“Happiness is being a grandparent” said the bumper sticker. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Sometimes grandpa and I get to have the fun of playing house with our grandchildren when their parents are ill, are on a much-needed vacation, or have just welcomed another little one into their home. Although we raised five of our own, somehow five nowadays is a bigger handful than I remember. We have to quicken our pace considerably to keep up. But, then, it’s usually for just a few days.
My, they do have energy! Of course I can still make it up and down the stairs at a fast clip—by holding onto the railing. But most of the time I go up and down only about five times a day, as opposed to sixty-five times. And I’m still a good swimmer, too. However, after an afternoon at the pool, catching each of the non-swimmers as they shout, “Catch me, grandma!” I sometimes end up feeling—and probably looking—like a nearly-drowned cat. If grandpa isn’t along to help, I feel like two nearly-drowned cats.
If you like power, there is nothing like playing judge and jury, nurse and doctor, maid and chauffeur, mama and daddy for several days. But on the other hand, getting a small baby ready for church, finding lost shoes or socks for a toddler, and then dressing myself—all perfectly coordinated so that we arrive exactly on time with everyone’s shoes on the right feet—is no small task. I am now beginning to understand why my friend’s daughter once decided to get her ten children ready for church on Saturday night. She put them to bed with everything on but their shoes!
There are moments—like the time grandpa and I were awakened abruptly at 6:30 A.M. to sounds resembling buffalo roaming through our home, complete with one little buffalo squealing like he was being eaten alive. We dashed to the rescue and cuddled him between us in bed for a few minutes. Amazingly, our exasperation completely disappeared when the little buffalo smiled up at us with those big blue eyes.
Such near-contentment lasted only a few short minutes, however—until we heard the refrigerator door open and shut, and suddenly realized (with a minor stroke of anxiety) that the thundering herd was hungry. We dashed for the kitchen, arriving just in time to see the five-year-old resolutely trying to pour milk from a gallon jug into her glass. I made it in time (this time) to help, then hastily set the table for seven.
Now, there’s a little problem when it comes to setting a table that’s made to seat four so that seven can eat together. As you might imagine, it wasn’t long before the inevitable happened—someone spilled the milk and drenched the table, himself, two others, and the floor.
At times like these, I smile to myself and think about that bumper sticker. At noon we had a picnic outside on our big patio table, this time without incident. It occurred to me that we should eat there more often.
My mind started to wander a bit when the three oldest decided to play hide-’n-seek and tag. The toddler was crying; he couldn’t reach the doorknob to follow the others or find the one who was hiding under the bed. I called grandpa—“Big Chief”—to come to the rescue, though I wasn’t sure whether he was “dead to the world” or just tied up somewhere. Eventually he came to life and thundered up the stairs, saying the magic words that changed those three little buffalo into little angels: “Come with me. Let’s go for a ride to the store.” (A ride in the car with grandpa, you see, usually includes an ice cream cone.)
In the peaceful, lovely interim I sat in the rocking chair, cuddling the baby while he enjoyed his bottle of milk. My thoughts turned to a family Christmas pageant not long ago, where this little child had been our baby Jesus. Some of the other children had played the parts of angels or wise men. One of the three wise men thought that his gift for the baby Jesus was “Frankenstein” instead of “frankincense.”
There are many compensations. Even when I must leave a meeting to change the baby or to take one of the little ones out for a drink of water (not to mention mopping up after an occasional disaster) it’s worth the effort. When one of the little angels puts his or her arms around my neck and says, “I wuv you, gan’ma,” life somehow falls into its proper perspective once again.
Soon the baby was soundly asleep, so I tucked him carefully into the crib and lay down for a nap. When grandpa and the four other grandchildren returned about thirty seconds later, I was lying on the bed pretending to be oblivious to the world (not a very difficult thing to pretend after running up and down stairs several times more than usual). They peeked in, ice cream cones in hand, and grandpa softly whispered, “Shhhhh.” Then he marched them to the family room to play with toys.
All too soon the quiet was shattered by the sound of something breaking. I jumped up and rushed to the kitchen, where I found the three-year-old standing on a chair by the sink. He had been trying to get a drink of water. I got a plastic cup out of the cupboard and gave the dear little fellow a drink. Then I picked up the pieces of broken glass.
We had just finished eating supper when my second daughter and her husband and four children arrived to take the five little “buffalo angels” back to their parents. With returning vigor, I helped my grandchildren into their pajamas and packed their clothes. I found the lost shoe, retrieved the toy truck, and filled the bottle with milk for the baby.
As we waved goodby, grandpa and I breathed a contented sigh. It was good to know that we were needed and loved, but we also were grateful for the assurance that our sixteen grandchildren have parents who love them, need them, and want them home again.