When we sent my daughter off to the wilds of north Texas a little over 10 years ago, my wife’s parents played a big role, living an hour or so away from the university. They did more than their share, then, of hosting and driving and storing boxes, and just generally serving as surrogate parents, and at some point my father-in-law, nearing 80, made an acute observation.
“Does Julie realize we’re old?”
Ah. The more awake among you already see where I’m going here.
My son-in-law picked me up at the airport on Saturday around 6pm, and left town a bit less than 12 hours later, spending some of that time packing and most of the rest sleeping. I did some sleeping, too, awakening to find myself a surrogate parent once again. It was my job, for the next week, to serve as designated relief for my daughter, especially given my grandson’s recent tendency to sleep in short shifts (just a phase; he’s a good sleeper in general).
So I’d stagger out in the morning, all 55 years and six months of me, and my daughter would immediately send me a text message from the nursery, inquiring as to my availability. I was, as it turned out, available, only needing some coffee and diapers, so my day began this way. Rinse and repeat. Seven days.
Once again, I’m tempted to get wordy about how remarkable and unique I find this experience, father and daughter tending to a baby together, but being wordy takes too much energy. I’m home now, and starting to get my bearings, although that caffeine monkey is still on my back and I hear the wails of my grandson while I dream, wanting to be fed. It will take a while.
Of course, it was a glorious time to be a grandparent, plenty of hands-on hours with a grinning, drooling, babbling and probably teething boy who makes my heart jump like my first big crush. I’m just another large human to him, I know, someone with a bottle and (in my case) a beard, but I felt some serious bonding taking place. He smiled when he saw me, gave me countless raspberries and covered my shirt with baby puke, all signs of True Love, but I know he didn’t miss me when I left. That will come later, I know. We’re just setting the table here.
The down side, if you can even call it that, was some major exhaustion, and so my poor father-in-law came to mind, being aware as he always was of the changing nature of relationships. Kids grow, but so do we. So do we.
That shoulder where I had rotator cuff repair surgery a few years back? The one that still occasionally aches and has less than perfect range of motion? Oh yeah, that one. That’s the arm I cradle him in, of course, and even now it’s reminding me of its existence. A few odd neck muscles are also making some noise, and then there’s the sleep thing and the concentration thing, and my weird tendency (I found) to talk to this kid constantly, particularly when we were alone, which was a lot. I recited every Shel Silverstein and Robert Louis Stevenson and Dr. Seuss and Robert Frost poem I knew, in every accent and voice I could think of, along with pretty much the American Songbook and a few Beatles songs. I danced for him, made faces for him, mimicked him and tried desperately to get a good “grandpa” to pass his lips, which he found hilarious just before he spit up again.
So it will take a while to establish balance, and maybe reflect on the week that was. But I miss him already, and already I’m thinking of my next trip. And pictures? Got a few.