My dad is 81 and mom will turn 80 in June. They do well for their age but taking care of an energetic, attention-lacking, into everything, seven-year-old for a solid week would be a bit much. Heck, there are times the only way I handle it is to lock my bedroom door, run a hot tub of water and sit gazing out my window at the stars (or across the fields if I happen to give in to the idea of a bath in the middle of the day).
When Ren was young she stayed with them all the time. She still stays with them a lot. They also kept John-Heath a lot when he was a baby. But when he began walking they just weren’t as able to keep up with him as they had been Ren. Keep in mind, this is a boy for whom we have had to launch countless “search parties” when he has taken a notion to take a hike, go on patrol, or scout a good place for a fox hole in our backyard -which consists of roughly 150 acres of fields and woods- without telling a soul.
John-Heath stayed from Saturday afternoon until late yesterday morning when I sent John after him. After they returned, I called my mother to ask if she and my dad were catching up on their rest. She told me how much they enjoyed having him and how they were going to miss him - and about what all he had done during his visit, what she had cooked for him each day, how much he ate of everything, how he eats more than any kid she has seen in her life, how they watched ballgames together (it’s March, you know), how he’s so smart but she’s worried because he wouldn’t even play with one set of toys for very long before dragging out something different, how when she gave him his baths he loved how soft the baby powder felt and said I (me...Tyla) never use baby powder on him, and how Pa Gene let him look at his guns and he came bounding down the stairs with a shotgun pretending to be a soldier and scared her to death. Of course, it was unloaded. And my dad, I’m sure, got a tongue-lashing.
Then...as she began to tell me how she had recently washed his little baby cups, saucers and spoons up (she’s kept them in the cabinet all these years) and planned to put them in a drawer...she began to cry.
This past Halloween, John-Heath dressed up as a soldier -complete with dog tags and medals. He is wild about anything military and is adamant he will be a soldier when he grows up (John and I have told him the only way we’ll let him join is if he does well in school and we can get him accepted to West Point). My mother and dad were so tickled to see him in that costume. My mother has said so many times since then that she was glad he dressed as that because, even though she won’t live to see him become a real soldier, she knows how he’ll look when he does become one.
Life is but a vapor and even eighty or ninety years seems too few and leaves you wishing you had more.
Ren and John-Heath with my parents - Dec. 2010
There are a lot of options out there for people on spring break, but I don’t think any could have been better spent than the three days my son took a trip down the road and stayed with my parents. I know they will always remember it and I hope he does, too. I’m pretty sure he will.