By S M Chen, posted by Debbonnaire Kovacs, Jan 20, 2016

Chen grandson

I pick up my namesake 5-year-old grandson a little after 10 am and drive to the local church, which he is accustomed to attending. It occurs to me that perhaps we are both helping each other in our spiritual quest. He is not too young to have begun his; I am well advanced in mine.

He sits with me briefly at the small, old, brown piano which sits in one corner of the kindergarten room and which I am asked to play in accompaniment as we sing simple Christmas songs.

This piano, like some of us, has seen better days, but is still functional. One key, in particular, is problematic. It hasn’t sounded for some time, and resides in a partially depressed position. He notices this and tries to lift it, to no avail. It would have been nice if the stuck key weren’t a frequently played one, the E above middle C.

After Sabbath School he wants to go to the playground behind the church and school. The playground has a variety of equipment, including swings, slides, seesaws, and the like. He samples practically all, then we enter another area separated from the main playground by a wrought iron gate. The smaller playground has less equipment but greater privacy. This area is separated from the church by another locked gate.

Shortly thereafter, this gate is shaken by a small child. The noise this produces is surprisingly loud. Sam runs to the gate and tells the child and the man we assume is her father that they can access the small playground if they go down a long, narrow corridor and enter the larger playground first. He runs through the playground to show them.

The wrought iron fence around the playground, separating church from adjacent property, has vertical bars missing in several places; rust at their ends has eroded the welds. It is through one of these wider spaces that Sam descends a steep embankment to a cemented water culvert, despite my warning that, should he require assistance, I may not be able to provide such, given my disabling sciatica.

In a sitting position, he descends rapidly down the dirt bank. I try not to worry about the seat of his trousers. He wanders the culvert a while, satisfying himself that it is devoid of water and contains nothing of particular interest. His ascent is considerably slower, and he grasps foliage as he climbs. He finally reaches a tree trunk near the top and grasps its knobby surface to aid him. When he reaches the level where I await, he announces, “It’s easy to go down, not so easy coming up.”

I assure him life is like that.

He goes down the embankment again and walks the culvert some distance until he decides to return to playground level. He finds a couple pinecones and, on this ascent, encounters some purple flowers among the succulents blanketing this part of the slope. He picks one for his mother. There are others, and he wants to pick them all, but I tell him he should leave some for others to enjoy.

We return to the playground and I look at my watch. I’ve received several texts from his mother. I tell him, “OK, you have ten minutes.”

“Is that a long time?”

I briefly ponder how to explain the concept of time, which is such a relative, abstract concept.

“Well, a minute is 60 seconds. So, if you count like this: ‘1001, 1002, 1003, etc. to 60, that’s one minute.”

He wants to stop at a Subway shop on the way home. At a prior Subway some days ago, he got to try a Fanta orange soda for the first time, and liked it. It’s a little like Squirt, which he also recently discovered, but not quite so sour. He also wanted to try Sprite then, but I told him the orange soda had to be finished first, and, despite there being two of us, we were unable to empty the bottle during our time there.

So I get him a Sprite, and myself a 12” veggie sandwich. We sit at a table across from each other, and share.

His main object of interest is Sprite, so I feed him his half of the sandwich. He tells me he came to get Sprite, not sandwich. I tell him I came to get sandwich. So we compromise, and each has some sandwich and some Sprite. I finish my half; he eats all but a small morsel of his. We take the unfinished bottle of Sprite with us.

I tell him about alliteration, saying words in sequence that begin with the same letter. Example: ‘Sam sips Sprite soda.’ When he playfully, not in anger, brings his fist down upon the sandwich, I mention another: ‘Sam smashes Subway sandwich.’ He seems to like alliteration.

I give him a dollar bill to put in the hollow plastic tip cube atop the counter when we leave. He has to stretch to reach it.

Upon our departure, after he’s securely in his car seat next to two green huge Hulk hands, I ask him, “Do you want to go to the house of Sam or to the house of Sam?” He understands one, where I live, is where his mother might pick him up; the other is his own domicile.

He laughs, then decides he’d like to go home.

Which is where I take him.

———

I’m reminded of something, years ago, my then twelve-year-old son said one day after a meal. Rubbing his tummy, he leaned back in his chair and announced, “Eating is one of life’s great pleasures.”

For me, now, tending my grandson is one of life’s great pleasures.