“Grandpa?” a little voice cooed, as he slowly lowered the tablet he was reading, and looked over the top of his reading specs.
“Yes, sweetie? What is it?” he leaned forward, giving his grand daughter his undivided attention.
“What did you do in the war?” she asked innocently.
“Wha-what?” he leaned back into his chair, taken aback. “What did I do...”
“Yes.” the child continued a bit shyly, thinking she had somehow hurt or offended her elder. “What did you do in the war, Grandpa?”
“I... that is...” he looked over to his spouse for any help or advice. He was caught by a smirk, as she raised her eyebrow at him.
“Phillip, you know this day was bound to come along sooner or later.” she stated matter of factly. “Phillip!,” she snapped him back to reality, as she saw him slip off to a far away time and place. “your grand daughter asked you a question.”
“Well. I'll say I never expected this so early... who told you about me fighting in a war, honey?”
“Grammy Leela did!” the little girl smiled. “I was helping her clean out the closet, and she shown me a box full of medals. She said they were yours! Let me go show you!” She ran off, out of the room to her grandparents' bedroom to retrieve the items she was talking about. The old man glared at his wife, and sighing, he ran a hand trough his silver hair, streaked here and there with the red color of his youth.
“I'm afraid I've created a little monster,” the old woman said apologetically. “Just tell her what the medals are for. You needn't go into detail, dear. She is only six, after all.”
The child ran up to her grandfather clutching the box, and climbed into his lap, and leaned against him lovingly. Drawing a deep breath and steeling himself, he opened the box, as floods of memories overpowered him. Every ribbon had a story and place. Every medal a tale to tell. He slowly took each out, one by one, and explained the meaning of the award, and what he did to 'earn' them. He carefully placed each one in her hands so she could examine them with a newfound knowledge, and a bit of awe. Occasionally, she would take one out and ask about it in detail, and he answered all her questions.
“Grandpa, what's this purple one?”
“That one I got for getting hurt. That's all.” he shrugged his shoulders.
“And this one?” she held up another.
“That is for living to see the end of the war, I guess.” He chuckled.
Going deeper into the box, the child saw more and more of what her grandmother had never shown her, and she sat in rapt attention to her grandfather's stories for each one. Finally, there was one she oohed and aahed over. The elderly woman jumped up when her grand daughter asked the next question.
“Oooh, this one is big and pretty! Can I wear it, Grandpa?”
“NO!” the old couple shouted in unison, scaring their grandchild. Tears started to run down her little cheeks, and she pouted.
“I just wanted to wear it...” she trailed off as her tears dampened her face.
“Aww, sweetie-kins,” Leela comforted her, “No one but Grandpa can wear that one. Even I'm not allowed to!”
“So this is a super special one?”
'Yeah,” Fry whispered, almost inaudibly. “Yeah, it's special, all right.”
“What did you get this one for?” she dried her eyes, and leaned into his chest for love and comfort.
“I... I...” he stammered. He looked over at his wife, and saw her eye red and swollen. She was crying freely but with the biggest smile, and genuine love etched in the lines of her face. A flood of memories ran him over, dragged him under. He started to sweat. Clearing his throat and gathering himself. He looked into her little eyes, as he caressed her cheek. “I got this one for doing my job.”
“But... but didn't all the others do their jobs, too?” she asked with great concern.
“Baby girl, it's like this,” Leela got up and sat down next to Fry and their grand daughter. “We all had a job to do, but... well, some of us did the job much much better than all the rest. Grandpa was one of those people.” She reached over and gave her an affectionate squeeze. “Do you understand?”
“I think so.” she answered, not too convincingly. “But why do you not act like it's special, Grandpa Phil?”
“Oh, it IS special. I just don't feel I deserve it.” he said, and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand.
“Why do you keep it and wear it, then?”
“I wear it for my friends who didn't make it. I wear it for them, because they can't.” He took his wife and grand daughter in his arms and hugged them.