July 2011 Roadtrip, Leg 2: Generations

Kris, Zach, and I got to spend three days at grandma and grandpa’s independent living facility.  In staying there, I expected certain things like slow moving cafeteria lines and a gout specialist.

What I didn’t expect was the middle school social structure:  The residents jockey for position with each other, showing off their new walkers that have rubber skis on the back legs instead of tennis balls.  Wii Bowling and shuffleboard skills in the community replace bravado and kickball skills at Junior High.  But the top residents, those at the height of the food chain, those who are allowed to go to the front of the line and eat their dinner at 3:45 p.m. instead of the standard 4:00; those are the residents who have family members visiting. 

And of all the residents who have family members visiting, the highest of the high position belongs to he with the youngest family member.  And Zach is just over two months old.

The residents shocked me with their response to Zach.  I figured that grandma and grandpa would like Zach.  To quote the Italian aphorism:  “The 10th great-grandchild is more savory than spaghetti and pesto.” 

What I didn’t count on, was being chased through the lobby when I was pushing a stroller.  Everyone wanted a glimpse of Zach.  The women with the ski-leg walkers were quick and agile.  I dodged them like a running back, trying to get to the grandparents’ room.

We got to their room and discussed our plans for the three days.  “Kris and I wanted to treat you guys to your favorite Chinese place,” I said.  “Maybe we can go to the beach or play some cards here and you can try to take the  ‘family champion’ title from us.”

In his gruff Jerry Stiller voice, grandpa replied, “We already have the weekend planned out.  Each day, we’re going to play with the baby until 11:30; lunch is downstairs at 11:55, right before the bus leaves for the mall.  Then we can let the baby sleep during my Wii Bowling practice time.  Then we can eat dinner at our community restaurant.  We have a seat in the corner reserved where everyone can see us.  After dinner, you guys can watch my shuffleboard game.  And church on Sunday!”

And so we did.  They took turns holding Zach and I saw the youth and memory in their eyes.  Zach cooed and smiled and they were young parents again.

Zach and Great-Grandma!

We went downstairs.  Grandma and grandpa took turns pushing the stroller.  When another resident was drawn by the aura of a baby, grandma would shout, “Our tenth great-grandchild!” in a voice loud enough for the 90-year-old listener and grandpa would say, “Who does he look like?” while grinning like a boy hoping for a, “He looks like you,” response. 

Grandma and grandpa were pretty good at taking turns with pushing the stroller until we got near a group of ladies waiting for the bus.  Grandma was pushing when we saw the ladies and then grandpa kind of grabbed the stroller.  Grandma, usually docile, held on.  They pushed against each other until the ladies were close.  When one stood up and said, “who do we have here?” they shared the pushing duties and walked up proudly.

Zach with part of his fan club.

Everywhere we went, we were the celebrities.  Grandpa wore a dark blue “World’s Greatest Grandpa” shirt for the occasion.  Residents waited in line to see Zach and to touch his fat arms and their used voices would say, “He reminds me of my Johnny,” or Scotty or Emily.  They compared him to their children and grandchildren and, in one case, great-great-grandchildren.

After dinners and shuffleboard and maintaining our family title at cards, we packed to go.  Grandpa sat on the couch one last time with Zach smiling up at him.  87-years-old and  sad, his eyes glistened and his lower lip jutted out a little bit.  I saw the resemblance.  I picked up Zach and, a little too loud, said, “He looks just like you, Grandpa.”  And we left.

Grandpa and Zach, looking alike.

About Jimmy

The stories herein are about a sentimental 80s child who cried at every showing of ET (the sad part where he was lying in the wash) and his families, then and now. His wife, son, parents, and siblings play their parts well. They have their exits and their entrances. Sometimes their exits are sad, but not as sad as ET.
This entry was posted in fatherhood, Life, memoir, Nostalgia, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to July 2011 Roadtrip, Leg 2: Generations

  1. Dianna says:

    Okay – so why am I crying? So sweet…..
    My husband’s parents are now great-grandparents to three, the eldest just turned 2. I can’t imagine all the feelings they must have when they look at these little ones.
    “And all because two people fell in love”.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jimmy says:

      So many family trees these days are more like trunks. Couples in their 70s who had four or five kids and expected a dozen grandchildren, are lucky to have three or four.

      I think it would be anachronistic to feel so young and hold your great-grandchild; only realizing your age when you see his fat cheeks juxtaposed with your spotted hands; getting the child to laugh with the same tricks and songs you used with your kids and their kids; and knowing it’s probably better that you don’t stand up with the boy in your arms even though it was just a couple of days ago when you held your first born the same way.

      Perhaps by the time I’m 80, I’ll feel 35 and not quite so young. Perhaps not.

  2. kerry says:

    this makes me think of the song by the Avett Brothers, If I get murdered in the city. wierd title I know but such a beautiful song about what is important. My favorite line is, “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.” I think of the two people who fell in love and that love made our family. Your story makes it even more poignant. I love it and I love seeing my favorite Italian grandma and grandpa!

    • Jimmy says:

      They’re my favorite Italian grandparents too! It was a different home, but they were the same, giving hosts. We wanted for nothing. There was always plenty of lentil soup, homemade bread, and prunes.

      I listened to the song… it’s much more docile than the title sounds. Great lyrics.

  3. Cindy Hart says:

    For some reason this made me laugh and than I was crying…..Life is so short!
    I just love that Angie and Sam.

  4. inkline says:

    “They took turns holding Zach and I saw the youth and memory in their eyes. Zach cooed and smiled and they were young parents again.”

    I like the way you write, my dear.
    Thanks for taking the days off to make the trip to NJ. So glad Gma and Gpa got to hold Zach.

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