The Night My Grandpa Went to War

The Night My Grandpa Went to War

He was fighting against a small but tenacious enemy.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash


I’ll never forget the night my Grandpa went to war.

Grandpa was a little too young when World War I started, and too old when World War II came along, so he never got to fight the Germans. No, his enemy was far more nefarious: the crickets.

My grandparents moved to Florida when I was about seven, but every summer they would return to Chicago to visit family, rotating from house to house so that no group of relatives felt slighted. We had just moved into the suburbs and it was our family’s turn to host. My parents were proud of our new suburban ranch home, surrounded by bushes and far away from the noise and pollution of the inner city.

Upon arrival, my grandparents settled in my mom and dad’s room. My parents moved temporarily into what we called “the back bedroom” and my two sisters and I crammed into the third bedroom, which shared a wall with the room my grandparents were staying in.

Since it was summer and it was already pretty hot during the daytime, we had all the windows open at night to cool the house down. At that time our suburban neighborhood was safe enough to do things like leave the windows open all night.

The first night I could hear angry grumbling from my grandparents’ room next door. I pressed my ear against the plaster wall separating the rooms — I was always a nosy child — but could not hear what was going on.

At breakfast we learned what the hubbub was about. “Those damn crickets!” my grandfather exclaimed. “They are way too loud. How do you sleep with all that racket?”

My parents looked at each other in confusion. My Grandma, ever helpful, joked, “You looked like you were sleeping fine when I got up to go to the bathroom.”

The conversation moved on. The second night I woke up to more grumbling in the room next door, and the next morning our breakfast once again centered on how loud the crickets were and their negative impact on Grandpa’s sleep.

“Maybe you should close the window Dad,” my father suggested pragmatically.

“It’s too hot to sleep with the windows closed,” Grandpa said grumpily. He was normally mild-mannered, but the lack of sleep was making him cranky.

The third night Grandpa had had enough. That was the night my Grandpa went to war with the crickets.

I remember it well. It was a hot and humid night with no hint of a breeze. The air was heavy and moist. I was reading in bed when the grumbling started from next door.

“Just close the window Stan,” I heard my Grandma say, louder than she usually spoke. Clearly she was getting annoyed with my grandpa’s complaining.

Suddenly their bedroom door opened with a bang. I jumped in alarm. I heard Grandpa stomp across the house and head out the back door, which was just outside my bedroom window.

Awake now, my two sisters and I moved from window to window, watching avidly as Grandpa located the garden hose and turned it on. He dragged the hose up the driveway and towards the front of the house with the determined face of a man who’s had enough.

We hurried to my grandparents’ room and joined Grandma at the window, all of us watching in rapt fascination as Grandpa moved around outside. The moon was full and provided illumination over the yard. It was better than TV. We held our breaths and waited to see what he would do.

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

Grandpa stood in front of the bushes, staring intently into the branches with an intense scowl, looking for his nemesis, the cricket. His hair was standing up at all angles, like he had been pulling his fingers through it. He was wearing pajamas under a short blue robe, and he had stopped and donned his slippers for the battle.

He wasn’t in uniform, but in that moment, he was a warrior.

Settling on his plan of attack, Grandpa adjusted the nozzle and turned on the garden hose. A strong and steady stream of water shot out towards the bushes as he began attacking the bushes, completely soaking all the branches and the ground underneath.

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

“Where are you, you little bastard?” Grandpa shouted in agitation. “I’m trying to sleep”.

“Stan, you’ll wake up the neighborhood,” Grandma admonished through the open window. “Please. Just come inside.”

Grandpa started spraying the bushes again, mumbling a stream of curses under his breath.

As we peered out the window Grandma tried again, “Stan, you’ve woken up the girls now. You’re scaring them.” He wasn’t, but we didn’t dare correct her. If she sent us back to our room, we would miss all the action.

Meanwhile, my parents slept on in another room, completely oblivious to the war going on outside on their front lawn.

Grandpa was not to be deterred. He was stubborn, and he had righteous indignation on his side. This thing with him and the cricket: it was personal.

That cricket was clearly on a personal mission to drive him crazy. Grandpa had grown up on the hard scrabble streets of the south side of Chicago and no one got the better of him, especially a cricket. There was no way he would let an insect win.

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

“I think he’s moved to the other side of the porch,” Grandpa shouted. “Bastard”.

We watched by the moonlight as Grandpa dragged the garden hose farther around the front of the house. Reaching the end of its length, the hose was stretched as far as it would go. Grandpa stood in front of the porch, leaning forward and directing its full force stream diagonally across to the other set of bushes, while repeatedly suggesting to the cricket that it die.

There were two things Grandpa didn’t know.

First, the window behind the other bushes was open.

Second, my mother was not sleeping in the back bedroom, but instead had fallen asleep on the couch. We all became aware of this when a loud screech came through the house.

“Ahhhhh….What the hell? Where’s that water coming from?”

From his angle and with the moonlight at his back, Grandpa wasn’t soaking the cricket and the bushes. He was spraying a steady stream of cold water into the house where it was soaking living room couch.

We all ran into the living room to be closer to the action.

My mother tore open the front door, cursing up a storm at a high pitch that woke up dogs throughout the neighborhood. Seeing my grandfather on the lawn in his pajamas and slippers, she stopped short. She took a deep breath, clearly trying to calm down.

“Dad? What are you doing?” she asked in what was, for her, great patience, particularly given her rude awakening with cold water. “You’re spraying water in the house.”

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

“It’s the cricket,” Grandpa said with agitation. “He won’t stop chirping.”

“Stan, get back in this house and go to bed. Now!” my grandmother ordered in her “don’t mess with me” voice.

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

Defeated, Grandpa turned off the hose, dragging it around to its place in the backyard. He came back into the house without a word, his head hung and shoulders slumping with the weight of having lost in battle.

Grandma helped my mom clean up the water, and then insisted that that she would close their bedroom windows. Grandpa finally fell asleep, and he and Grandma move on to his brother’s house the next night.

And the cricket? He lived to chirp another night, no doubt smug in his victory over the humans.

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