Our family speaks proficient “soccer.” It is the mother tongue. And we consider ourselves articulate and bilingual (trilingual if you count fluent expletive a legitimate second language). The World Cup is akin to the Second Coming, and when we speak in tongues, we utter names like Borchers, Messi and Beckham. This prologue will be important later.
Experience has taught me that Grandmas seem to have a different relationship with time. Now, that doesn’t exactly disqualify us from the planet. We just view the world through our own peculiar lenses – with all the inherent distortions.
I am a fervent admirer of still lifes. I guess that’s because basically I want a suspension of time. Watching grandchildren grow up seems to violate my own larger order. Time imposes this violation with dispassionate efficiency and offends the premise of stop-motion freeze frame. Of course, this dispassionate efficiency frequently collides with my own sentimentality. Sometimes the collisions are violent, which compels a return to my third language (see prologue). Time is a tyrant. Time and I have an adversarial relationship. And I notice a significant imbalance of power.
Ah, but I digress.
Almost every grandma I know tries to create a snakeless Eden for her tribe, so we can all be together all the time. And then she must re-calibrate her mind as she wonders if she is capable of stepping up to the unavoidable inevitability…namely, kids must leave the nest, and she must let them go. But I ask you, who would want to leave Eden? Apparently, everyone.
As a grandmother, I can hardly grasp the concept of the grandchildren’s relentless drive to emerge from beneath my protective arm flab. I suppose I fear they will grow into their own pre-destined design and rocket into their future, leaving us all in the Grand Suck of immense force. But the Offspring seem to trust the purpose of their wings. OK. I’m cool with that.
Coming of age is exhausting for all of us, but there seems to be a Grand Scheme in place. That’s comforting.
Our oldest grandson, Abram, is a soccer savant, a phenom. He plays on the JV Olympus team, even though he is still in Junior High.
A while ago, the coach called him over to the sidelines and asked him to play the second half of the varsity game. (Did I mention the kid’s in 9th grade?)
Well, for Abram, it was a terrific opportunity. For me, it was a bladder check. He stood, lanky and composed, with his velvety blond hair slightly wind-ruffled, and waited till the ref signaled the subs to enter the field.
I, in contrast, sat in the bleachers, midgety, like a citizen of a tribe of twisted aborigines, with tangled hair and a web of wrinkles spreading tentacles under my eyes, muttering unintelligible wordless growls, wheezing vocal punctuation, feeling slightly seasick, and praying I wouldn’t fling a tantrum if one of the brutes named Caligula and Vlad on the opposing team made felonious contact with my grandson!
My heart was in freefall and rattling against my ribs. I was a hunched bundle of mushy entrails.
Attempting some degree of sensory deprivation, I allowed myself only one liquidy eyeball to observe the action. The other I kept hidden behind my coat. In case of catastrophe, I could hide one eye quicker than two.
You don’t emerge from such episodes thinking clearly. But as I watched, the kid was amazing. His cheeks were pink and oxygenated. He was confident, soldierly, and at ease with himself. So I decided it was safe to unveil the second eye, exit my blankety cocoon, and amend my posture so I wasn’t scraping my knuckles on the ground. I watched. Abram delivered. We both survived.
Regaining one’s dignity is a mammoth task.
Life is a current of human experience. And sometimes I feel like a camel on ice. But I have decided not to waste time regretting the passage of time. I’m calling a truce with the enemy. Easier said than done. I’ve held that image of Abram stepping up to the line when the coach called his name, and recorded it in my archival collection of memories. That way I by-pass time and score a small victory over my nemesis.
Grandmas embody the sum of the experience of civilized man. We are pilgrimage partners.
Years ago, when we got the news of Abram’s impending arrival, it seemed time went by so slowly, its passage was barely visible. So while we waited, Dennis and I wrote a letter to the person whose four cells were already saturating our minds and hearts. We didn’t know then who was on the way, so we addressed the epistle to the Wee Zygote. He eventually entered the world with cacophonous lungs and gossamer hair. He still has that hair. He assumed the place we had saved just for him, and so far, the arrangement seems to be satisfactory for everyone.
Nowadays, time passes so fast, it is barely visible.
Remembering takes us places where we should linger and forget about everything but the deepest things.
Of course, there are certain rituals to be observed where memory is concerned. As grandmas, we take an oath to forget certain things and make a promise to remember others.
Therefore, history is usually agreed upon by mutual consent.
That’s how we put things in order.