On September 1 my great nephew became a father. It’s complicated because my husband and I raised him as our own, so for years he was essentially our son. We had custody and he was listed as a dependent and beneficiary. He lived 100% with us.
We taught him to walk, use the potty, eat Brussel Sprouts, splash in the tub, and sleep tight in his cozy little pjs. We enrolled him in school where he learned to read while still in kindergarten. He had a wonderful grasp of imagination and mimicry so he took to the computer – like me – very quickly and before too long he had his own games such as Mickey’s ABC’s and Mickey’s 1, 2, 3’s where he could see and hear words like xylophone and count beyond 10 way before other children his age. We watched Barney until even he couldn’t take it any longer, and lots of nickelodeon shows. Caspar the Friendly Ghost was his first movie ever in the theater. He sat in the aisle, although I said he couldn’t, until the usher asked him to sit with his grandmother (I was older, of course they thought I was his grandmother). He was so used to sitting wherever he wanted at home that he didn’t realize there were rules. Thanks to the usher for being the one who introduced him to the rules of the movie theater world so I could explain further at home. He loved the Nightmare Before Christmas and began calling my husband Bone Daddy, like Jack Skellington in the movie.
He was very athletic. He played basketball, little league baseball (awesome arm for pitching) and I sincerely believed he could go pro. He tried soccer, and once he even tried football (until he got hit unexpectedly and that was the end of that sport, thankfully). There was ice skating, roller skating, and skate boarding.
He had musical talent too. He tried flute in school band but instead headed to guitar, and we loved that opportunity for him as well. A real family enjoyment was had when he took lessons once a week and showed serious interest to the extent that we bought him guitars both acoustic and electric to encourage his reach in the arts. He sang in the choir at his catholic/private school. The same school where my husband and I graduated. Where we knew the teachers, who lived in our neighborhood, and the people who worked in the office who also went to school there with us. It was a real family.
He did very well in school because I worked from home so he had excellent teachers to start his day and then the routine of a classroom-like structure when he came home and before he could go out to play. His homework was always checked by me before he could head out the door to engage in street tag or catch football. We were building on his strengths of knowledge that he showed as a little boy in front of that computer. His reading skills had developed so strongly that he was reading Harry Potter to me with emphasis in all the right places. I spent an inordinate amount of time patiently reading with him every single night before bed time. Not a Christmas Eve ever went by without us reading The Night Before Christmas at bedtime, regardless of his age.
There were also lavish gifts of yearly trips to Walt Disney World (we eventually bought a time share so the family would always be on property every year when we returned to ride Space Mountain 10 times a day), mini-vans that cost more than our house so we could haul all the kids to the games, more clothes than any kid needed, electronics, music, and all the other desires a child can want.
There was always a belief that if we mixed the fun with learning experiences, it would result in a desire to achieve. The ingredients worked then. I love him with all my heart. I had never experienced that kind of love before.
Eventually he grew up and had a mind of his own and decided when he would read and what he would watch. He decided when he would go to bed and what time he would come home after being out with friends. Kids grow up and find their own way, and parents are left behind to take whatever scrap of time or interest the child desires to share with them. But you never stop loving them and you always find time when the time works for them. It’s called being a parent.
Now, he has his own son. And that makes me a grandmother. If you look on the ancestry tree I have built over time, I am a great, great aunt by blood. But by heart, I am a grandmother.
When he was a little kid and he couldn’t say my name, he called me “P.” That was the easy thing to say for him. I loved hearing it coming from his lips. A song to me. I’ve considered his son’s moniker for me and I think “P” would be great, but with the “G” of Grand Mom behind it.
PG – or PeeGee or Peach even. Why not? Our creative little hearts are coming full circle. God has given us this new chance to teach again. Not just me teaching the alphabet or how to count, but him teaching me how to love again as fully as I ever loved him. After all, while I went on in my story about all I gave him, it’s critically important that it be said that he gave me more than I ever could have given him. He gave me love. When he put his little in hand in mine as we walked or sat watching Barney or just because. When he touched my cheek with his little hand and told me I was beautiful. When he slept on my shoulder or leg or back just because he was comfortable as long as he was near me. When he smiled at me differently than he smiled at anyone else. When he came to me if he hurt himself because he knew I would make it all better. When he put his arms around my neck and told me he loved me.
There is never going to be a love quite so significant in my life. And he gave it to me. And now, he has gone and done it again.