Grandpa and I had some of our loveliest times in the playground when the children were babies, when swings, slides, sandboxes and feeding ducks were still their most favorite things. Going to the park with young children can be a lonely affair, especially when the afternoon wind bites, chasing most inside. Still, it would have been a day passed mainly indoors playing blocks and paints and books with Grandma and Grandpa, and now everyone was teary and needed air. So, like it or not, off I would need to go.
On such afternoons, Grandpa would always volunteer to come with me. With Grandpa near, all the bundling into jackets and finding shoes always went more quickly and happily, and my voice would stay soft with patience. At the park, Grandpa would so delight at the children’s digging and balancing and laughter, as he pushed their swings high up, toes to the air, that I would be charmed, too. With Grandpa, I would marvel at their little achievements, abilities that had seemed commonplace just our last playground visit. With Grandpa, I would always get a little surge of confidence as a mother, as his delight would make me feel that I must be doing something well.
If one or the other was naughty or quarrelling, Grandpa’s calm, authoritative voice quelled everyone quickly. Even on cold days, often the park would be followed by ice cream. Unless, of course, Grandma had dinner waiting. Grandma was wonderful at heating up Grandpa’s beef stew and steaming whole heads of broccoli in her silver pot. After, always, it was right into an early bath. There Grandpa was again, plucking out for drying and dressing one of the many in the water. After, always, there were stories. Often all the children snuggled around Grandpa at once, on his green couch, in his homely office, with his large wooden desk perfectly tidied. While he read, I could catch my breath, clean up a bit, and even take a long, luxuriant shower.