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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grandma's Little Man

My friend Kate is a very caring lady. Over the years we have spent a lifetime at her kitchen table sharing our experiences and exchanging our view of the world’s problems. Our values reflect the fact that we are about the same age and grew up in middle class families that today would be considered low income. We are not part of the “plugged in” generation of our children and grandchildren.

What Kate and I value most is friendship and family ties. We agree relationships can not be purchased for any amount of money. I am a bit envious that she was blessed with grandchildren. Kate believes they are a second chance to pass on what she has learned to another generation. Her experiences have led her to conclude that her grown children seldom see her as wise.

Eight year old, Peter is the only grandchild who has been in her life since he was a baby. He was born in New York three days before the terrorist attack on the twin towers. He was introduced to his grandmother a month later. He spent another month at her home in New Mexico before he and his mother took the long train trip back to New York. Kate didn’t see Peter again until he was four months old.

This marked the beginning of a special relationship for both of them. Kate’s daughter became a single parent before Peter was a year old and also held a full time job. Because money is tight Kate has always been available to help out when she can. At first she felt it was an imposition, but soon grew to realize what a valuable gift she had been given.

Kate became so enthralled with Peter that when he was 20 months old she featured him in a human interest column she wrote for her local newspaper, referring to him as “Little Man”. She wanted readers to understand that children are little people looking for guidance and the adults in their lives have the responsibility of being good role models so their children will grow up secure and happy.

These two beings are a perfect pair and thoroughly enjoy being in each others company. They both have a colorful imagination that adds laughter to the simplest things. Once Peter had a fat hamster that he named Famster, explaining the F stood for fat. One of the pair’s favorite activities is a trip to the park to feed the birds and ducks dry bread crumbs.

One day Peter found a dead bird in the backyard. Almost in tears, he implored his grandmother to do something. Deciding it was an excellent opportunity to teach him about death and respect, Kate helped Peter dig a hole to bury the bird. They placed a plastic flower on top of the grave to mark the sad event. Ordinarily she would have dumped the carcass in the trash. Teachers come in all ages Kate realized.

During the Christmas holiday Kate received an unexpected phone call. She was invited to have lunch with her visiting 21 year old grandson, Scott, whom she had not seen in ten years. It just happened to be Peter’s last day of school vacation so he was able to join them at a local restaurant.

As Kate observed her two grandsons sitting next to each other, one tall and dark haired one short and blond, she could not help but feel a little sad that she had not been in Scott’s life when he was growing up. She fondly remembered an experience from years earlier of taking in his perfect little face while giving him a bottle. Shortly after that his parents moved away and were later divorced, making the separation even greater.

After leaving the restaurant Scott gave his grandmother a warm hug and then turned and shook Peter’s hand saying, “Goodbye Little Man.”

Of all the words Scott could have used how very strange that he would choose those, Kate mused. They magically began to close the gap between them that time and distance had created.

(This story was a recent submission to a writing contest. Although it did not win, it was too good not to share- oh and by the way, except for the names it is true!)

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