with him.
He didn’t have his grandson’s phone number, but he hoped to see him at home. So he took a cab from the hospital to his home.
He was surprised to discover furniture on his lawn and recognized it as his own. Also, his door was slightly ajar, but he remembered that the paramedics who had taken him to the hospital had closed it completely. What had happened? But the most shocking thing happened when he walked in.
The entire house was empty. The paintings on his walls, his military memorabilia, his credenza, the kitchen table and chairs, everything, all gone. There were several plastic tarps in some places, as if someone was painting or doing work in the house.
“Hello?” he saw the completely empty room and heard footsteps coming from the hallway where the bedrooms were.
“Grandpa?”, Peter asked, confused to see him. But Chris paid no attention to this reaction. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Peter! Oh, thank goodness! I thought someone had broken in and taken everything I owned. What’s going on here, dear boy?” he asked his grandson as he walked over to give him a manly hug.
“Oh, good. Yes. No one broke in,” Peter muttered, pursing his lips but returning his embrace.
Finally, Chris realized that he was acting strangely. “What’s going on then?”
“I… actually, we wanted to surprise you,” he began.
“Yeah, Hannah and I. She’s here,” Peter revealed as he turned into the hallway to call his wife. “Honey!”
“What?” she blurted out, and her eyes widened when she spotted Chris. “Hmm, Mr. Harvey. Hello.”
“Hello, my darling! It’s so nice to see you. I haven’t seen you since the wedding,” Chris smiled at his grandson’s wife and kissed her on the cheek.
“So, tell me, what’s going on with my house?”
Peter and Hannah exchanged a quick, odd look, but Peter answered first.
“We wanted to remodel it before you left the hospital. It seriously needed a makeover, and we were hoping you would feel better. But you were discharged earlier than expected.”
Chris smiled broadly at the two young people, thinking how thoughtful they were.
“This is wonderful! Although I hope you’re not spending a lot of money.”
“Oh no, no. Don’t worry about it.” Hannah added, shoving her hands in her pockets. Her smile was goofy, but the older man didn’t notice.
“Cool. What about my stuff? Where are they?”
“They’re currently in…. uh… storage, except for a few things we want to replace with a gift. Those are outside waiting to be picked up by the garbage men. We had to put them there for the remodel,” Peter explained with a strange pause.
“But the rooms still have everything. Don’t worry, though. We’ll be able to sleep well at night.”
“Thank you! Thank you so much, boy. You’re amazing!” said Chris as he hugged them both simultaneously.
He was deliriously happy to see his family again and realized how much they cared about him to do something so thoughtful.
“Now listen. I have to go get some medicine, but I’ll be right back.”
“Of course!” said Peter and Hannah in unison and giggled awkwardly.
Chris frowned for a second but didn’t think too much of their attitude. He left for the local pharmacy, which was just a few steps away.
When he returned a few minutes later, he didn’t see Peter or Hannah in the living room. He heard their voices coming from Angelina’s old room and walked over to ask them what they wanted for dinner. But something Hannah said stopped him in his tracks.
“What are we going to do, you idiot?” she cursed at her husband, and Chris had never heard her speak to him that way.
“Hannah, calm down. It’s not a big deal. It’s just that it’s disrupting our plans a little,” he soothed.
“A little? A LITTLE? You told me he was dying, and this was going to be our home. That’s why we’re spending all this money. You think I was going to dip into my money to help fix up someone else’s house when we’re still living in a rental?” asked Hannah, almost mockingly.
Chris’ eyes went wide and his hand went to his mouth so that no sound would come out. He wanted to hear the rest of the conversation.
“Hannah, it’s okay. The house will be mine eventually, and he has tons of money saved up. Think of it as an investment,” Peter assured, frustration beading in his voice.
But Hannah was downright angry.
“NO! We’re not spending another dime, and I don’t care about him! Tomorrow we’re getting on a plane and going home! It was a waste of time!”
“We can’t leave this house like this!”
“YES, WE CAN AND WE WILL! It’s over!” she yelled at Peter, and Chris finally had enough. He returned to the front door, pretending he had just come from the pharmacy.
He called them, and they both acted like nothing was wrong. They talked about what they were going to cook for dinner and were quite pleasant with Chris. But now he knew the truth, and it was time to teach them a hard lesson.
They were eating spaghetti and meatballs, one of Peter’s favorite dishes, on the empty living room floor when Chris finally cleared his throat and spoke up.
“Peter, I wanted to talk to you about something important,” he began as he noticed Peter and Hannah waking up for some reason.
“I’ve been thinking about moving permanently into a nursing home. I don’t want another emergency to happen while I’m here alone. I think this is the right choice, and I think you two should have the house.”
Peter and Hannah’s jaws dropped, and they looked at each other with pleasure.
“Are you serious?” her grandson asked, clearly delighted.
“Yes, I’m serious.”
“Thank you, Grandpa! This is an honor! We’re going to make this house so beautiful!”, Peter finally said, and Hannah echoed his gratitude.
Over the next few weeks, Peter and Hannah remodeled the house as best they could. They had actually kept some of Chris’s belongings in storage, but they got rid of some old stuff, and he acted like everything was fine. But it wasn’t.
Finally, the house was finished, and Chris offered to have a housewarming party. He told Peter and Hannah that he would soon be moving to a retirement home, and that they should start preparing to live there permanently.
They were excited and decided to invite some friends who flew in from Miami to Texas. Everything was great for a while. They chatted. They ate. It was a joyous party. Chris was faking it all along until he got up from the table and got everyone’s attention.
“I’d like to make a toast…to my grandson and his lovely wife,” the older man began, and everyone present clapped quickly as the couple embraced while looking at Chris.
“I wanted to thank them for all the work they did on my house…because I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life.”
Because the couple’s friends were under the impression that Chris was moving out, Chris’ toast surprised them. Meanwhile, Peter and Hannah were stunned, confusion evident on their faces.
“Grandpa, why don’t we talk in private for a second?” suggested Peter, but Chris shook his head.
“There’s no need to. I heard you two talking that day. So you came here, telling your mother you were going to take care of me, but you had decided to take over this house instead. Well, that will NEVER happen, Peter. I’ve already revised my will. This house will go to charity when I’m gone,” he revealed, shocking everyone.
Hannah was red-faced and wanted to make a scene but didn’t want to be more embarrassed.
Chris again gets everyone’s attention.
“Now…” he cleared his throat and raised his voice. “EVERYONE GET OUT OF MY HOUSE BEFORE I CALL THE POLICE!”
Peter and Hannah’s friends didn’t need to be told twice. They rushed to get away, and Peter kept yelling at Chris because he still wanted to talk to him. But the older man didn’t want to hear any explanations.
“Get out!” he demanded and Peter and his wife left.
The next day, Chris told Angelina precisely what his son had done and what they were planning together. He hadn’t told her sooner because he knew it would break his daughter’s heart. But she had to know now that everything was known.
Angelina was ashamed of her child, but she also didn’t like the way Chris had cheated on them. But there was nothing she could do about it.
“You’re right, Daddy. This is your home. But you don’t mind breaking up your relationship with Peter this way?”
“Honey, he broke it off the day he decided to kill me prematurely and claim my house. Be careful because who knows what they might do with you,” he warned his daughter, and their conversation ended.
Chris lived another 11 years. And as he had planned, his lawyer sold his house and donated the proceeds, along with the rest of Chris’ estate, to a charity for the elderly.