Dalton, my eight-year old, is allll excited about tomorrow because my Dad's coming from Durham to go have lunch with him at school for "Bring your grandparents to lunch week" Dalton came home Friday telling me, "I need to call Papa. Next week is 'Bring your grandparents to lunch week' and I thought of him." (It would've been kinda weird if he hadn't thought of his Papa, seeing as how he's the last living grandparent the boy has left!) So I let him call and I can hear my dad on the other line, immediately making plans to drive an hour and 40 minutes to sit with his grandson for 30 minutes in a school cafeteria, just because it's important to the kid. This is the same man who, when I was a child, didn't even let my siblings or me get our questions out before barking "NO!" as we were mid-sentence. It was like this "Dad, can I spend the night with" "NO!" There was no pause, no thought, just no. (Being a mother myself now, I find myself doing this more often than I would like to admit!) However, as a grandfather, this same man is alllll about "yes." It's "yes" when Dalton wants to eat nothing but fritos and ice cream while he's at his house. It's "yes" when Dalton wants to go to a local amusement park and ride rides. (My dad HATES those kinds of things!) And the other day, when I was joking around about how my dad has never once in my lifetime said "I love you" (out loud and in words, mind you, he says it in other ways) to me or my siblings, Dalton piped up with, "He says it to me all the time! When I'm at his house and he tucks me in, he says 'Good night Buddy, love you!" It's like going from "Dad" to "Papa" made him an entirely different person! I remember the Bill Cosby routine about grandparents from "Bill Cosby As Himself," and it's so true. The strictest, most no-nonsense parent suddenly turns into mushy goo when their grandchildren come along.
As a small child, I had 3 living grandparents. This is the kind of thing you don't realize makes you very fortunate until you grow up and understand just what you got from having those relationships. They were all flawed people, as everyone is, but I knew they all loved me. That is priceless to a child, to KNOW in their tiny little core that they have, not just parents and siblings, but a whole back-up system of adults who think everything they do is wonderful and love them unconditionally. My MawMaw, my Dad's mother, died when I was ten, and losing her was one of the worst things that happened to me as a kid. I've written before about her and how much I miss her. But now I want to tell you about my other Grandma, the only living grandparent I have left.
My Grandpa had died long before I was ever born, so I never got to meet him. But my Grandma was always a huge part of my life. Going to spend the night at her house as a kid was one of the greatest things EV-ER! (I'm sure all my cousins will agree, and have some of the same memories I have of what we would do there.) Grandma had a milkshake making machine, like one of the old-timey ones they used to have in drugstores. And if you went to spend the night at Grandma's, she was always willing to make you a milkshake. She also had these metal straws with a spoon on the end so that you could both scoop up the ice cream with the spoon, and later on when the milkshake had melted a little and needed to be slurped, you could slurp it through the straw. In retrospect, everything tasted like the metal of the straw, but at the time, it was awesome. After milkshakes, it was time for fingernail painting. Grandma was a firm believer in fingernail painting, and always had a variety of pinks and purples. (She is 88 years old now, and her fingernails are still ALWAYS painted.) Her girl grandchildren, like me, got both hands painted. The boys got one finger, just so they could see what it felt like. (They all loved it, don't let them lie to you!)
When the paint was dry, there was usually a scrabble or card game with either one of my aunts, or one of Grandma's friends. While they were playing their game, I would entertain myself with a game I made up that was similar to twister. The carpet in her kitchen had food words all over it, and the pattern repeated. So I would find, say, "eggs" and then look for another "eggs" and put first my hands, then my feet, all on my word of choice and see if I could hold my balance.
Grandma had (and still has) a large bowl in her bedroom full of bracelets, mostly plastic bangles. Another ritual at her house was to get out this bowl, and put on as many bracelets at one time as was physcially possible.
In the evening, Grandma would lie on the couch and watch tv, and she would inevitably fall asleep. The tv would be on, and she'd fall asleep watching, say, "PM Magazine," and by the time she'd wake back up, I would've seen "Dallas" and all kinds of other stuff that no one would ever let me watch when they were awake! I can remember looking over my shoulder to make sure she was really asleep as I watched stuff I knew she would never allow me to see! Lol!
I was a nervous kid, and was always terrified of the dark. At home, my parents left the light on in the hallway for me and left my bedroom door wide open. Grandma wasn't having any of that, but she'd lie down with me and try to keep me from being scared when I was going to sleep. "When the lights first go out, you can't see," she'd tell me, "But if you keep your eyes open for long enough, your eyes begin to get accustomed to the dark, and then you'll be able to see, and you won't be scared." This is one of the things I LOVE about Grandma, she didn't use sissy words with me, she would whip out "accustomed" and make me learn what it was and how to use it in a sentence! I would lay there, trying to be still (I'm SO not good at that!) and stare into the darkness, and sure enough, after awhile, I could sorta see! "Hey, Grandma! Guess what?!" "*zzzzzz*---What?" "I think my eyes have become accustomed to the dark!" "Ok, good, now go to sleep." And she'd go back to snoring.
In the morning, I would wake up to the sound of Grandma's spoon stirring her coffee, and her clearing her throat, which she always did 5 times right in a row. I'd go in the kitchen and she'd make me toast the way only she could, with about 2 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons of orange maramalade on it. She would drink her coffee and do the crossword in the paper, and listen to me prattle on about whatever.
Later on, if I asked her to, she'd set my hair on hot rollers at the little vanity in her bedroom. With my curled hair and my painted fingernails, I was pretty sure I was gorgeous.
And that's just how kids should feel when they're with their grandparents. Like they are beautiful, like they are loved, like their incessant talking is interesting, like they are the most important little people in the whole wide world. They should hear lots of "I love you" and lots of "yes." I really believe, now as an adult and having seen what grandparents did for me and what they've done for my children, that God made it this way knowing exactly what he was doing. That parents need a break sometimes, and that there needs to be other loving adults to step in from time to time. That kids need to be adored, to know they're adored, and to have a place to go where someone always listens to them and makes them feel important. And furthermore, as a person gets older, they need the companionship of a small child who thinks they are the best thing ever, who looks up to them and admires them and enjoys their company. And then, when the grandparent is tired, they can give the little person BACK and let the kid's parents do the hard stuff. It's a win-win for everyone involved. I think the relationship between children and their grandparents is sacred.
So I'm excited about tomorrow for Dalton, I know he'll be so excited to introduce his Papa to all his friends and his teacher, and sit and talk to him at lunchtime. And I know my dad will be thrilled to be there. Those two are the best of friends, and I have to say, my dad is an awesome grandparent.
As for me, I'm looking forward to the day when somebody tiny calls me "Grandma" and I get to spoil them rotten, and then give them back to my kids after I've sugared them all up and made them impossible to deal with. I'm gonna be a wonderful grandparent someday, cuz I've learned from the best.
And one day really soon, maybe even this week, I'm gonna have to visit my grandma. Maybe now I could play her at scrabble, while the twins play in her bowl full of bracelets.