For what seems all too few spring breaks, we have enjoyed the company of two of our grandchildren here in Florida. But time is the evil genius that brings adolescence, and we have reluctantly waved goodbye for a few years, as they extend their range to places like New York City.
But we’re resourceful. For four days, we had company, friends from Florida’s Panhandle. Like us, they have grandchildren, and we arranged for them to bring theirs, so we could have our own spring break from ourselves.
There were three, all different, all high energy. It was great fun, not only having them under but also raising our roof. When at last our revels ended, they didn’t want to leave. When you’re old, that’s one of the better compliments you can be paid: a little girl you met three days ago plops down next to you and asks if she can stay.
--The peace that passeth all understanding.
--I feel stunned. Do you feel stunned?
--I feel exhausted.
--The house seems so big to me. Empty. No one’s here now, not even us. All that’s left is appliances turning on and off.
--Ray Bradbury wrote a story about it, I forget the name. Sprinkler heads popping up and shutting down, little mechanical “mice” scurrying around, cleaning and dusting the house. All the people had died in some disastrous way never explained.
--One minute you’re hoping for it to be over, the next you feel bereft. Abandoned.
--One thing’s certain. I now have the most thorough understanding possible of what the term “sensory overload” means.
--It used to be that way with our own. Remember?
--I remember nothing. Just now, I’m an empty vessel.
--At some point, you said we should create a new natural law, the Rule of Seventy-two.
--You mean with Rose and Wagner.
--You said anything over seventy-two hours was pushing the cardiovascular envelope in a dangerous way.
--This was ninety-six hours. I’ve been pleasantly catatonic for about the last eighteen.
--You were great yesterday in the swimming pool.
--Going for broke, I know. When you’re pushing seventy, it’s really good for morale to be able to throw somebody around. It makes you feel powerful. All you have to do is be sure the person is four or five.
--You loved it, I could tell.
--It’s the animal high spirits. The inventions. They really were great at making up games. Give them something as simple as an empty plastic nut jar from Costco, and they turned it into a physics experiment. How much water can the jar hold and still float?
--And those bubble wands they waved around. I couldn’t stop watching_______. Four years old and already absolutely a person. An individual. Did you see her face when bubbles landed on the pool and floated?
--I told her they were riding the waves. She liked the idea. She got down and slapped the water, watching them “widing the waves.” A little sponge for words and games.
--She liked a lot of things. But she really let you know when she didn’t. She knew how to get her way. If her grandma didn’t cooperate, that little girl knew how to use her voice.
--Those postcards I had made up with the cover of my book. She came in the study, sat on the couch behind me. I was typing, she didn’t say anything. Then she spotted a stack of the cards on the bookcase. “Can I have this, Uncle Baywy?” When I turned she was holding one up. I told her of course she could have it. After a minute she asked if she could have another. I said yes, still typing e-mail or something. “Uncle Baywy, can I have another?” It was a big stack of cards and I saw this was likely to go on indefinitely. So I told her no, she had one for each hand, which was the right number. This seemed to make sense to her, and I went back to typing. “Hey, look--” When I looked, she held up the cards. “See? I can hold both in one hand. So can I have another?”
--Yes, one smart little girl.
--And as you say, now it’s too quiet.
--Don’t get carried away. Yesterday, I saw a tick developing at the corner of your eye.
--And that’s true too.
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