Sunday, June 26, 2011

AT THE PLAYGROUND


     A woman of wisdom once told me she is happiest when “everyone (in her family) is under the same roof.” That’s certainly true for those of us who have made it to grandparent-land, having survived both trial and tribulation in raising our young, accepting their departure for their own living, getting used to the quiet and slower pace of the empty nest and then welcoming the arrival of grandchildren.
The old saw, of course, is that grandchildren make grandparents happy in part because they eventually go home, that you can enjoy all over again the wonder of growing children, their imagination, their frank questions, their idiosyncrasies, but at the end of the day, there comes a time to depart. Most of us could not go through parenthood again but being grandparents is just right, keeping us in this special loop of humanity. It is its own blessing.
On a recent jaunt with Beatrice, one of my three granddaughters (plus a grandson) in Memorial Park along the Hudson River at Nyack, N.Y., I was reminded of my own two sons’ upbringing, now so deep in the past but yet as if it were yesterday.
Beatrice is inquisitive, bright, says “no” most of the time, wants to do everything by herself as two years olds are wont to demand. In my own time with my sons in this same park, then just steps from my crazy-hours newspaper job at the old Journal-News, I was probably thinking more about job/career stress and paying bills and therefore paying less attention to the boys at the park’s playground than I should have.
Beatrice had my attention, though, on the swings, on the animal figures, in the treehouse, wherever her short interest span took her. A retired “Gramps” is just naturally better at grandparenting than he was back in the saddle as a parent.
I was not alone then, of course. My wife Lillian was an excellent parent, making up for my own shortcomings, and is better today at grandparenting than this old coot. The offspring of the offspring will learn manners and all other good things from her, as did the sons. From me they shall receive wacky answers, fierce independence, self-reliance (I hope) and questioning of unquestioned authority.
My boys, too, heard the same line, and I am proud to say they are as pioneering and individual as an American ought to be, now or back in 1776. But they are fine parents, too, which their mom taught them to be, not me. I see that when their children come to the park to play with an oddball grandfather or when they all gather “under the same roof.” 

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