If you overlook the six-year-old demonstrating her best soccer kick, whereupon her shoe flew off her foot and grazed the side of my head, we had a good visit with two of the grands.
Our son and his wife, who live in a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago, recently had their fourth child (family motto: Stack ‘em high and stack ‘em deep). We drove up, admired the new baby, and then brought the six- and four-year-old home with us for 10 days. Make that 10 days and six hours, but who’s counting?
Sometimes our drives home seem long and boring. That was not the case with our new passengers in tow. Let’s just say the children are inquisitive.
‘Where does gasoline come from, Grandpa?’
‘Gasoline is what’s known as a fossil fuel—’
There’s no such thing as a short answer with Grandpa, but there’s no such thing as a satisfactory answer with the kids. ‘What is fossil fuel, Grandpa? Is a fossil like a dinosaur? Where are dinosaurs, Grandpa?’
‘What exactly is quicksand?”
It was like living in a game show, with only seconds to answer before another question was fired.
‘What if hail comes down on your house while we’re there?’
‘What’s the difference between a golfer and a gopher?’
We quickly realised we have grown soft without a steady stream of small children around for more than 48 hours at a time. Case in point: we have grown used to quiet. We had forgotten the hair-raising excitement of intermittent shrieking, laughing and slamming doors.
We’ve grown complacent with things like the piano staying against the same wall where it has stood for 20 years. We lacked the imagination to visualise it perpendicular to the wall, where it could be a wall to a fort.
We still don’t know how they moved it, but we do know it was the only quiet thing they did while they were here.
‘How is it going?’ our son asked by phone.
‘They’re angelic,’ I said. When they are sleeping.
‘Are they behaving?’ he asked.
‘Oh my, yes.’ Do not get out of that chair until I say you can!
‘Are they eating well?’
‘Very well.’ If you count cheese as a food group.
It was satisfying to have them over for a lengthy stay. We feel like we successfully completed a rigorous physical fitness training course. Our reflexes are once again sharp, our medical emergency response times fast and our minds quick.
As we began our return trip, the questions began as well, albeit at a somewhat slower pace.
‘What time will we be there?’
‘Are you on the right interstate, Grandpa?’
‘How do the police catch bad guys?’
‘You’re good conversationalists,’ Grandpa sighed.
‘Do you know what that means?’ I ask.
‘Yes, it means we’re good talkers.’
You certainly are.