Being a daughter in a military family precluded me from really knowing very well the two people I referred to as my grandparents. My most vivid memory of them is from a time they were visiting us on Wrightwood Road from Portland, I was in high school at the time. It was morning and my grandpa had likely been up at the crack of dawn drinking coffee with my dad. I'm sure to my dad's chagrin, Grandpa was probably giving him all sorts of tips on everything from the best way to stake a tomato plant to the most efficient way to peel a carrot. I suspect my dad's smile and patience may have been wearing thin by the time the rest of us arose from our slumbers. I'm sure he welcomed the sight of his mom that morning, smelling of rosewater and donned in a fluffy pink robe. Grandpa smiled and opened his arm to her as she nestled in next to him, standing with his arm around her shoulders. She looked up at him with twinkling, sweet eyes. I don't recall what had been said, I do remember the love.
I suppose I do have a second set of grandparents as we all do, but those people I refer to as my mother's mother and my mother's father. They did not do anything to me specifically to earn such titles. They did do and not do a whole hell of a lot to my mother and her siblings though. I believe it is accurate to say one did a lot more of the doing and one far more of the not doing, but at a certain point I imagine you just stop keeping track of, we'll call them, uh, disappointments. What matters most is that my mother, for the most part, has made her peace with the both of them, one posthumously, but peace nonetheless. She was able to reenter relationships of her childhood and say things that were probably important to say. She was also able to reenter relationships and not say things that she might have wanted to, but would not have benefited anyone, not even the wounded children.
Shaun has quite the opposite experience of grandparents, at least on his mother's side. He knew them well and he and his mother even lived with her parents for a period of time when he was quite young. He credits his grandad and grandpa (great grandad)alongside his dad for being the most powerful, strong, male influences in his life. Powerful and strong not in a "he-man" sort of way, but more in that they were involved, loved him, and happened to be men kind of way. They all hold a very special spot in his heart and had a great effect on his life. I'm pretty sure I have never met anyone with a greater love for generations previous, unless of course I look in the direction of my own son.
Nathan has incredible grandparents, all four of them. I guess I am biased because not only do I not think my kid is "typical", there is not a one of his grandparents that is typical either. Shaun's parents are not geographically close and we don't see them as often as we would like, but Nathan has an uncanny sense when he is in the presence of family and his reserved nature grows relaxed far more quickly with them than in the company of others. He speaks of them with the affection and familiarity that one might expect with local grandparents seen on a far more regular basis.
One of many ways they are present in our home even when they are 800 miles away is their participation in most major celebrations around here. Boxes from Granny and Grandad are found with great delight on our front porch days before special occassions. The brown papered parcels make their way onto the living room coffee table, reminding us of a celebration approaching in the days to come. It is not at all about the gifts, but they are often homemade, sentimental and always treasured.
When people learn that Nathan is the first grandchild on my side of the family, they generally give me a knowing look, shake their heads, and mention the spoiling. Depending on how one defines that word, he may well be the most spoiled little boy ever.
Afterall, he has his very own treehouse at my parents house, how spoiled is that? Yes, my dad spoiled him with the planning process, the shopping process, the construction and engineering processes. The time spent, the teaching, the dreaming, no doubt the listening, and the completing of a pretty fantastic project will probably only serve to make Nathan treehouse entitled for the rest of his life, and that is to say nothing of the fact that it has a swing, it's own flag, and a patch of grass; the nerve! Did I mention the teeter totter they created out of miscellaneous parts from around the nursery? Good gracious, physics and fun, will the coddling never end?!?
Don't even get me started on my mother, she is the worst culprit of all, that one. First of all, a child really only deserves so much love and attention don't you think? At some point, enough is just enough. What is this child going to think anyway, that everyone is going to honor and cherish him as she does? I must have a talk with her, the sooner he learns how cruel the world really is, the better. What is she thinking, what with all the outings to nature centers; to historical, fun, interesting and even mundane destinations? The cooking together, the shopping, the endless conversations, the reading, the writing, the storytelling, the playacting, the singing, the dancing, the collecting, the painting, the walking, the playgrounds, and oh so many projects. Enough already!
If all of that weren't enough, amidst the act of spoiling him, I seem to be getting spoiled too. In the beginning, I would often come home from work on Grandma Fridays to the smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen. I think she made a game of it during Nathan's nap, to try to create something delicious out of the meager groceries I tend to have on hand by Friday. Other times she was not up for the challenge and brought or bought the fixin's for her cause. She's been known to bake up banana bread with the rotten bananas on the countertop, fill our fridge with fruit in the interest of making an eight ounce smoothie for Nathan, and leave fresh cut flowers in the kitchen window. Yeah, Grandma Fridays are a pretty good gig for Momma too. As Nathan might qualify, actually, the gig is good well beyond Fridays.
Since having a child, I have had to learn to ask for help and to draw certain unfamiliar boundaries. They have been pretty immense lessons for me, made possible by their necessity and the perceived lack of choices. While sometimes difficult to ask, it is a real comfort to have my parents close when a challenge arises. Funny, it doesn't matter much which of them I might reach in these times, each snaps to action in their own way. Dad will recon the situation thinking through every important detail before acting, whereas Mom figures it out as she goes. I hear that one may have more rhythm than the other, but in trying times, theirs is a well choreographed dance designed over decades. We have enlisted their help dealing with everything from date night to kidney stones to a dying dog. We were even fortunate enough to accept their generosity at the end of a very long journey, a journey that never reached the destination we so desired; but my disappointment will always by mitigated by the awesome gratitude for one more opportunity and greater peace of mind as a result.
I did not even know to wish for something so great as what Nathan has in all of his grandparents. What a gift, one we are all most thankful for.