There’s a hilarious incongruity to someone telling you to act better in a restaurant and then goes back to sucking her thumb. If you were in Lazy Dog Restaurant last Friday, you might have witnessed that scene. My almost five-year old granddaughter, Alexa, was informing me that I should use my “smaller voice” as I explained the difference between there, their, and they’re.
OK, maybe that discussion was premature. After all, only last year toilet training was entirely achieved. But I don’t know about this girl. Something — many things — tell me that she gets it, the good, the bad, the shades of gray, the nuances, the agony and ecstasy of being part of this generally magnificent and ofttimes heart wrenching world. She’s a hugger, a belly-laugher, an inquisitive observer, and a fan of the arts (from Debussy to ballet to vintage musicals). She says “please,” “thank you,” and “I love you” with ease. She usually gravitates to smaller tots at the park, and like a big sister, offers to share her snacks and help them if they’ve fallen. She also a thinker, and sometimes, like me, a sensitive overthinker. She has a passion for dogs and my randomly concocted (happy/funny ending) spooky naptime stories. With an occasionally slightly fiery and dramatic streak, she will get huffy when I’ve asked her to pick up her toys, again. Predictably, a minute or two passes and she will begin her plaything retrieval, and says, “Sorry I got mad, Grandma.”
Like a candle in the sun, I melt.
A U.S. News & World Report article on the benefits of grandparenting notes: “Bonding with grandchildren brings satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and unconditional love for both the young and the old. For children, grandparents offer stability, safety, wisdom and fun. For grandparents, being close with grandkids can help stave off depression, increase social connections, and help keep seniors mentally sharper and even healthier.”
I wholly agree and add that grandparenthood allows us to be our most genuinely loving, life-learned and nurturing selves. We are ripe and ready for these attachments.
My heart holds immense gratitude for her parents in gifting our families with this girl, and I could go on endlessly about the joy she brings to my senior years. Nothing makes my bones want to get out of bed in the morning more than her knock at my door and sweet voice calling out, “Grandma, it’s me!”
Part of the meteoric pleasure of being a grandparent is seeing my friends gain membership to this tenderly transformative club. I know what they’re in for.
Admittedly, my slightly blue-note default mode of thinking intermittently reminds me that I’m almost 67 — older than my mother was when she said goodbye to four grandchildren, and the same age her father was when he left behind seven. Back then I thought they were old. But oh, how the concept of age has changed since I reached my now.
I so want to be here for her graduations and celebrations. I want to see her ride a bike and make (at least) a few true friends. I want to remind her at 16 to wear her seatbelt, drive defensively, and never go with anyone under the influence of anything other than her delightful personality. I want to see her confidently shoot for the stars while keeping both feet on the ground. I want to be around if some narcissistic or manipulative jerk breaks her heart. I want to be here to comfort her and help her understand that her precious self-worth and amazing possibilities in life must never be altered by people who would ever hurt her. I want to be here to applaud her adventures and read her postcards from Timbuktu. I want to see her discover the real-deal keeper kind of love and have babies. I want to make chicken soup whenever she’s sick, smell her honeyed scent and hear her laughter until my senses fail me.
Sometimes when we’re about to sleep, Alexa will hold my arm and whisper, “Grandma, I want you to stay with me forever.”
I tell her that I plan to do that, and no matter what, I will be with her even if I had to go away. That’s enough of a quasi-explanation for now to make her happy.
And understandably, it’s at that moment that I want to suck my thumb right along with her.
Diana Sevanian is a longtime Signal columnist and features writer.