My Grandpa Was a Wizard – Mickey Collins

My grandpa was a wizard. He may not have looked it; he didn’t have a beard or wear a cape, but he was magical. Most people may think that their own grandpa is a magician of sorts, just because they’re able to pull nickels from behind an ear or he has the power to put you to sleep with their stories. But not my grandpa.

He didn’t come from a family of magic. His dad, uncles, and aunt all were in the military. His own grandpa was a principal and later a mayor. Those were probably the least magical careers if ever there was one.

They certainly didn’t teach him magic, but they did teach him the worth of hard work and that if you put your mind to something you can accomplish it. So when he wanted something his mind was made up, he was going to do it. He had a fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude, which was helpful in his line of work; making someone believe in you even if that thing isn’t there is a wizard’s bread and butter afterall. He had confidence and drive.

The first trick he taught me was how to balance a spoon on my nose. He would get the entire table trying doing it. Then while the spoon was successfully in front of your mouth or while you were scrambling on the ground to find your dropped spoon, he’d sneak a bite of your dessert. “Grandpa!” He’d take the cherry off of your sundae, or ask for one of the stems from your Shirley Temple, then pop it in his mouth, only to pull it out again tied in a knot.

The trick he was best known for was his smile that brightened the room, bringing laughter and joy to all around him. You could never be in a bad mood in his presence. He was always prepared to help others, even at the expense of his time or money. He knew something that no one else did: you could be the richest, most powerful wizard, but that didn’t matter if you didn’t treat others with basic respect and decency.

He was a world traveler. He’d seen and done awe-striking things, but he always said his greatest gift wasn’t any of his magical talents or earthly possessions, but the family he had. He was prouder of his family and what they accomplished than anything he ever did. Despite his ability to pull rabbits from hats, he was amazed when you told him you got a B on your report card.

He loved what he did. He worked hard enough that he was able to pick what he wanted to focus on. 

So it came to our surprise when he announced that he would be putting on one final show. Wizards live infamously long lives and have long storied careers. 

He began the show with an empty stage. Dry ice smoke filled the floor. And then poof! From nothing he suddenly appeared.

The first trick he did was climbing a free-standing ladder. Once he reached the top he pulled a second one from the one he was standing on and he climbed that as well, and then he continued to climb up and up as if he were using rungs that weren’t even there. Because he believed he could, even when other people said he couldn’t or if he didn’t know how. He was a risk-taker.

The audience applauded and oohed and aahed as he climbed back down to the ground. He took a quick bow. He wasn’t too proud to take acclaim for his accomplishments.

Once the assistants had removed the ladders off stage, he returned to the center stage. He made a show of pulling up his jacket’s sleeves. And then he snapped his fingers and in each of his hands appeared a single penny. He cupped his hands together and the two pennies became one larger penny.

Another round of applause. 

He’s planned one final trick for us, he says. He spoke softly yet no one had trouble hearing him. He plans to disappear. It wouldn’t be the first time. He’d pulled off various disappearing acts, when he would step behind a door only to appear in another, or transport himself from one box on the left side of the stage to the right side and back again. But he promises us this time is different. 

A large closet was wheeled onstage behind him. It was ornate, hand carved dark wood. It was built by him, he’d always been a hands-on guy. He removed his suit jacket. And then he took his time unbuttoning his shirt, explaining the trick as he went down. And then there he stood. He was skinnier than I remembered; he joked that his doctor had always advised him to lose a few pounds to lighten the mood. 

The assistants spun the closet around, proving there was no funny business. No fishing wire, no trapdoors, no mirrors. This was to be all him. A culmination of his hard work.

He opened the closet door with some effort. Before he closed the door behind him, he took a final look at everyone around him. And smiled. And then the door closed. We heard it lock. And then a silence fell over us.

It was some time, we didn’t know when the door would reopen. There wasn’t the traditional second closet for him to reappear in this time. We looked around the theatre. Where would he appear from? Surely, any minute now there he would be, in his shirt and jacket again, all of us choosing to ignore that those items were right on the stage where he’d left them. He would pop up behind us, and then ask us to dinner, his treat.

Eventually, one of the assistants went to the closet and ventured to open it up. They hadn’t practiced this particular trick, no one knew what was supposed to come next.

Inside the closet, it was true he had disappeared. There was no one in the closet. All there was was a book resting on the bottom of the closet.

He had left behind his magic book that contained all of his spells. These were his secrets for his life of wizardry. Opening it up revealed just three sentences. They weren’t in Latin, they didn’t cause rabbits to be pulled from hats, or women to be sawed in half. They were simply:

“Believe in yourself.” “Don’t be afraid to fail.” and “It’s not who you are, it’s how you are.”

These were the magic spells that got him through life whether he was on stage or with his family. And it was true, he didn’t need any incantations to do what he did. He did everything he did because that’s who he was. He didn’t need or have any special superhuman powers. 

But he was without a doubt a wizard.

Mickey rights wrongs. Mickey wrongs rites. Mickey writes words, sometimes wrong words but he tries to get it write.

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