Special time with grandson: reading a book that belonged to his dad, my son.
Home from a cross-country trip where I spent much of my 12-day visit sitting on a hardwood floor, I feel every minute of my age and every muscle in my body. But it was glorious and I can’t wait to do it again. My almost-4-year-old grandson and I built a drive-up restaurant, toy store, firehouse and children’s hospital with Duplos (big Legos;) connected his wooden railroad tracks and led Thomas and his friends on various adventures; put puzzles together; played match games (which he always won;) and maneuvered his fleet of cars, trucks and planes throughout the room. Those were the floor activities. We read books, took walks and stopped by the ice cream shop, where he finished my cup of vanilla/peanut butter after eating his cone of chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.
Not for a second do I take for granted that he is still young enough to WANT to play with me, to be with me. That will end too soon. I cherish these years.
That’s how it used to be with my granddaughter, now 14, and other grandson, who is 12. I adore all three and am confident that my bonds with them will forever be strong, forged by mutual love. Along with their own developing interests, though, age brings sensitivities about hanging with Granni.
Never could I have imagined that I wouldn’t live near my sons and their families. As life turned out for all of us, we’re spread across the US—one grandchild in California, two in Pennsylvania, me in Florida. I’ve been fortunate to be able to make frequent trips, which has been quality time, indeed. I’m missing a lot (birthdays are hardest) … but the months apart make our precious time together more special. Of course technology—phone, Skype and now Facebook with the oldest—keeps us constantly in touch.
Sure, I would rather live nearby. I honestly believe, however, that they know me as well and I am as emotionally close to them as if I do.
So maybe I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was at my first indication that they don’t exist for my visits. “I have a sleepover at a friend’s house tonight,” my then-10-year-old granddaughter told me upon my arrival from the airport, “I’ll see you before you leave.” “What? But I’m here!” I thought, as I smiled and wished her a good time, feeling sad that she was growing up and I was losing my shadow.
My first grandchild, and only girl, she barely let me out of her sight on our visits for years—playing and laughing, for sure, but also putting on my shoes and makeup and making all those wonderful memories. Her third birthday party was the weekend after 9/11 and I had scheduled a flight for 9/12. No planes flew for a few days, and I was on one of the first headed to BWI so I could be there for her celebration. I had to see her and her brother, especially then.
With him, it happened first at the school bus stop a couple of years ago. “Don’t kiss me when the bus comes,” he asked, self-consciousness overtaking his normal affection. “OK,” I promised, yielding to his peer-pressure while mourning the end of that sweet tradition. A sensitive boy, he’s the grandchild who often accompanied me on visits to my dying mother in the nursing home. It’s been years since he and I sat on the floor and played with cars, trains and action figures, but he still seems to like having me around when he plays video games. I’m clueless but happy to be welcome.
As my grandchildren mature, our relationships evolve. I accept that I compete with her cell phone and his TV for attention, secure in our unwavering affection. For now, the little one still takes my hand and says, “Play with me.” And my heart melts.
Reflections of the current phases