Someone’s Grandmother

Someone’s Grandmother

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Someone’s Grandmother

Blessed be the hand that prepares a pleasure for a child, for there is no saying when and where it may bloom forth.

Douglas Jerrold

I was a frustrated wannabe grandmother. Every time I saw a small baby, I’d hear the ticking of the biological clock. All right, I admit that it wasn’t my clock. But our two adult daughters had healthy clocks that I could hear ticking, even if they couldn’t. That the younger one had just reached adulthood and that neither daughter was married were beside the point. I wanted to be someone’s grandmother.

One day Jennifer, our elder daughter, called with the news, “Mom, I’m getting married!” She followed this with more good news, “Chuck has custody of his two-year-old son. We plan to come home to Alaska for the wedding.”

I was ecstatic to be an instant grandma. Then I had a moment’s pause as I tried to figure out what to do with a grandson. We raised two daughters and I have a sister. It occurred to me that I had no idea how to entertain a small boy. Could I be his grandma? Would he accept me? Would Chuck let his son call me “Grandma”?

Jennifer, Chuck and Chase arrived in the spring, had a summer wedding and I officially became an instant grandmother. I tried to pace myself getting to know my young grandson. Over the summer we explored hiking trails along the Mendenhall Glacier and tide pools in Tee Harbor. We picked wild blueberries, watched tiny hummingbirds, baked cookies and had long talks in a child’s language that I’d long forgotten. All the while I fretted over losing touch with him when Jennifer and Chuck moved south again. I knew I had only a few short months with Chase.

In late fall, fate stepped in. My carpenter-husband Bob took a fall. He had a double compound fracture of his right arm and would be off work for at least nine months. Winter loomed ahead. With the heavy snowfall would come snow shoveling, snow plowing, keeping the furnace running and other winter tasks around the house. Jennifer and Chuck decided to postpone their trip south until the next year so they could help us through the winter. I had another nine months to spend with my new grandson.

Over the winter Chase and I watched Disney movies together, sang during baths about tiny frogs and bars of soap, danced the hoochie-koochie, read stories by Kipling and built snowmen. Spring was coming, and I knew that soon there would be talk of Jennifer, Chuck and Chase moving south again. They had been with us nearly a year, and I knew we weren’t the Waltons. It hadn’t been an easy winter and some days our big house felt small, yet I fought tears whenever I thought of them leaving.

Once again fate stepped in. An injury to my back required surgery and held me prisoner in our bedroom for nearly four months. Jennifer and Chuck delayed their departure again. Since Jennifer, Chuck and Bob were now working, Chase went to day care. I would wait in bed, listening for the sound of him coming through the back door and pounding his way upstairs to my bedroom. I delighted in listening to him as he sat on the end of the bed and told me about his busy day at “school.” He shared garbled stories of coloring, cutting and pasting construction paper.

That summer we watched and rewatched the Princess Bride, Zorro, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and countless other favorite movies with heroes and villains. Chase was as content to read books and watch movies with me that long summer as he had been to berry pick and hike the summer before. Yet I knew that autumn weather would once again bring talk of a move south.

The day did come when Chuck gathered their belongings into the truck and left on the ferry, and a few days later Bob and I took Jennifer and Chase to the airport to join him. I blinked back hot tears as we checked them in for a flight to Seattle. They might as well be moving to the moon. I knew that we would be lucky to see each other once a year. Chase would turn four soon. I doubted that he’d even remember me in a couple of months. I was certain everyone in the airport could hear my heart breaking.

Our house was horribly quiet those first weeks after they left for Oklahoma. I spent time building a small photo album for Chase, hoping that he’d remember his instant grandma in Alaska. I called Oklahoma often, though it was difficult to have a long telephone conversation with a three-year-old. My heart broke as he asked, “Grandma, come see me now. When am I coming home to Alaska? How is Papa?” And, “Grandma, do you know that in Oklahoma you can’t even grow blueberries? Could you please send me blueberry bushes to grow?” I treasured each little chat we had.

The months passed and we got photos from Jennifer, a lot of e-mails and periodic phone calls from Chase. For his fourth birthday I sent him a video about a kangaroo in Australia. Chase loved the movie and hurried to ask Jennifer if he could have a kangaroo. After all, they had some acreage and enough room for a kangaroo. Jennifer wisely told him, “It’s okay with me, but go ask your dad.” A very disappointed Chase returned to the kitchen to tell Jennifer that his dad said “no.” Then his face lit with a great idea. In a small whisper he said to Jennifer, “Let’s call Grandma in Alaska. She’ll send us one!”

When Jennifer told me the kangaroo story, I knew that I’d made it. I was someone’s grandmother, not for an instant, but forever.

Valerie A. Horner

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