A grandmother and her grandson were enroute to visit the four year old boy’s great-grandparents.
“Look Grandma. Look at all the statues inthat yard.”
Now the grandmother had driven this route many times in her life and she didn’t remember any statues.
“Where, honey, where do you see statues?”
“There,”he replied. “There, can’t you see them there by that barn?” Grandmother started laughing.
“Oh honey, those aren’t statues; those are cows.”
She made a mental note to see to it that the boy’s great-grandfather who was a farmer at heart, would take the boy out to visit some real live cows.
A grandmother visited in Clare’s home. This morning she was picking up her four year old grandson to take him to pre-school. As they were getting ready to leave her grandson looked up at her with his saucer size dark blue yes and said, “Grandma, remember when my brother was just a number waiting?”
Grandma couldn’t believe her ears. “What did you say, honey?” And this precious child repeated, “Remember when my brother was just a number waiting.”
“That’s what I thought you said.” Grandma took a few moments to regain her composure. She had heard young children were often still tied to the larger universe. Seeing that those eyes were still staring at her waiting for an answer, she put her arm around her grandson and said, ” ell, yes I do.”
Grandma and grandson left for pre-school.
It was the Grandmother’s first visit to the Cape. Her daughter and son-in-law were playing tour guides but also exploring the island since they were newly located there. The boys decided to remain at home on this excursion So Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandaughter left in search of areas to go crabbing.
After several hours of driving and getting lost, the sun had set and all decided it was time to head for home. Well actually not all, Grandma always went with the program and let the others decide the schedule.
Being a typical toddler of three, the little girl asked, “Can we get ice cream before we go home?” Daddy, known for some spoiling of his offspring agreed they could.
So they pulled off the road at an ice cream and candy store; parked the car and went to order exotic flavored cones. Mom had fruit ripple; Dad chocolate death; Grandma black ‘walnut crunch, and of course the granddaughter had her favorite flavor, vanilla.
The group sat around an outdoor picnic table to lick and relish the cold delight. Dad stood with one leg placed on the bench. Mom sat with Grandma by the little girl. Grandma, having the advantage of age and insight to those special moments, was watching her grandchild eagerly lick the cone as the creme was running down her cheek, her arm, her place at the table. She looked up and said, “Daddy!”. Next she looked over and said, “Mommy”. Both acknowledged her statements. Grandma watched the toddler’s face. It was like a sun. She was surely in heaven eating her favorite flavor of ice cream surrounded by Daddy and Mommy and all was well with the world. Itwas so beautiful. Grandma turned away because once again she knew the tears were coming.
There was a mother and she was also a grandmother. As a mother she had raised a free thinking, liberated daughter. Shejust didn’t know what that really meant until much later. But when the time came, she saw her early seeds burst into full bloom and explode.
The daughter at age twenty, had decided at long last to divorce her husband who simply had never grown up. She was tired of supporting him, listening to his great promises that were never kept. When her children had been born, she realized it was time to be responsible. Living on the edge in rebellion against authority figures had been fun and probably necessary in some respects. But now, she was beginning to see things differently. Having allowed her husband freedom to try many jobs, pursue many plans, none of which worked, she made the decision to return home and complete her college degree. She knew she would be the sole support of these children and she knew they deserved better.
At times people come into Clare’s home when they are so emotionally wrought, they don’t know what to do. So, wherever they are, they seek Clare’s light and guidance.
This is what the grandmother found herself doing. She helped out with childcare and finances. She was there to help get everyone back in balance. She was good at that; caretaking seemed to be her second name.
The separation and eventual divorce was bitter. Of all the destructive things that occurred, the grandmother told Clare of the one scene burned into her memory and her heart.
The father had the boys out for a few hours as part of his visit. When he returned with them, the older boy rushed into the house and his room. This child was actually more bonded with his father, but he was one who kept things inside.
The younger child was different. He was very young, maybe two, but he always knew what he wanted and demanded just that. He clung to his father to the point that the mother had to pull him away. She brought him into the house as his father screamed.
..Don’t worry, son I’llbe back to get you and she’ll never see you again.”
He jumped into is truck and left much rubber behind as he drove off. Grandma witnessed all of this. As her daughter brought the two year old in,
kicking and screaming, she closed and locked the door. The boy cried and screamed hysterically all the while kicking and beating at the door. In a few moments the daughter crumbled to the floor holding herself as she cried.
“Maybe I should just let him have them.”
Now Grandma knew that would be the worse thing that could happen to those little boys. She watched the two year old still screaming and kicking at the door. She watched her daughter emotionally wrenched on the floor. She heard the soft sobbing coming from the older boy’s bedroom. For one of the first times in her life, shejust didn’t know what to do. So, as tears ran down her face, as her body churned with suppressed emotion, she asked Clare to help because she knew she needed to be strong especially now, and…she simply didn’t know what else to do.
His mother was at a night class. Grandma was tucking in her grandsons. The younger one was easy. He often would say, “I’m going to bed now,” falling asleep as his head hit the pillow. At times he would have nightmares, but generally was a quick and sound sleeper.
His brother, however, two years older, would stay up as long as possible, sometimes falling asleep with his book in hand.
Lately Grandma had noticed her older grandson withdrawing into his own world. He was a handsome child. He looked just like his absent father. While his brother always expressed whatever he felt and observed, the older boy kept thing within. She had learned to watch for the signs. He would “zone” as they say, seeming to be somewhere else. One could sense both visually and viscerally a deep sadness within him.
Tonight as Grandma tucked him in, he had no books and seemed lethargic.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
But Grandma knew better. After a few minutes the tears started falling down his cheeks.
“I miss my Dad.”
“Oh I know you do.”
She held him in her arms as he sobbed. Once he quieted a little she did her very best to help him past the trauma.
This was not the first times she had been called upon to comfort him. Knowing that it was not good practice to say bad things about a missing parent – even if it were true and well deserved! – when she had to confront this situation, she would say things like, “It’s not your fault, and I know your Daddy loves you.” Inside she would be gritting her teeth wanting to scalp this irresponsible male who reveled in the “seed planting” but did little for the care and cultivation of his product.
Grandma believed the Native Americans had the right idea when it came to the “children’s fire.” Protecting children was at the top on their list. When she saw the film, Testament, Jane Alexander’s last words burned into her brain: “They (the children) deserve better.” Being a divorced woman herself, she knew relationships don’t always work, and children pay a price. And while some espoused a return to “the good old days.” They weren’t always that good. No, it was all very complex; nothing was simple. But the children did deserve better.
Holding her older Grandson she started saying the usual things: “I know it’s hard for a seven-year-old to understand, but our Daddy does love you, and you have done nothing to make problems.”
Then something inside her started rolling, and it came out because her words were right on target. How could a seven-year-old understand? How could he believe his Daddy loved him when there had been no visits, no calls, no gifts for birthdays or other holidays? Of course the boy didn’t know that Daddy had not paid any child support for years, had kept his living arrangements hidden and worked only for cash under the table. When the mother had to go on aid for health care and pressed the issue, finally he was tracked down and hit with a “pay or else” summons.
The grandmother worked very hard not to let her anger come forth, but the roll was started and she let it out.
“I realize that you must wonder how Daddy could love y8ou when he doesn’t come see you or call you, but believe me kiddo, he does love you.”
That was the irony because she knew his father really did love him. The young man had shared with her many times in the first year of her grandson’s life, how his father had never been there for him and that he would never do that. He would be there for his son. The patterns we find ourselves in are hard to remove.
“But,” she continued, “when you get older you’ll understand this a lot better. And maybe now you need to try to look at who is there for you. Look at all the things your mom does for you and how Papa takes you fishing and plays with ou. And here I am. I could be traveling or doing something else, but it’s important to me to help out now. And your uncle and aunt, so many people are here. We all love you. I think there’s a lesson for you to learn here, but perhaps it’s something that you can’t understand till later. Loving someone means being there for them. It means sometimes having to be strict, like when Mom ground you or gets after you to pick up our stuff. As a child you think she’s mean, but later you’ll find out she was helping you to become responsible.”
The roll was really revving up now and Grandma knew her anger toward this boy’s father could get out of control if she didn’t watch it. He had calmed down considerably and was listening to her. His big dark blue eyes, reddened from the tears, stared up at her. It was probably at this point that Clare stepped in. All of a sudden, a new thought struck her.
“You know what honey? I feel sorry for your Daddy.”
Her grandson’s expression changed to one of shock. She went on to explain her words.
“Yes, I feel sorry for him because he really does love you, but he doesn’t have a clue as to what he’s missing by not calling or visiting. He’s missing the most important time in your life. Your soccer playing, your great report cards, meeting your friends, seeing you grow.”
Grandma looked into his dark blue eyes. She deicded it was time to move on and do what she could to inject some humor with one of her favorite games.
“And speaking of growing young man, I told you you can’t get taller than Grandma or I will have to put bricks on your head!”
Her grandson smiled and gave her a big hug.
“I’m okay now, Grandma. Thanks.”
Blowing a kiss, she left his room and headed downstairs to let the dogs out for their evening run. Standing outside on the patio she looked up into the heavenly sky and said a silent “thank you” to Clare.