Tag Archives: grandchildren

Another Grandie Story


kids & lambs May 2014 042

My daughter, Terry, teaches yoga on Wednesdays, so every other week I get my youngest grandson, Jesse, for the day. The other grandmother takes the opposite weeks. Terry refers to the plural version of us as “the Grandies.”

It was mostly drizzling yesterday, so after we walked Tess, my golden retriever, Jesse and I decided to go to the Williton library. When he first arrived at my house, he’d been fascinated with my wheeled computer case which was still in the living room from my previous day’s visit to the Somerset Cancer Care group where I gave a 1 ½ – hour talk about Bernie Siegel’s books and a 20-minute meditation that used his creative visualization methods for healing.

Jesse zipped and unzipped the various compartments, and I showed him how to extend the collapsible handle so he could wheel the case around the room. He put a big book in the case and transported it all over the house. Could we bring it to the library? Okay, I said, what a great idea! Jesse insisted on wheeling the case (nearly as big as he is) out to the car and lifting it into the back all by himself. He’s incredibly strong, adept, and patient for a nearly-three-year-old.

When we got to Williton all the car parks were full, so I parked way down a back lane, leaving Jesse and I a fair hike into the town. The minute Jesse got out of the car he unloaded the wheeled case, determined to do it himself. He then proceeded to pull it behind him all the way into town and over to the library at such a fast pace, I had to trot to keep up with him. Occasionally the case would catch on a building corner or pavement edge, halting him with a jerk. Not a problem for the imperturbable Jesse! He’d look back, adjust the case onto the narrow path, and take off once again at full speed. In the meantime, I was his wingman, making sure no vehicles or other pedestrians could be run over by my grandson. God help them, if they got in his way – He was on a mission!

When we reached our destination, the library had two automatic doors to navigate, these being part of a wheelchair friendly, s-bend entrance. It may have been friendly for wheelchairs, but it constituted quite a challenge for a toddler towing a 2-wheeled monster, nearly as big as him. I was directed by my grandson to stand aside, for he was capable of getting it through those doors, all by himself. Having been the youngest child in my family tree, I understood the importance of his request and said, “Okay, Jesse… go for it!” And go he did. The quiet library became a lot less quiet upon our entrance, but nobody seemed to mind when they saw the cause of the minor commotion. Smiles and charmed expressions of “awhhh” followed Jesse’s stage-left to stage-right entrance.

We parked the wheeled monster in a safe place then navigated over to the child’s reading corner. The library has a wonderful assortment of colorful, creative seating for kids – everything from a wooden steam engine filled with books and bench to pooh bear cushioned cubes. Jesse led me straight to the “oooh oooh train,” sat down on the bench, and pointed to the 8” space beside him. “Sit here, Grannie C.”

Now the last time I looked at the width of my derriere, I’m sure it was greater than the space Jesse’s chosen seat afforded. Being a very special grannie, however, I prepared to wiggle my butt down into that wedge of space, which seemed to shrink in size the closer I got to it, while my bottom appeared to grow proportionately bigger. As I squatted my knees creaked like a door in a haunted house.

“Let me know if I’m squashing you,” I said to Jesse, realizing that I’d reached the point of no return. If he squealed now, my only recourse was to fall forward onto the floor, flat on my face in a most inelegant, but perhaps entertaining way for grandsons.  The things I do for love…

After we read about ten very entertaining books, Jesse popped out of the train seat and I did the grannie version of popping out – a much slower unfurling in an upward direction, using book shelves as props. Thank goodness they were bolted to the floor.

Jesse retrieved the parked black bag on wheels, which I now realized could be mistaken for a UED (unexploded device). Luckily no alerts had been declared, no armies called upon, no panics risen – this was just a quiet little village library where nasty things don’t happen, and all is well with our little world – thank goodness.

Jesse’s exit was smoother than his entrance, proving that practice does reap positive results. He high-tailed it back towards the town center, ‘Grannie C’ doing her best to keep up the pace and protect passersby, while alerting Jesse to the dangers in his environment. “Puddle ahead, Jesse!  Go AROUND it, please, not through it. Mind that lady – don’t knock her over – there’s a good boy. Let the lorry go first, Jesse. Not a good idea to challenge lorries. They always win.”

Jesse came to a sudden halt at the café we’d passed earlier. The cakes in the window had missed his glance before, but not this time. “How about stopping for a piece of cake?” I asked. Apparently that was the right question.

I quickly learned that the fewer choices a child is given, the better. Decisions between one good thing and another are nigh impossible to make, so I said to the lady behind the counter, “Jesse and I will split that big chocolate brownie.” He looked pleased and relieved at my taking the bull by the horns to make such a crucial executive decision. In return, I let him choose the table. We stored the UED-on-wheels under the table and sat down to a chocolate indulgence. I was glad we split the bar in half; it was so rich a whole slice would have been too much for me, let alone for Jesse.

After our café treat, we clambered back to the car and drove to the beach so Tess could have a good run. While Tess had her explore, Jesse did what kids do, no matter the weather. He got down in the sand and started digging. His little hands grew red from the cold, but they worked diligently nevertheless.  Woe to any rock that thought it had a safe haven from weather; as soon as Jesse uncovered one he’d toss or heave it out of the hole and onto the beach. The rocks would have to wait for the next storm to provide a sandy cover again. For now exposure to the elements seemed to be their destined lot; it’s a good thing they’ve got hard skin.

Lungs filled with fresh air and clothes with wet sand, we drove back to the house and had a late lunch together.

Finger food is Jesse’s favorite. Those crunchy, dried green beans from Africa always bring a smile to his face, plus the sharp cheddar cheese that I tell him “will knock your socks off.” He looks at his feet and back at me, then laughs at the joke. Chopped apple, a sprinkle of cinnamon, some cranberry/pumpkin seed bread toasted and buttered with Terry’s plum jam, a few grapes, and we’ve got a feast fit for a king, let alone a nearly three-year-old boy. He slowly devours them all while we talk about things boys like.

Today’s subject covers favorite songs, Jesse’s currently being a condensed version of Baa Baa Black Sheep, and I tell him about the Take Me Out To The Ball Game song that everybody sings at baseball games in America. I realize he doesn’t have a clue about baseball, so I take the opportunity to introduce my grandson to the American tradition. This is, after all, essential education!

We go into the living room to my big screen computer, and he sits on my lap while I find a YouTube video with people singing the song at a game. We watch the baseball play and sing the song along with the crowd, and every time we come to the end, Jesse wants to do it again. I fill him in on the roles of the batter, catcher, and pitcher, and we laugh at the men sliding into each other at the bases and the guy who leaps to catch the fly ball but takes a dive over the wall and lands on his nose, feet flapping in the air, as the crowd behind him clamor to catch the ball. “Batter’s got a HOME RUN!” I shout, and Jesse gets excited, though he doesn’t really understand why.

Jesse asks for a digger video next, so I find a 20-minute video of three diggers, cranes, and dump trucks working on clearing a building site. He is transfixed by these machines and talks about what they are doing – the size of the load – where they are dumping – the difference between one truck and another – the distance the digger arm reaches. I can’t help but get enthused with him, for he’s showing me how to see them through his eyes, and it is impressive – almost miraculous – what they are capable of. While I give Jesse some Yankee culture, he gives me an education on big plant machines.

After a while, I go over and sit on the sofa next to Tess, leaving Jesse in my chair to watch the last few minutes of a scene with power jack hammer digging up the pavement. When I look back at him, he’s seated in my chair but he’s not looking at the screen. He’s looking at me. His eyes land on mine, and he holds my gaze for such a long time with what can only be called an eye-hug. The love in his eyes is so obvious it brings tears to mine. I gaze back at him and stay inside the moment, sending him an eye-hug back, soaking up everything this moment contains, knowing it won’t last long. One day Jesse will be grown and he’ll be interested in doing all kinds of things – few of them involving his grannie. But now he’s honestly enjoying his time with me, and I’m treasuring my time with him.

A few floor games later, we realize it’s nearly 4pm, time to get his sisters. Though we usually walk, I decide to drive to the school because it’s started to rain again and we’ve already been wet and dried once today, which is plenty enough for me. Izzy and Raffy look happy to see us, pile into the car with their stories and school gear, and off we go to their house. A hot mug of ginger tea and a couple card games of rummy at the kitchen table are a fun way to enjoy the girls. Terry soon arrives home with Farley, the oldest grandson, and as she and Jim go about making supper, Farley joins the card game, only to slaughter his grannie and sisters with his rummy hand.

Finally I head home for my own supper and an evening’s appointment on Skype to record one hour of  Ted’s story interview for his memoir. The nearly ninety year old glows as he recalls his working days on Panama Canal, his time in the Navy during WWII, and 14 years of mining gold up in the Yukon during the 60s – 70s. As I listen to Ted, all I can see in my mind are Jesse’s eyes, not blinking, not averting, but really looking into mine, sending a love message, a hug like no other.

And I know I have the best memories of all.

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Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction

Mended


Before the leaves left their branches
Orange and gold burst from their flesh
and verdant meadows, thick with green
cushioned their fall
and the rains chased them into rivers

My grandson watched the thousand boats of gold
swirling, disappearing under bridge and walkways
and he called out to them,

“Bye leaf! Bye, bye!”

I smiled at his hand, waving like a puppy’s tail

and at the joy of knowing

I don’t have to say goodbye

anymore

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Broken Shield


My friend, Sebastian, told me in one of our discussions, that he uses his imminent death as a barricade – a shield.

How so? I asked. Please explain.

Sebastian said that it wasn’t until he knew he that he could die – and, in fact, was dying – that he began to live. The pettiness, annoyances and inconveniences that plague us all; these, he thinks of as arrows, and he bounces them off his barricade shield. Death protects him therefore, encouraging him to grasp instead the positive gifts of kindness, compassion, generosity and time – precious time – given to him by the people he calls his angels – nurses, hospice staff, visitors, student volunteers and friends who didn’t say, “I’m sorry to hear,” and then stayed away in fear or helplessness, but who came to sit, watch, listen, laugh and cry, and who placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, or gently stroked his cheek when it all seemed too overwhelming. For these precious things, the barricade shield comes down and the love of angels goes pouring in.

Researchers in gerontology and social sciences have reported that, unlike younger generations, people in their senior years, have a greater tendency to avoid things that disturb, and they tend to focus much more on positive, happy and comforting people, things, situations and environments. Perhaps seniors, approaching the end of their life, feel more vulnerable, or powerless to change the big negatives. Maybe years of life-experience have proven at some unconscious level, that what they focus on, is what expands. Why waste precious energy on people, places and situations that drain them, frighten them and make them feel uncomfortable?  It’s understandable.

In my youth, I was always ready to join the fight against establishment and injustice, actively working to make things better, to change people’s attitudes and behaviors, including my own. Yet now, in my sixth decade of life, I sit here horrified by what I see, but do nothing. Oil gushes through the ocean like an arterial disaster; armies of trucks carry deadly chemicals across our country – liquids that are pumped down holes bored deep into the earth, poisoning rivers, land, animals and people – killing America; all this for the sake of fuel for our cars and factories, and for ‘clean’ natural gas for electricity; for corporate profits that allow people to retire in their senior years, live off dividends, and drive their houses-on-wheels until they’re too old or too sick to discover America anymore.

I acknowledge my deplorable lack of action to fight our current attitudes of profit-priority, mindless greed and acceptance of earth-rape. I admit that now in my older years, I lack the passion, energy and naivety of youth to believe that I can do anything to change this world. As the earth bursts and bleeds, casting arrows of blame, I raise my own barrier shield of senior age against it, and I look away. I focus instead on using what time I have left for enjoying the beauty around me; for kindness, empathy, humor, patience and compassion. 

Today, as I sought to focus on those positive things, my comfort was torn, shattered in shame. No shield – no barrier – not even death – could spare the cold realization, that the place where I find the most beauty – the most comfort and peace – is right here, in my grandchildren’s faces – in all of our grandchildren’s faces.

My barrier is breached.  My shield lies broken, crushed on the truth-flooded floor, staining it with a desire to stand up and do something…

 

Does your tap water ignite?  Gasland is an urgent, cautionary and sometimes darkly comic look at the largest domestic natural gas drilling campaign in history. Part of the HBO Documentary Films Series.  WATCH: Gasland: Trailer  http://www.hbo.com

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Filed under Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Mushroom Miles


She calls to say “Go get the mushroom book, Mum!”

Hunting through the old bookshelf emigrants,

I notice most the ‘thing’ that is no longer there.

Missing the smell of damp and mold seems odd to me

especially since I tried so hard, when living in England,

to keep the books dry, but always, I failed.

Roger Phillips’ “Mushrooms” opens to a page where adventures began,

where small hands let go of mine and wool-clad legs,

wearing green wellie boots ran ahead, searching beneath oak

and beech for strange fruits of the ancient copse,

taking the edible home and avoiding those fungi 

of mysteriously poisonous nature.

“Find the ‘butter cap mushrooms,” she says.

The tone in her voice reaches across oceans of miles,

reminding me of her never-failing ability to instigate.

Her kitchen table creaks of old elm as she leans

against it, and her stories of the day’s adventures,

unravel the distance between us.

On page 56, I find a plump parasol of palomino fungus,

still attached to its mossy base of black Exmoor loam.  

“Got it!” I say. “Why do you ask?”

“Is it edible?” she wants to know as I study the botannical notes.

“The kids found a patch in Timberscombe Wood,

filled a basket and brought them home for tea,

but the smell is musty and rancid.” She reminds me

of the time I nearly poisoned her Dad with a similar

wooded offering. We remember and laugh.

“Edible – not good,” read the fading yellowed pages,

now crinkled and dull from years without use.

“I wish you were here today, Mum.”  

She describes the children’s antics, repeats innocent quotes,

while the forgotten fungus that sits drying on her table

is forgiven for not being the right kind,

and I try to forgive myself for not being there.

 

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