Tuesdays with Grayson open a new world for a grateful grandpa
“We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.” –Louise Gluck, poet
One of the better aspects of growing older, as any grandparent will tell you, is grandchildren. Shortly after Grayson was born, my wife told me that we would be caring for him on Tuesdays. Because Tuesday is one of our days off together, I inquired if that meant every Tuesday. I was told that it did.
I love all of our grandchildren, of course, but circumstances did not require our care and contact on a regular basis. So this would be unique.
However, I’m a little possessive of my free time, having gotten accustomed to it in the years since the separation trauma parents endure as their own children leave home. So I was a little apprehensive about helping care for a newborn, all day long, on a weekly basis. I had no idea what an infant could teach me.
I didn’t pay as close attention to my own son’s first years as I would have liked. I was too busy doing really important things I no longer recall with an urgency I no longer have.
I’m not one to confuse the beauty of the concept of birth with the physical attractiveness of a newborn child. Let’s face it: A newborn puppy or even chimpanzee is cuter than a newborn human. Grayson was no different. He looked like a turtle without a shell. Still, holding him shortly after his arrival was as magnificent a moment as it was when I first held his siblings in the opening moments of their lives.
Spending all day once a week, with a newborn gives one a comfortable time-lapse perspective. Each week brings a noticeable change in physical and personal development, which would be less notable if seen on a daily basis.
It’s easy, at first. Tiny babies don’t do much and sleep a lot. But then, development takes off like a rocket. The “firsts” pile up—first smile, first laugh, first time he holds his head up, first time he crawls, first step, his first word, which , in Grayson’s case, sounded more like a question, “Elmo?”
After becoming bored (me, not him) with two “Best of Elmo” CDs, I turned to YouTube for more episodes. After that, Grayson only wanted to watch Elmo on my computer, but he also expanded his viewing choices.
I never fully appreciated the speed at which an infant processes the constant barrage of outside stimuli—sounds, shapes, colors, tastes and smells. I found it challenging as an adult to learn a second language. And I was amazed at how easily my own son learned a second language when he was 7.
I have been no less impressed watching Grayson learn his first language. When he began making the connection between shapes and words, he one day pointed to my stomach and said, “Ball?”
I began to see myself through his eyes. When dad dropped him off in the morning, I usually was drinking coffee and reading something. He liked to sit on my lap and pretend to read something, too, and insisted on wearing a pair of my reading glasses. When he set his bottle down, he would say “Ahh” just as I did when I set my cup down. When I picked him up, he would grunt because I realized I did, too.
Each week he arrived with new words he had learned and some he had made up. Each week, more words were strung together along with some of his own. Thoughts, senses an expression opened in him like a trillium.
Carrying him through the field behind the house one day, Grayson cupped his ear and said, “I hear dat.”
“Hello, birdies,” he said sincerely. “Bye, birdies.”
An infant’s mind absorbs everything the senses register and filters nothing out. It becomes frighteningly obvious how they could just as easily absorb and mimic the prejudices, hatreds and fears of their extended family.
All I can do for now, I think, is walk behind Grayson and steer him away from harm while he leads me in different directions. Other than that, I try and stay out of his way, even when I’m holding him.
Watching him, I realize that each waking moment is a learning experience. Spending Tuesdays with Grayson has allowed me to glimpse the world again, through his eyes. It’s a pretty amazing place. Sometimes, I don’t even want to blink.
Jim Black is a community blogger and is not a part of the Walworth County Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of Walworth County Today staff or management.