Saturday, December 14, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Grandkids a special joy

My oldest grandson was born 15 years ago on Dec. 7. No one asked me then if I wanted to be a grandmother. If they had, I might have told them, “Not quite yet.”

I was actually taken aback when the kids asked what version of grandmother I wanted for my new name. I didn’t like any in common use but begrudgingly settled for Gran. That worked well until the second grandchild couldn’t quite pronounce it and started calling me Joanie. And it mutated to Noanie with the third.

When the babies were very small, their mothers took care of them. When they went back to school or to work, I did. During many long summers, I waited for phone calls from public officials while frying huge batches of chicken strips and potato logs for the grandkids, who were old enough to stay by themselves since our houses are virtually in the same yard but not old enough to make their own lunch.

Once, I rushed through a phone call with a congressman because one of the twins seemed to need to talk to me more than I needed to talk to him. I like to think he didn’t notice.

We already had seven of the 10 by the time my husband and I added onto the house out of sheer necessity. I envisioned a cozy sitting room for the adults in the old living room. But, before I could even start on it, the grandkids claimed it as their own. It was the kids’ room, they told me, and so it was.

I bought them bean bags, which I tossed behind the catty-cornered couch. Sometimes they sat on them, but just as often they were the base of a playhouse behind the couch that usually also included every pillow in the room.

When I repainted that room, I also had to replace the knobs on the TV cabinet that had been inadvertently removed by a grandson who fiddled with them with his bare toes while lying on the floor.

They all knew that the Band-aids and antibiotic cream were on the bottom shelf of the cabinet in the bathroom across the hall and that they didn’t have to ask for popsicles. But they did have to put the wrappers in the basket I bought for the kids’ room.

It was a crazy time, but I realized during the ice storm last week that it had come to an end.

I actually looked forward to snow and ice days when my house was the place to get warm, dry gloves and drink hot chocolate. But this weekend, for the first time, the kids stayed at their own houses. My house was clean with no clutter or puddles from icy boots. But it was so very quiet.

The interesting thing about ice storms is that they give you time that you might not have ordinarily — time to talk, make chili, reconnect. Just ask any delivery-room nurse about the brisk business they do nine months after a big winter event.

For me, it was time to try to remember who I was before the grandkids came along and decide if I want to go back to that or try something different for the next 20 years. Frankly, I’m more than a little upset that it’s come to that. But, just like no one asked me if I was ready to be a grandmother, no one asked me if it was OK with me if they grew up. If they had, I might have told them, “Not quite yet.”

— Joan McCoy