Grandparenting is a lesson in velocity. Time and distance. I can’t explain it from the scientific view, but only from the emotional one. One of the only reasons I took off some time from writing was to spend time with a very important four year old. To say we are taught lessons we need to learn in life, is to know that our teacher may be a small child. Being in the moment and responding to a request to read a book, color a paper or “come and see this, BeeBee” was a test of my usual behavior. I always have something else to do, until I have reason to be there right now.
Moments while I was in the midst of preparing pancakes or waffles were going to evaporate. Waffles waited, and pancakes paused. It was as easy as breathing to sit on the couch “right there!” and be BeeBee, and read a book to the sweetest audience. She leaned against my hip, and listened to Amelia Bedelia, which has always been one of my favorite books. Amelia Bedelia is still as funny as she was back then and appreciated more. The nuances of her adventures perhaps were not fully understood but it was about the listening and the attention my voice drew and the knowledge that this was the best feeling, right here and right now.
Penguins are funny creatures who lead with determination and energy, not unlike this grandgirl. She stood mesmerized watching the constant motion as the birds swam past and she patiently waited for them to come close and then to move along. I learned that these days together were much the same. Long distance love relationships are difficult. Long distance relationships with grandchildren are beyond that. My FHB was sad before she arrived thinking about her leaving. I had to corral him with a little bit of Dr. Seuss and remind him “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” before we picked them up at the airport. We both know that the next time she will be different in many ways, because four is a special age that challenges what is real and what isn’t and that so many questions are asked of us with curiosity and wonder. It is important to pay attention to the question as much as in preparing the answer. The synergy of influence between us is the lesson in itself.
Making memories that will carry us all between visits is like taking a picture and not knowing if you captured what you hoped for, until the time has passed. Four year olds are in the now. The world is all encompassing and to hear “I want to show you all ‘the Nemos’ ” meant we were invited into her world and her world view. At the aquarium, I could totally see how Disney saw the magic in clownfish and offered it up to wide-eyed four year olds to enjoy. I got to bring her to my favorite library and sit on a tiny stool and a tiny chair and look face to face at a smile that lights up my heart. I did need help getting up but that’s what FHBs are for.
We were given commands to sit down, and sit here, and read this and read that, and our compliance was one hundred percent. I only pushed back when she wanted me to color a picture of shells and I just really don’t like coloring in the lines. She was pretty patient as we negotiated that I would color two, but that I didn’t want to do two more. I, too, can be four for a minute.
The morning that I had to say good bye I squatted down so that we were face to face. I took in her serious expression as I told her how much I would miss her, and that having her with us for a few days was the best. Her big eyes listened, and her hug was tighter than I had remembered. Love hurts for a minute, but we’ll always have Nemo.