Tuesday, January 10, 2006
The Light of My Life
The role of grandparent is, in my view, totally a graced one. Consider the facts: 1. the child is your flesh and blood but not your responsibility; 2. the child is predisposed to you because you do nothing, really, but bring him treats and take him on adventures; 3. he is a constant reminder of the innocence and goodness that we all yearn for.
I live six blocks from my grandson, Ethan, who is 2 1/2. I see him pretty regularly except when I'm out of town. He calls me
" Grammie Honey" which, since he talks through his nose, sounds more like Ream-y Honey. At any rate, I know who he's talking about. Since he was small, he and I would take excursions to Central Park, always stopping at the turtle pond near the castle to see the ducks. When he was just walking, he didn't get the ducks and I would have to throw the bread to them as he watched from his stroller passively. Now, he starts shrieking when we round the bend in the park next to the pond " Feed the ducks, feed the ducks".
Watching Ethan grow up has been my personal chance to observe child development with absolute awe--something that I couldn't afford to do with his father, Chris, since I was busy trying to be sure he had the mundane things that all parents have to do--the unromantic like bathing, doctor's appointments, work. You know what I mean. I studied child development in college, but really, this is a lot more fun.
Yesterday, my son,called to see if I could take Ethan this afternoon after his nap. I was delighted that Chris asked, I'm always delighted to spend time with Ethan, and, of course, this was no exception. It was a beautiful January-thaw afternoon in New York. I walked over to his apartment on Riverside about 4pm. As I crossed West End Avenue, I could see his multicolored knit cap bobbing up as he sat on the apartment stoop with his mom, smiling at me and talking, talking, talking. We said goodbye to his mom and set out for Riverside Park to play a little soccer.
But we got waylaid. On the corner of 79th and Riverside, there were double length crosstown buses waiting their turn to wend their way along their routine loop that goes along the west side, picking up passengers along the way, then across the park to the east side.
Ethan was talking and gesturing to the buses. I stopped so he could watch. It was like watching a parade--city buses, school buses, motorcycles--all leaving the Hudson River Parkway to the westside--and absolutely fascinating to Ethan. I found a small log so he could sit on it instead of the damp ground. He'd never done that before, so it took a little demonstrating to show him how you balance your bottom on a log. In that little entrance to the park, we also found a flowerbed of crocuses beginning to shoot up through the earth, another wonder to him. A few feet away, there was a fruit tree, about 7 feet high with a limb at just the right height for Ethan to reach. So, Ethan climbed his first tree. He looked at me and said: "Take picture, Grammie." As you can see at the beginning of this blog, I did.
We played awhile with the ball, saw a red tailed hawk sail away after finishing his meal of an unfortunate pigeon. Finally, we watched the sun set over the Hudson River, my grandson and me. "Where sun going, GrammieHoney?" "To the other side of the world, honey."
On the way home, we sang "This old man, he play one, he play nicknack on my thumb..." and he beat out the time with his hand on his knee. At the door, I said goodbye to him. He slipped my his hand into mine, exclaiming:"No, Grammie go. Grammie play with Ethan". I stayed for a bit.
On my way back to my apartment on Central Park West, I was a little off balance. I feel like I can never get enough of him--like a fine wine or Mozart, or the sunset. I remember when my sons were little, I had to resist the urge to hold them tight, too tight--in an attempt to get them close enough--to savor the sweet moments. Close enough to protect, close enough to ensure they would never go too far away, close enough to be sure they remembered all that I wanted them to know about being loved. I remember the feeling then of absolute joy as I held them in my arms. There aren't endless graced moments,in my view, just periodic glimpses of joy. Ethan is a constant source of that unbridled, unconditional love that's rare.
Ethan's mom emailed me today. She asked if I would like some dates for "Grammie time". And at the end of the email, she said that Ethan had gone back to Riverside Park at dusk with his nanny. "Me watch sunset now-- like with Grammie". Unbridled joy.