Wednesday, September 19, 2012

These kids are grand

Josie announcing  that she is going
to be a cat for Halloween.
     We are driving out of Little Rock headed toward Memphis when we reach the I-30/I-40 split. Of course, I'm in the wrong lane, too far left when I should be going to I-40 on the right. Cars are flying by, and I'm having trouble getting to where I want to be.  
     Have to pull up in the median at the split and wait for space to open. Finally, it's calm and I scoot the car to the right, then pick up speed.
       Josie, 4 1/2, has been watching from her seat in the back, not saying anything. Once we get going again, she blurts out, "That was awful, Opa."
      Jacob is 3 1/2, and averse to taking naps these days. He's told that when he comes to Granny Bea and Opa Nico's house, he will be taking a nap. "I don't want to go night-night," he says. It turns into a crying, screaming fit -- the kind I never saw his daddy do some 30-plus years ago (Aunt Rachel, yes; Josie, yes).
       Finally, I get him quiet and on the bed. He's calm, and we're talking. He's stalling -- asking for something to eat or drink or to read another book or put on a different type of music. But Opa insists he's going to go to sleep.
        A quiet half-minute. And then Jacob says, "You are not my friend, Nico."
        And he grins, that grin just like his daddy's.
        Opa is laughing so hard he's crying.
        Kaden is 1 1/2, doesn't have words yet, but he can babble -- a lot. He has straight hair -- blond like his brother, but nothing like Jacob's curly mop. He loves balls, any kind, and there are plenty of them at Granny and Opa's apartment.
        Kaden can pitch those balls. He winds up, he's got perfect form and he sends the balls flying. Then he poses, foot forward, determined look on his puckered-up face. He's a pitcher.
         Then he's laughing.
        Oh, the grandkids. They're better than any ballgame. They are the joys of our lives. Can't say that anything I've ever done, any role I've ever played, is more enjoyable than being Opa. Granny Bea will agree.
Kaden and Jacob sharing a shaved ice.
         Nothing better than hearing their laughter, or receiving their hugs and kisses. It's not even so bad changing their diapers. Fortunately, Kaden is the only one remaining in that category; the battles with Jacob finally having taken hold.
         The kids come quickly in a marriage; in fact, Jason was almost 3 when Bea and I got married in 1977. Rachel came along two years later. You're young and you're working, and you feel pressure, and perhaps you're uncertain that what you're doing with your kids is the correct thing to do.
         Maybe I didn't enjoy our kids as much as I could have; I was too harsh with them, too demanding. Too much turmoil at home. Lots of regret there, although they came through it all, and they're young adults now, settled with their own families and their own lives.
         The grandkids are the reward for those 30-something years of marriage. You wait so long for them. When the kids are expecting, it's a time of anxiety. But those three days when they arrived -- Oct. 23, 2007 (Josie), Feb. 8, 2009 (Jacob) and March 1, 2011 (Kaden) -- are three of the greatest days of our lives.
         What a joy. We love taking care of them -- and we get the boys quite often because Jay and Ann are busy with their Cajun food truck business. We had Josie for a week in May; her first stay with us without her mother.
        But it's not that easy; we're not as young as we used to be. They demand attention; they need some oversight. The boys are into everything and Jacob, who loves his little brother, does not always love sharing his toys. At times, he'll hide them under a pile of stuffed animals so Kaden can't get to them.
        I can see a lot of possession battles in the future, and we are the referees.
        Josie reminds us so much of the young Rachel -- she looks like her, and she's bright and curious, creative, talkative, dramatic, has loved her videos and books since she was tiny, memorizes the scripts and the words and recites them to you, can draw and paint, and does so with great intensity.
        She behaved admirably in the week she was with us, only one meltdown for about 10 seconds. She was a delight. She only asked about her parents -- and going home -- a couple of times. But she was obviously happy to get back to Knoxville.
       After her first day back at her daycare, we went to pick her up. As we pulled away, she timidly asked, "Are we going back to Texas?" She was quite relieved to learn we were going to her house.
         Looking at Jacob is like looking at the young Jason. He's built like him; he sounds like him, but his face is Ann's face and his hair -- the curly hair -- is Ann's hair. It is Jacob's trademark now; everywhere we go, any pictures we show of him, that's what people comment on.
        He's as busy as Jay was back then, and he's just as bright. Doesn't forget much. He has his routines around our apartment, and he sticks to them ... too many to list. He can sing the LSU fight song, too. Not that I ever encourage him to do that.
        Kaden can say "cat" and "light" and "Ja-cob," and he's getting too big to stay in his pack-and-play; he's on the verge of being able to climb out. He can climb on the fold-out chair Jacob has been using, and he can let you know that he wants a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich just like Jacob has.
       Soon enough for Kaden: Hey Fightin' Tigers.
        When they came to the apartment last Saturday, I was wearing my purple LSU jersey.
        "Why you wearing LSU?" Jacob asked. I told him because it was gameday. Did he want to watch football with Opa? "No, I want to watch cartoons," he answered. So it was Team Umizoomi and  Wonder Pets before Arkansas-Alabama.
          It reminded me, though, of last fall when, on a Friday, we were at Jason and Ann's house babysitting and I had to change Jacob's clothes. Pulled out an LSU shirt and he said, "No, Opa, it's not gameday."
         Of course, in Knoxville, I'm trying to get my granddaughter to say, "Go Tigers." Invariably, she will answer, "Go Vols."
        Now that's awful.


  1. Well said, Opa. Who would have thought we could have so much fun at our age.

  2. Nico, I have a 7-year-old redhead granddaughter and another granddaughter on the way. I truly can say I know why they are called "grand."