I’m writing a series of novels: the Seeking Scylla series. Some characters dance on the edges of the narratives. Some never make it in. In Beyond Scylla blogs, I share stories and vignettes about these characters.

Like my own?

No, I don’t think I’ve ever said that. Not sure how that would feel since I never had any of my own. And when I stepped in, it didn’t seem… I mean, they always called me “Mr. Jimmy,” and later it was just “Jimmy.” Which makes sense, considering.

Stepping in?

Sure, stepping in was tricky. But I think they understood how much they needed me, how much their mom needed me. I’m not sure how much longer Gabriella could have managed without help. She didn’t really have a job when Paul died. And there was no life insurance. She cashed out the benefits and burned through them like wildfire.


Hmmm…. Never thought about it. I suppose it did feel good to be needed. I set boundaries, of course. The kids, especially Lisa, were sore about that at first. Apparently Paul, since he was away so much, consented to their every whim, which explains why he didn’t leave Gabi with any savings to speak of. Mortgaged to the gills.

The house?

We kept it. Didn’t make sense to sell it. She would have had to pay to sell it, buyer’s market and all, so we decided to stay here. Better for the kids too, keeping their bedrooms, neighborhood friends. I wanted no questions, so I paid my half off and that made it easier on Gabi. When I bought in, all of their lives became more comf… more stable. Everything—you know?—calmed down, settled. Stepping in was tricky, but I think they’re glad now.


Gabi’s children, of course. They’re glad because they know they can count on me. Nate’s gone. Tragic. But Ed and Lisa, we have a good relationship. They love me.


I’ve never told them. I never hear Gabi say it either. But we do. It’s understood. They counted on me their last years at home. We had a few family vacations before they were “grown and flown.” I know they love me. They never say so, but their lives are better for me. We helped with all the things, college, weddings.


Not so much. Sometimes I think we helped too much. They never learned to tighten the belt, to say “no.” Like Paul, I suppose. It became a tender subject between Gabi and me so we agreed not to talk about it. Both Ed and Lisa still ask for help, but they know to come to me. I’m strict about it, asking all the questions, setting up repay. To keep it clean, you know, like a bank.


I guess you could say it’s transactional. That’s not a bad thing, right? Raising children is challenging for young families, especially these days. Unexpected medical expenses and extracurricular activities for our grandkids. We don’t bother Gabi with the details any of these transactions. She knows. She must know they need me. Especially now with our grandkids.


Well, yes. I love them like my own. I’m the only Papa G they ever knew, and they’re the only grandkids I’ll ever have. With them, we say it all the time. “I love you, Papa G!” “I love you to infinity and beyond!” They’re all in school now, one about to graduate, but I still adore those munchkins. And they adore me. When they were little and Gabi and I would come in for a visit, their eyes would light up. They would run to me first. “Papa G! Papa G!” their little hands grabbing at my pockets, looking for the little treasure. They could count on my pockets. They could count on me.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.