What Will I Call You?

What Will I Call You?

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

What Will I Call You?

Children are God’s apostles, sent forth, day by day, to preach love, and hope and peace.

James Russell Lowell

When he was seven years old Robbie came home with a sad little face and tear-stained cheeks.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked, gathering my son in my arms.

“Mom,” he wailed, “tomorrow at school we’re gonna talk about grammas and grampas. Everybody’s got ‘em but me. I wish I had some.”

“Why, sweetheart,” I said sympathetically, “you do have some. You have Mimi and Nonie, and Henni and Pa-Pa.” Just saying their names allowed me to realize Robbie’s dilemma, but I forged ahead explaining, “You just don’t call them Granny and Granddaddy like the other kids do.”

“Well, I wish I did,” he hiccupped, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

“I wish you did too. I guess they thought nicknames would be cuter and . . . sound younger.” Pulling him into the kitchen I continued, “I’ll tell you what. Let’s have some treats and we’ll plan something really good for you to say about your grandparents tomorrow. But first I’ll make you a promise. When you grow up and have your kids, I promise you they will call me Grandma and call your daddy Grandpa, okay?”

I’d always remembered that promise, but hadn’t had the chance to keep it. Robbie grew into a good-looking hunk of a guy with a marvelous personality but didn’t marry until after he was thirty and even then didn’t have children of his own. His job put his name before the public and required personal appearances, so he was well known. We were very close, even though he lived in another state.

One evening right before Christmas, my husband took a long distance call from Rob. After they had talked quietly for a long time I heard Don say, “Okay, Rob, if you’re sure, I’ll tell Mom.”

I thought, What’s that about?

Later that evening Don told me a secret kept from me. When Rob was eighteen, during spring break, he spent one of those wild, uncontrollable weekends with a girl he didn’t know. One night—no controls—and a child was the result. That had been twelve years ago. The girl, ashamed of the event, refused to divulge any name and made no demands for eight years. Eventually she needed financial assistance and consulted an agency. They insisted that the father be found to help with expenses. Rob had been contacted and notified to report for a DNA test. For the last four years he’d known about his son. He was supporting the boy financially and saw him from time to time when his job brought him to their area. Robbie told his secret to his dad when he first found out, but made him promise not to tell me. Later he would confide, “Mom, I wanted what you wanted for me; the center aisle of the church first, then the picket fence and then children. I hated to be such a disappointment to you.”

Incredibly, hearing that story was a Christmas present for me. Our grandchild lived in a small town not sixty miles from us. My first thought was how many years we’d all wasted and how deprived the child must feel. Of course I would accept and love him. I knew grandparents who had turned away from the identical situation. It was their loss.

“I can’t wait to see him. Let’s go tomorrow,” I said to my husband. “What must that poor child think of his absentee family?” What had he said when he was seven years old and it was time to talk about his grandparents?

After calling first, we drove over the next day. I was as excited as though a baby were on the way. We drove into their driveway and I jumped out of the car almost before it stopped. On the front porch was a young boy standing beside his bicycle. I kept telling myself, Slow down, don’t smother him.

I smiled as I approached him, “Do you know who I am?”

He nodded. Then he moved a little closer to me, grinned and asked, “What will I call you?”

With tears in my heart I said, “Grandma. Please call me Grandma.”

And I opened my arms to him.

Ruth Hancock

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