Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Thoughts On Aging

Our oldest daughter needs a babysitter.

The reliable nanny will be attending an out of state wedding. I rearrange my life, along with the other grandma (bless her, bless her), and I mentally prepare for the toddler extravaganza!

My first day starts smooth. Seventeen-month-old Bandit #1 eats his toast; almost three year old Bandit #2 manages to stay unscraped, unscathed, and intact, and he only flooded the bathroom floor with one gallon of water--thank goodness for side drains in water filled sinks.  It's a beautiful day and ever since learning my Canadian friend took her children outside even in the harshest of weather, I'm conditioned to bundle up the little bandits and brave a walk.

While buckling B1 into the stroller, B2 disappears. I find him "tunneling" under the low-set van in the garage, and I'm thrown into a panic. The oil, the grease--he's going to suffocate from fumes or cut his head in between car parts. He may even get stuck! I dial his father who works from home in a basement office and in seconds, he stands like the annunciation angel in the doorway. Hallelujah! B2 explains to Dad that not only was he "tunneling," but hiding. Horrific scenes run through my over-imaginative, worrisome, grandma mind which sees the future: B2 hiding; his family unaware he's under the car. You know the rest.

My poor son-in-law. When I return from the walk and both boys are wet from playing in the sand, the grass, and sliding into puddles on the slides, he abandons work and helps me clean-up and put the little bandits to bed. This is only day one.

I arrive home that late afternoon exhausted. I weasel my way out of playing pickleball with the terminator, aka Tony--until I ask him to help me with the boys on Wednesday. It's his work from home day but no sacrifice is too great to spend with the bandits and to save his beloved's life.

"I really can't do it," he says.

"Okay. I'll play pickleball tonight."

I see a subtle shift.

"If you help me on Wednesday, I'll play pickleball, even though I'm exhausted."

I detect another shift.

"You'll probably win."

"I'll help you on Wednesday."

"I can't believe you're going to make me play pickleball just to help me!"

A deal's a deal.

Tony 4, Pat 1.

It's best he comes anyway. When I visit the bandits, they look at me, smile if I'm lucky, then promptly ask in varying degrees of language proficiency, "Where's Bapa."

"Bapa? Bapa? Bapa, Bapa Bapa...

Today I'm thankful he's the favored son. They will only allow Bapa to change diapers (a manly thing) and scream "Bapa" when it's nap time. I am left downstairs to finish lunch while he tricks them into their naps. Big mistake. In the unexpected quiet, I get a glimpse of my former life and long for the plush rug under the desk in my study.

 As per the previous pickleball bargain, Tony only has to stay on duty until both B1 an B2 are down for their naps. When his work is finished, I wistfully walk him to the door, and remind him in twenty short minutes he'll be in the sanctuary of our home, "surrounded by silence and freedom."

He smiles like a man far younger than his gray hair reveals-- as he skips down the stairs to his car. As I watch with envy, an idea lightening bolt strikes.

"Hey, I call out. It's great getting old!"

The past two days of intense attention, cleaning up, wrestling toddlers out of wet clothes, wiping spilled milk and tossed food off the floor, walls and high chairs, have been a fraction of a myriad of years of hard labor. Old age returns the gratitude of younger days spent in the trenches with an envious schedule void of interference.

Anyone who complains about getting old needs to spend a few days with toddlers.