It was an impulse decision on their part, one we learned of a few hours before the show. So, OK, great. My fiancee’s 70-something grandparents would be driving up from the Tri-Cities to join all of my ne’er-do-well drunken friends for a concert.
Grandparents at the rock concert. That’s a buzz-killing, style-cramping nightmare, right? I’d forgive you for thinking so; you don’t know Ted and Ursula. This sort of thing — buying concert tickets on a whim — is not at all out of character.
Ted is a Guinness-drinking tough-guy sort of grandfather, the kind of character you’d read about in an Elmore Leonard novel. (Rest in peace, by the way, Mr. Leonard.) He’s in his 70s, but he’s got a punching bag hanging from a tree in his backyard. And last Fourth of July, when he didn’t think anyone was looking, I saw him grab a branch and swing himself up to give it a flying kick with both feet.
Late last year, he sent me a couple of essays he’d written about growing up in the 1950s, sneaking cans of Olympia beer into Grange Hall dances and getting into fistfights while chasing girls. He married Ursula — who has been known to refer to Ted’s former flings as “floozies” — shortly after that time frame. They eloped when they were both Washington State University students.
They’ve been married for more than a half-century, and you can see why. Ursula doesn’t bat an eye at Ted’s wild tales. She doesn’t flinch when he does headstands in the yard. She just deadpans witty remarks.
That’s not to say she’s without salt herself. I remember hearing Ursula, after a couple of glasses of wine, getting a bit profane in the service of a story. She is among the best storytellers I’ve met, right up there with my own parents.
And when they all got together, during my parents’ visit last spring, it was one of the most entertaining afternoons I can recall. I, of all people, was made designated driver so that my parents and Alana’s grandparents could have as much wine as they wanted. It was worth abstaining to hear all the stories. By the end of the afternoon, the table was full of empty wine bottles. There were probably eight people in attendance, and there were at least a dozen empty bottles on the table.
So, yeah, when they said they’d be coming up for the concert last week, I wasn’t worried. I didn’t think there would be any clutching of pearls or gasps of horror if my friends and I got out of hand. The only real risk was that Ted and Ursula would start telling stories and I’d never want to go to sleep. I mean, it was a Wednesday, after all. And some of us had to work the next day. We can’t all be 70-something party animals, you know.
— The Indoorsman