By S M Chen, posted 6-15-16 by D Kovacs
“One of the joys of being a grandparent is getting to see the world again through the eyes of a child.” – David Suzuki
I hear the ring of my front doorbell. I know who depresses the button because my daughter invariably texts me when leaving her domicile, a reasonable drive from an adjacent town.
It is always good to see her and my five-year-old grandson, whom I tend with some regularity and who is one of the reasons I moved to my current locale four years ago.
Classical music usually plays in my living room. With what I consider to be reasonable extrapolation, I assume that if it’s good for plants, it probably won’t hurt humans and may be equally salubrious. Christian writer Philip Yancey avers that classical music is one of the three reasons he believes in a divine being.
Being an only child, grandson lacks for nothing. He has two scooters, one of which has found friends in my garage with my cars and bicycle. An extra safety helmet also resides there.
On occasion his parents leave his bike and an electric hoverboard.
Where I live there are more families with young children than where he lives.
He enjoys playing, but kids are not always out and about.
This particular afternoon he decides to ride the hoverboard. Deep blue, it is surprisingly heavy, and a thing of wonder, capable of distance on a single charge.
I urge him to watch for motor vehicles when he is in the street. After riding briefly and seeing there are no kids with whom to interact, he tells me he wants to leave the premises.
I tell him to wait while I lock up the house and grab a light jacket. He wears only a shirt (the day has been relatively warm), shorts, and flip-flop sandals. We carry no water, but where I intend to go has a fountain and restrooms.
At the end of the cul-de-sac on my street, the hard surface solid wall has a hiatus, allowing easy passage in either direction. We exit onto a concrete walkway used by pedestrians, bikers, and an occasional electric vehicle.
We descend and embark on a level part of path. Adjacent to it lies an expanse of dirt, upon which people often pass, sometimes with dogs; it is a softer surface and kinder to the joints.
A jogger approaches and passes. “What is jog?” Grandson wants to know.
“Jog is something between walk and run,” I say. “Faster than walking, and slower than running. And speaking of walking, if I walk fast, I can barely keep up with you.” We laugh. He slows.
For me, jogging or running is out of the question. I suffer from sciatica, including neurogenic claudication. At times I think to myself, I can’t go on. But then I recall Samuel Beckett’s “The Unnamable” and tell myself, I’ll go on. And I do.
Soon the path splits. One paved limb of the T leads to the sea, over two miles away. I have ridden that many times in the past. I tell grandson we can take that path someday, but not now. There is not enough time.
We take the other paved limb to a park, almost a mile away. I think he will enjoy the playground, where there may be other children.
The path ascends but gradually. It requires mild effort on my part, and almost none on his. He just leans a bit forward and the hoverboard adjusts. I tell him to avoid the water culvert to one side of the path, a ditch over a foot deep which could induce injury were one to veer into it.
A dotted longitudinal single line splits the path and a few others pass going the opposite direction. I tell him what the line means, but not to worry too much about it now; he will learn later.
“When?” he wants to know.
“When it’s closer to the time you will drive,” I tell him. In about a decade. He seems content.
I tell him to look and listen. Some invisible birds chirp and a solitary crow flies overhead. We talk about crows and hawks. Usually one sees a single hawk harassed by several crows or smaller birds, but not this day.
He wants to know what would happen if it were just one on one, or a single crow and several hawks. The crow would likely then be in trouble. There’s strength in numbers.
“Is this wilderness?” he asks.
It is a reasonable question. Brush and trees live on flatland and hills covered with long grass. Sometimes, when the wind blows, it is as if molten silver flows across the top of the grass. It is a breath-stopping moment.
“Not exactly,” I say. Parts of the terrain are pristine and feral, but never is a house out of sight.
I’m reminded of another reason Philip Yancey believes in God: nature.
I spy a black stinkbug near the path’s edge. We stop. Its hindquarters are raised. I remind grandson this is an insect, with six legs, as opposed to arachnids, which have eight legs. Which recalls octopuses, which also have eight appendages. When he was younger, an octagon was one of his favorite shapes.
Not long thereafter we reach the park, which contains a baseball diamond, a soccer field, and playground.
A number of girls dart about on the equipment. A couple adult females, likely mothers, watch from the sidelines.
Dusk descends. I remind grandson we need to leave soon, as I have not brought a flashlight and there are no lights along the path home.
Several of the girls see his hoverboard and want to try it. I tell them they can, but only one at a time and whoever tries must wear a helmet. They agree. I’m reminded how steep the learning curve can be to successfully ride the hoverboard, which gyrates and spins with force if not mounted correctly. Giggling, the girls depart. It has gotten so dark their figures are mere shadows.
On the way back, I am grateful for the lights on the hoverboard. Blue, like the hoverboard itself, they project only a short distance, but something is better than nothing.
Grandson is chilled, but declines my jacket.
We hear the croaking of frogs in the distance. He wants to know where they are and when they make sound. I remind him they started as tadpoles and have undergone metamorphosis. Even as I say it, I hesitate, thinking it might be too big a word. But he says he has heard of it. We also talk about the miraculous metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
He asks about more dangerous wildlife – coyotes and such. I tell him that there’s likely nothing to fear. I grew up with nyctophobia, and would like him not to.
“I’m afraid now,” he admits.
“You have a guardian angel,” I tell him. “It’s always with you. You can talk to it.”
“But I don’t know its name.” I cannot help him. I think of Gabriel and Michael, but beyond that I am stuck.
“But you can always talk to Jesus,” I say. “You know His name. He’ll always be with you, and is your best friend.”
He’s familiar with this concept. He has sung “Jesus Loves Me” many times in cradle roll and kindergarten. He goes silent.
We arrive home without event, but can barely see in the dark of night.
It is past his usual bedtime. He is more tired than hungry.
I give him a banana and some dilute cranberry-raspberry juice. He is soon asleep in the sleigh bed that he seems convinced misses him when he’s not there.
I don’t know if he will, in the future, remember these times.
I hope I will.
S M Chen writes from California.