Sunday, July 19, 2009

The swimmer

This morning our phone rang and Carolann answered. When she immediately began chattering like a demented kindergarten teacher on a sugar high I knew she was talking with our youngest grandson. Tyler was calling to ask if we could come to his house and swim with him today. While it's true that the plot was hatched last night between his mother and me a four-year-old issuing such an invitation is a mighty big deal for children of all ages. Carolann practically shrieked our acceptance. All three of us were pretty darned excited, I can tell you.

We arrived a short time later and Tyler whooped as he ran to the door to admit us. But when he couldn't quite solve the considerable mystery of the system of locks on that particular front door, (which stymies every adult I've ever seen fiddle with it,) he did what any level-headed person would do. He stepped back and settled for waving at us through the window. Mom arrived a moment later, swept away the hinged barrier, and the hugs and giggles commenced.

Carolann and I are blessed to have wonderful and loving children and grandsons. And we are doubly blessed to live near them so that we can watch and help them all grow. It is a treat that requires no purchase or qualification.

Grandparents in proper families are quite rightly V.I.P.s.

Most of us feel we somehow weren't qualified to be parents when we were much younger and we're right about that. As Carolann likes to say, those kids didn't come with instruction manuals and when you're barely outside of childhood yourself, perspective and wisdom must be earned through eighteen or twenty years of 24/7 OJT. You screw up. You learn. And generally the progeny grow up in spite of us in remarkably sound condition and showing some promise.

Raising kids is damned hard, wonderful work. And when it's finally finished they leave you with something that feels very much like a hole in your heart. The love remains but the work is gone. You tell yourself what you already know but need to hear: that they'll never be back. Not in the same way.

Here's the epiphany:

When the children we were as new parents finish the job, we can finally continue raising ourselves.

Tyler carefully put his toes on the edge of the pool, brought his little hands together above his head...

"Watch! Grandpa, watch me! Nana, watch! Watch me!"

...SPLASH!

The air left me like the eye of a cyclone. He had never done this before! He couldn't even swim without his floaty vest!

But that was last week and this is now.

He surfaced in front of me, a river of water pouring into eyes and mouth sputtering to open with excitement.

Tyler is a swimmer. And, a diver! And it had all happened when Carolann and I had our backs momentarily turned as Mommy and Daddy were doing their hard, wonderful work.

A friend of mine told me not too long ago that if he had known how great grandkids would be he'd have had them first.

I'm nursing a bit of a sunburn this evening. My eyes are chlorine sleepy and I'm wearing a silly grin that won't leave my face.

About an hour after we finally left our liquid circus, as I sat in a soft, fat leather chair, my grandson climbed into my lap, got unusually close to my face, looked directly into my eyes and asked with deadly serious amusement:

"So...how was that swimming for you?"

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