My granddaughter and I were out walking the other day and we were discussing Oreo versus Chips Ahoy cookies when it occurred to me that she does not think of me as an authority figure. Mommy and Daddy are in charge, as are the other three grandparents. I, on the other hand, am an overgrown playmate. I am Winnie the Pooh to her Christopher Robin; I am the adult of very little brain.
A case in point: My son-in-law was trying to get his child to eat something healthy before Grandpa could give her a cookie (we opted for Oreos that day). He bargained with her, saying, “Eat this carrot and you can have a cookie.” My little angel walked across the room, climbed onto my lap and – slipping the carrot stick into my hand – whispered, “Grandpa, eat this carrot.”
I find I am unable to discipline the young lady who embodies my only hope for immortality. As my only grandchild, she is all that stands between me and total oblivion. I am shamelessly indulgent; I am every parent’s nightmare.
A few weeks ago, my widow-in-waiting and I dropped by for a lunchtime visit. When my granddaughter was done with her mac and cheese, she lifted the plate above her head and heaved the remnants across the room. My wife and daughter scolded her in unison, shaking their index fingers and saying, “No, no, no, we do not throw our food!” I started to laugh and got shot with four evil eyes. My granddaughter gave me an impish smile. “It’s us against them,” she seemed to be saying.
At 2 years old, her little brain is like a popcorn popper of ideas and questions:
Her: What’s that, Grandpa?
Me: That is a bunny.
Her: What’s the bunny doing?
Me: He is looking at us.
Her: Why is the bunny looking at us?
Me: He is scared.
Her: Why is the bunny scared?
And so it goes.
My brain, however, is more like a slow, dripping faucet. My thoughts tend to revolve around whether there is any chocolate ice cream left in the freezer or where I left my reading glasses.
Every day she learns a dozen new words, while I forget the names of co-workers, classmates and even neighbors. She runs, skips and does goofy somersaults, while I find it harder to keep up. Together we make a good team; she remembers what I’ve forgotten. She sees the little bug on the leaf, when I can’t even see the leaf. She hears the airplane high above us and I just take her word for it. I imagine that 20 years from now, she will be taking me for walks and I will be the one asking all the questions:
Me: Where are we going?
Her: To the store?
Me: What’s a store?
For now, we have a lot of fun. At a recent family party, I took her little foot in my hand and told her that her piggies were the hot dog and my hand was the bun. I pretended to slather her foot with mustard; I squirted ketchup on it while making all the inappropriate noises. I then sprinkled onions on top and prepared to take a huge bite as she laughed uncontrollably.
Across the room, my octogenarian mother-in-law was not amused. Never a fan of my low-brow humor, she said, “I have known you for over 40 years and I just came to a conclusion. You are weird!”
It took her 40 years to figure that out?