They Found a Box In Their Grandfather’s Garage. Looking Inside, They Got a Huge Surprise!

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“When this family got together for the summer, they decided to clear out their father’s garage. They were expecting to find 50 years worth of junk and maybe a trip or two down memory lane. But looking inside, they got the most incredible surprise.

Grant Carver sat on his porch and took a long tug from his beer, like he often did these days. His mind started meandering through the past. He’d been alone for 30 years now; his wife had died when their daughter Karin was only seven, and Grant had never remarried.

He was an airline pilot before he retired and had been so immersed in his work over the years that he had never had time to notice the loneliness. He was always either in another country or on his way to another country, and he knew people everywhere. But now, it was starting to gnaw on him. He missed someone around the house, someone to say hello to in the morning, and someone to cuddle with at night. Above all, he missed someone to talk with on an intimate level, like only lovers or married couples get to do.

He missed someone who knew all his secrets. Well, almost all of them. Grant had one secret, something only he knew, a thing he never even told his wife while she was alive. And it went all the way back to a week’s RNR in Pataya Beach in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

He’d been on a week-long furlough from the bloody jungles of Vietnam and ended up in a place where he’d met someone who had reshaped his inner world. But he couldn’t ever tell a soul about this person. Keeping the secret was still like having a lump of hot coal inside his stomach, even after all these years, a fire that was forever searing his insides. But at the same time, it was something he knew he could never let go of. Even now, it brought about a strange stirring when he thought about it.

In the tough Vietnamese jungle, Grant took on many risky missions to rescue injured American soldiers. Those who flew with him felt a unique sense of protection around him. He had a reassuring presence, and everyone believed he’d make it through. A slight smile curled around the corners of Grant’s mouth; he was just fearless back then.

The guys knew if they rode with him, they would come back, even when their helicopter was loaded with wounded and under enemy fire. Grant felt invincible; bullets hit the helicopter, yet he remained unharmed. Once, a bullet pierced his helmet but miraculously missed his head. Grant and his Huey crew are credited with saving over 2,000 American wounded during his 1969-67 tour. He was proud of that; known as the Dustoff crew, they lived up to their mod: dedicated, unhesitating service to our fighting forces.

Later, when he returned to the States and became a civil aviation pilot, the stories from back then made for wonderful barbecue conversations. But the war was still alive in him after all these years. There were sights, sounds, and smells that he accepted would be with him always. And then there was the secret, like one of those memories, it would be with him until they lowered him into a grave. And he wished it wasn’t so.

On his way to the kitchen to fetch another beer, Grant checked the clock. The kids should be here within the next 30 minutes; their presence would push the loneliness back for a while, and that was good. He looked forward to it, but at the same time, he was already dreading their return to Boston.

Mike and Andy were in the backseat, teasing their older sister. Leticia was four years older than the twins and leaving for college in the fall. She let them be and stared out the window at the passing woods and fields, drinking in the beauty of rural Virginia. Carl and Karin were upfront, ignoring the kids and involved in a much more serious conversation.

‘Really, love, if you think you’re going to get my father into an old-age home, you have another thing coming,’ Kin said. ‘He’ll never go.’

‘But he’s lonely,’ Carl protested. ‘He says so himself. At least if we find him a nice home, he’ll have someone to talk to, he’ll have company.’

Kin shook her head adamantly. ‘I know my father. He’s quite happy seeing his army buddies twice a year. Sure, he’s lonely, but it’s up to him, him to do something about it. He’d hate it if we interfered. Promise me you won’t say anything. It’ll just ruin the holiday.’

Grant stood like a statue on the porch, with his hands on his hips, watching the rental car wind up the long driveway. He smiled, couldn’t help it. He loved his daughter; his son-in-law wasn’t all bad. The twins were always great fun, and his granddaughter was the apple of his eye. Right this moment, he wanted nothing more than to take them all in his arms and squeeze the living daylights out of them.

Hellos were a long, drawn-out affair. First, he hugged Karin so long she thought he’d never let go. Then he shook hands with his son-in-law. Leticia stood back and let the twins go in first; they too spent a few moments in their grandfather’s arms. Then he looked into Leticia’s eyes, and she into his; there was a special bond there.

‘You remind me of your grandmother, pumpkin,’ he said. She flew into his arms and said softly in his ear, ‘You always say that, Grandpa. I wish I could have known her.’

At dinner that night, the kids started telling Grant about their plans for his garage. They decided to clean out and repack his garage while they were here, and they added they weren’t going to take no for an answer. Grant was about to protest; God alone knows what they could find in there. He didn’t think he’d even open the door in more than 10 years. His whole history was in there, probably half-eaten by rats by now.

But then he looked at the kids in turn; he could see the boyish excitement in the twins’ eyes. For them, this was a dark, dusty space, exactly the kind of place young boys could give their imaginations free rein. Leti’s eyes were gentler, full of love; she wanted to do something special for him. Grant didn’t have the heart to rob them of their excitement, so after a long silence, he simply nodded. ‘I’ll help you if you want,’ he said.

The kids would have none of it; this was going to be their adventure and theirs alone. That night, just after midnight, Grant sat bolt upright in his bed. His secret, he wasn’t sure if there was anything in the garage that could put the kids onto the one thing he had so carefully hidden from the world for such a long time. He racked his brain, trying to remember what was in the garage, but his mind struck a blank. Eventually, exhausted, he fell asleep again.

When Grant came down for breakfast, the kids were already at work. The garage door was wide open, and the boys had started to carry some of the boxes blocking the entrance to the driveway. Outside, Karin pressed a cup of coffee into his hand and called the kids. As he watched them fiddling about in the garage, the same slight panic from the small hours of the morning returned. Again, he tried to think if there was anything in there that could give away the thing he had kept hidden so well, but like the previous night, he drew a blank.

Leticia was the first to excuse herself from the breakfast table to the garage. She stood back and made an assessment; she was older than the boys, and she was a woman. That meant she would work according to a system. She had no expectations for the twins; she knew that they would help a little, then get sidetracked by something they found, get bored with it, and help a little again. She had no problem with that; they were all going to have fun, and in the process, they were doing something special for Grandpa.

The twins made the first big find just before lunch. In a metal trunk, they found two grubby satchels, a helmet, a rusty knife, and a chunky radio. Behind all of it was an old tin; it had faded markings on it. And when they opened it, there were faded photographs inside.

‘Kimi!’ Leticia said, snatching it from Andy’s hands. He tried to get it from her, but she was taller and held it high until he gave up. ‘Now, let’s all sit down together and look at these,’ she said.

Most of the pictures were of a much younger Grandpa with a bunch of other men around army helicopters. The kids didn’t know where the photos were taken, who the men were, and what they meant.

At the lunch table, the twins produced their find. They laid the helmet, knife, and radio on the server. Leticia held onto the pics. ‘What are these, Grandpa?’ Andy asked.

Grant looked at Kin to see if it would be okay to speak about the war; she nodded without saying anything. Then, over lunch, he proceeded to tell the three kids the most adventurous stories they’d ever heard. There were heroes in the stories and enemies and fights and rescues and heartbreak and tears. They were better than any of the stories they’d ever seen on television, and Grandpa had been a part of each of these tales.

Grant’s three grandchildren were in awe like never before. But all the while, ice-cold fingers coiled up Grant’s spine. He’d forgotten about all the memorabilia he’d stored in the garage, and if there was anything in there to do with his secret, the kids were bound to find it.

An hour after lunch, they did. It was Leticia who first came across the small tin. It was similar to something they’d seen in one of the photographs, and she remembered her Grandpa calling it a ration tin. It was rusted shut, and the markings on the outside were unreadable. The twins were rummaging around in more of Grandpa’s war memorabilia; they discovered old uniforms, a leather pilot’s jacket, and a wooden box full of medals. While they were picking through the interesting stuff, Leticia settled down to go through the contents of the tin.

When she realized what it was, she gasped. Then she leaned forward, looked again, sat back, closed her eyes, and simply couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

On the porch, Grant was drinking his first beer of the day; he was chatting to Karin and Carl, but he wasn’t really hearing a word they were saying. His mind was on whatever was happening in his garage.

He remembered he had a few things stashed away in an old ration tin, but he couldn’t remember if that was in his garage or the storage locker in town, along with all his wife’s belongings. If it was in the garage, the kids would find it, and that was the worst thing that could possibly happen. They would ask him about it, and he would have to explain. Not only did he not want to, but it would be difficult. They wouldn’t understand; none of them would know what it was really like back then.

Leticia carefully unfolded the letters from the tin; the paper was thin and worn with age, and the ink was already faded. The first one was the most beautiful love letter she had ever read. She looked at the bottom of the last page and saw it was from a woman named Eleanor. Breathless, Leticia started reading.

It was a letter filled with such love, such intimacy, such understanding, such compassion that she almost got tears in her eyes. And it was addressed to her Grandpa. The next was the same, and the next. In all, she read five of the seven letters before the boys noticed she’d gone quiet and wanted to know what was up.

Without answering, Leticia slipped the letters back into the tin and pressed the lid down. She got on with the rest of the cleaning, but she could think of nothing but the letters. She wished she could have seen her grandpa’s replies.

If his letters were that passionate, they were exchanged with someone he truly loved and someone who truly loved him. But she couldn’t just come out and ask him; something like this would be really private. Besides, she’d seen him tell the stories at lunch; he’d taken the floor with great confidence. But she could also see there was a world of hurt behind the thin veil he dropped before his eyes.

It was as if Grant knew the moment his secret had been discovered. He could swear the earth moved a little. He wasn’t sure if all of the kids discovered it or if it was only one of them. He prayed silently that it was Leticia; she was the one with common sense. She would understand that his letters were private, and even if she didn’t grasp the ruckus they could cause, she would know not to simply blab everything out to whoever had ears to hear. She was a lot more careful than that.

The dreaded question came when Leticia asked him to join her for a walk before dinner. When she’d asked, he knew she was the one who had found the tin, and he knew that’s what she’d want to talk about. On the one hand, he was relieved, but on the other, he dreaded the conversation.

‘I found an old tin with letters,’ she started when they were well away from the house.

‘I figured as much,’ he said. ‘And now you want to know who Eleanor was and everything else, right?’

‘Only if you want to tell me, Grandpa,’ she said. ‘I haven’t shown them to anybody else, and I won’t if you don’t want me to.’

He sat her down in the shade of a giant apple tree and took both her hands in his. ‘It was a tough time back then,’ he started. ‘Miles away from home and with everybody trying to kill you every day.’ He told her how he had flown in to pull a couple of Marines out of a really bad situation during the Battle of Prang.

He flew the wounded straight to a MASH unit for medical treatment. ‘The next day, I was due for a furlough in Thailand. I was battle-weary, constantly on edge,’ he said, while stroking the top of Leticia’s hand with his thumb. Then he told her how he had met a nurse at the field hospital He had received the wounded he’d flown in and was also due for a week of RNR starting the next day. On the spur of the moment, they decided to go to Thailand together.”

Now, Grandpa had tears in his eyes. He looked into the distance and said, “As it turned out, I got to know my soulmate that week.”

Leticia was confused. She wanted to know how her grandmother fit into the story and what happened to Eleanor. “From Thailand, I went straight back into battle,” he said, “and Eleanor went straight back to the field hospital. We lost contact after that. Everything was chaotic; I was transferred from base to base, from battle to battle, and it was the same for her.”

He told her how they had tried to stay in contact, but all he had left to remember her by were the seven letters in the old ration tin. Eventually, she didn’t respond to his letters anymore. He didn’t know if she was dead or if she had just lost interest.

“And you never tried to find her after the war?” Leticia asked. This was the best romance story she had ever heard.

He shook his head and wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. “Nope,” he said, “I was a right royal mess when I got back for several years. And then I met your grandmother, and we got married and made the most wonderful life together. I know it must sound strange to you, but I really loved her, you know, your grandmother.”

At that moment, a thought started forming in the deep recesses of Leticia’s mind. It sprouted, pushed through the soil of her subconscious into her thinking mind, and became a plan.

The next morning, Leticia complained of a headache and skipped breakfast. In reality, she was upstairs in her bedroom on the phone. Her laptop was open in front of her, and she was concentrating as hard as she could. She missed lunch too, and by dinner time, Kin was concerned. When she knocked, Leticia assured her that she was okay and just needed a little rest.

The next day, she repeated the pattern. Only just after lunch, she came into the living room beaming triumphantly. “I’m expecting a guest tomorrow,” she announced unceremoniously, “at around 10 in the morning.”

With a tummy full of butterflies, Leticia watched as the car meandered up the driveway. The windows were slightly tinted, so she couldn’t get a proper look at the person behind the wheel. Her grandfather stood beside her. She’d been secretive, and he’d let her be. She would show her hand when she was good and ready, and he wasn’t going to push her.

But when the stranger stopped and stepped out of the car, all the color drained from his face. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. A beautiful woman, his age, walked towards the porch and up the steps. She put a hand on Leticia’s cheek and then turned to Grant.

“Hello, Grant,” she said, holding out both hands.

“Hello, Eleanor,” he said with a tight voice, taking her hands in his.

“How’s that for a happy ending?”

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