Grandpa (my Dad) was down today, and the tiny people were pretty manic with excitement this morning. In their opinion, he’s better than Santa Claus, because he tells better stories and can lift them up to touch every ceiling in the house. He also fully understands that one of the best jobs a Grandpa has is to bring an amount of candy in his traveling gear to send me gibbering out of the room. I would not dream of raising my voice to my father in front of the children, and I always have to laugh at the smile that plays at the corner of his mouth when I remember some urgent matter in the basement as he’s emptying a bag of Peeps and candy necklaces onto my kitchen table.
He comes down to play with the tribe and lavishly give them hugs and kisses, but he also comes down to give my husband and I some grown-up company. It’s a fine thing to have reached the stage of life where my parents can be my friends, too. Life has been eventful lately, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to talk a few things out with Dad, whose advice I have valued highly since I was small. He might not know everything, but he’s levelheaded, and he’s one of the few people who will actually tell me where to go, how to get there, and what to pack for the trip when I’m wrong.
Of course, one of the highlights of any Grandpa visit is going out somewhere to eat. Another blogger posted yesterday that she actually enjoys trips to Chuck E Cheese. My dad, my husband, and myself all agee with that sentiment wholeheartedly. I love to go anyplace that has a play area for tiny people, where they can explore and marvel and make a tremendous racket. The years in which playparks are wonderful to them are so few and so fleeting that we don’t want to miss a single trip, because we know that one day, we’ll suggest Big Lellow M, or Chick-Fil-A, or Temple of the Rat (aka Chuck E), and be met with rolling eyeballs instead of excited smiles.
We did not go visit our favorite mouse today; a Big Yellow M near us recently remodeled its play area, and the tribe and I had been wanting to see the spiffy new stuff. Off we went in Fran the Van, in search of chicken nuggets, fries, apples, and chocolate milk, and perhaps a new adventure. When we got there, and I saw the place, I nearly screamed when I realized I had left my camera at home (which means we may just have to go back tomorrow, breaking the house limit on fast food restaurant visits per week, so I can get some photos and video). The entire play area is now musical instruments, including a piano keyboard slide that plays a glissande when a child slides down it, a set of snare-drum steps that play actual snare drum sounds when climbed, and a guitar with painted strings that plays chords as little feet patter across its neck. I’ve never seen anything like it, and if I thought I could get away with it, I would buy that entire assemblage and build a room onto our house to accommodate it. It’s awesome. Dad agrees.
The tiny people also agreed. A minor skirmish over eating before playing ensued, as Beanie promptly announced, “I don’t like food anymore. It takes too long to eat.” Mr. Man, having consumed half a bag of popcorn as we wandered around Target with Grandpa (thanks, Dad), wasn’t all that enthused about eating, either, which is somewhat rare since our elder son has never met a fried potato he didn’t like. Bugaboo, normally somewhat of a reluctant eater even when her favorite foods are on the menu, demolished her entire Happy Meal in about 3 minutes (I believe she would have eaten the plastic bag containing her apples if I hadn’t hurriedly torn it open for her), then pleaded to be allowed to go exploring. Off she went, followed a couple of minutes later by Mr. Man, with Grandpa riding herd while I played drill sergeant with Beanie and fed Baby Guy.
I was glad Grandpa had his camera. Nana, my stepmother, is not able to travel, so we only see her a couple of times a year, and one of Grandpa’s chief duties when he visits is to capture as many moments on a memory card as possible. Several dozen camera flashes later, I caught a glimpse of my father’s face and saw him grinning broadly as he watched Mr. Man doing the slide circuit and Bugaboo rocking out on the guitar. When Beanie joined the fun about ten minutes later, he just leaned back against the wall and kept on smiling, snapping more pictures, occasionally calling one of their names so he could get a picture of a small, excited face.
There are certain kinds of joy that are definitely limited time offers, like watching kids play on gadgets that are specifically designed to make magic for them. After the torrent of sad news we’ve had over the past month, I am more determined than ever to not miss a single moment of that joy while it’s still to be had.
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for granting our parents enough length of years and strength of body and mind to share part of their lives with Your blessings. Thank You for the opportunities to make joyful memories across three generations on a pretty regular basis. As Your blessings grow, Lord, help us gently teach them by our example how to honor these wonderful elders, and to treat them with love, respect, kindness, and gentleness, especially as the years wear on their grandparents’ bodies. We want them to know what we learned as children — a day spent with grandparents, no matter what we do with them, is a day well spent.