Love’s Labors Found

Love’s Labors Found

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Love’s Labors Found

Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.

Rose Kennedy

I was feeling horribly rejected. Spurned.

My grandson Isaiah, a feisty seven-year-old with a mind and will all his own, had decided he was too old to hug and kiss his grandmother. For that matter, Zay, as he is universally known, was too old even to bother with me.

When my husband and I made the two-hour round trip to see him in a school play for his two-minute walk-on, or made sure to be at his karate class for his (ahem) graduation, Zay would greet us with a grin—but keep his distance.

Once, when I forgot the mandate and hugged him in a public place, he reminded me of the ground rules: no hugging anywhere, especially not in public.

When I’d try to spend time with him before he went to bed, Zay seemed eager for me to leave so he could play with his “guys,” those strange creatures kids call “action figures.”

I needed advice and a little sympathy, so I turned to Zay’s mother, my daughter Jill, the same person who used to turn to me for solace. “What should I do?” I asked this daughter, who knew how much I was hurting.

Wise Jill assured me that seven-year-old boys often struggle with issues of independence and boundaries.

So I waited it out, just as Jill advised. I kept my distance from Zay and lavished my hugs on his sister and his younger cousins, who all hugged me back.

But it was downright painful to leave Zay’s room feeling that I was an unwelcome intruder. And waving goodnight to him from the safe distance of the doorway almost made me weep.

This wonderful little boy with the dark brown eyes who had once begged me to read him Goodnight Moon ten times in a row—who had pleaded with me to stay in his room long after the light went out—was testing my endurance for rejection.

On a recent visit, I was braced for the usual from this seven-year-old master of the rebuff. When I met Zay at his bus stop, to my surprise and delight he rushed toward me, and for the first time in too long I saw real delight on his face. I willed my arms not to dare reach out to him, but felt his hand grabbing mine even before the bus pulled away.

I didn’t dare show my surprise—or my soaring elation. This was the old Zay, the pre–seventh–birthday Zay. It was wonderful to have him back. Still, I was not going to be taken in by beginnings. I figured at home he would once again play the tough guy who didn’t believe in public displays of affection.

And I was half right.

Zay didn’t join in the ice cream party in the kitchen, a tradition that usually marked my visits, and he didn’t choose to join us in a spirited game of Go Fish. But at dinner, he begged to sit next to me. And at bedtime, he scrambled into his pajamas and brushed his teeth knowing that the payoff for speed was extra story time with me.

When I sat down on his bed, it was almost like old times. He asked for a “mouth story,” his way, years ago, of telling me not to read from a book but to invent one for him. As I began my tale, it was almost nostalgic, if one can be nostalgic with someone who’s only been on this earth for only seven years.

We laughed a lot in that mouth story, making up characters named “Clotilda” and “Bongi.” And when it was clear that he was ready to surrender to sleep—when those brown eyes fluttered a few times—I was ready to tiptoe out when Zay pointed to his cheek.

I got the message.

I leaned over and kissed him for the first time in too long.

Zay smiled. And so did I . . . for a week.

Sally Friedman

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