I won’t be winning any “Best Grandparent” awards soon. Not after the week I recently spent with the Beans in their parents’ absence.
Grandparents are just older, more tired parents. Our full-time parenting chops, if we have any left on the shelves of our psyche, have long dulled. I should have kept those truths more securely in mind. But I’d never spent a week alone with all six grandbeans on their turf.
A friend suggested that spending eight days (immediately following my father’s death) in the country (with six grandchildren, seven cats, four chickens and a puppy) may not be the most restorative thing. But I’d promised. I expected to make delightful memories. I had visions of Julie Andrews’ Maria, rather than Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee.
I hoped for games and stories, nature walks and plenty of hugs. We did some of each. But the seven of us (names purposely withheld) also argued, preached, lectured and back-talked. We directed and refused to be directed. We stormed from the room. We made messes and refused to tidy them. We apologized sweetly, then promptly re-offended. I got cross at the pup for crashing through her makeshift gate of cardboard boxes and chairs and bounding into my room at three a.m.; at one of the cats for kneading my foot to the point of blood at five a.m. We removed ourselves when needed—to the park, to the fringes of the ten-acre property, to the chicken coop. We ate too much junk food and watched too many movies. Still grieving my father, I even escaped to the office for a day.
Rather than a singular “warmest and best recollection” this moment remains:
“SOMETHING IS STUCK IN ME!!!” Ezra howled from the back seat of the van as we set out for the spray park. Red-faced, he pointed to his open mouth. I somersaulted over the middle seat. (Figuratively, understand. I’d still be in traction otherwise.)
“Let’s see, Ezra.” I lowered his hand, raising my phone’s flashlight. Something gleamed on the roof of his mouth. It took several minutes and a fingernail to break the suction. “There, Honey!” I held out a coin. “Now you’re not even worth a dime!” (Relieved, he didn’t notice the bad joke.)
When their parents returned, I resumed my role of doting grandmother, with digs of her own. But it took us all some time to reconcile our previous memories with the more difficult ones we made the week Nana had to parent instead of grandparent.
“When you’re used to living one way, you think you know yourself,” I told the Preacher later. “I barely recognized myself back there.”
When Jesus, the God-man, willingly donned human flesh to live among his creation, he became immersed in our deliberate messes, our rebellion, our unrepentant flouting of God’s laws. I think I understand better now the feelings that must have risen in him the day he stormed the temple, whip in hand. Yet, God loves us still. That, I understand as never before.