December 27, 2014
Dear Grand-four and Grand-five,
You were over to visit this afternoon and I have to jot you a note. You are spending Christmas at Auntie Donna’s and seeing your dad’s family. But today your folks drove down here so we could see you on this trip. I wanted to have you all to ourselves, so I’d told your folks they’d have to leave. Grandpa and I wanted to take you to the new Maggie Daley Children’s Park just east of Millennium Park.
As the six of us got on the elevator, you, Grand-four, punched the number one button for first floor, and Grand-five, you began to scream “my turn, my turn, my turn.” And, just that fast, you ran out of the elevator and splayed yourself flat on the hallway floor. Your Dad instantaneously marched out after you, picked you up under the armpits, and plunked you back in the elevator. You were still yelling you wanted your turn.
We were off to a great start.
But you both were fine by first floor and your folks left to go out for breakfast at the Yolk. I took your hand, Grand-four, and Grandpa took yours, Grand-five, and we walked over to Millennium Park. You first had to sit on the cow statue by the Cultural Center—Grandpa lifted you up, I never could—and then, after crossing Michigan Avenue, you both ran ahead through a horde of people to find the Bean. You love looking at your reflection. Then you ran to the railing overlooking the skating rink and my heart started to jump. But Grandpa had kept up with you and you were safely hanging your arms over the rails watching the skaters.
After watching the skaters, we walked across the bridge over Columbus Street to the Maggie Daley Park. We hadn’t been there yet and thought this would be great fun for you. Well, think again! It started out to be, but I was without breath within minutes, as you wanted to run loose among hundreds of kids and parents also visiting for the first time. You first ran to tamer things, like a tire barrel swing and a swinging boat. You really couldn’t get hurt on either of these; Grandpa had to lift you to get you into them.
Then you darted ahead of us to the top of a thing that reminded me of the Tower of London with slides coming down from each end. Grandpa did a two-step following you up to the top of the bridge while I headed for the bottom of the slides. I soon spotted Grandpa standing high up on the bridge part, yelling and waving his arms. I couldn’t hear him above the noise. By reading his lips and contorted cheeks, I figured out he was screaming, “Where’s Grand-five? Where’s Grand-five?”
Well, how was I supposed to know?
At the same time, you, Grand-four emerged screaming, from the enclosed tube of a high double-curve slide. The bottom of your tennis shoe must have gotten caught on the slide and your left leg was bent under you and backwards. Your right leg was out straight. I was standing ready to take a picture of either of you if you came out of the slides.
I snapped a picture before I even realized you were screaming.
I rushed over to help you off the slide. You were grabbing your ankle, moaning. You could not stand on your left leg. I dragged you off the slide, before you got rear ended, and over the pavement about three feet. My limit. By first dropping down on my knees, I lowered myself to the ground. I took off your shoe and sock and inspected your ankle. I was sure something twisted that badly was broken. It didn’t help my lack of serenity that you were now gasping for breath in between painful shrieks. Not seeing an obvious break, I gently rubbed your ankle area. I said, “We should try to move over there and sit on that bench.” You said, “I can’t walk.” And you, whimpering now, in a high small voice, added, “I think I’m going to need crutches.”
You gave me such a laugh just then. How did you even know what crutches were?
Somehow, I don’t even know because it all happened so fast, Grandpa showed up and we spotted you, Grand-five, and got the two of you holding our hands and trotting over to try some open lower slides. (Well, one of us limped.) However, instead of taking the steps back up to the top each time, you both insisted on walking up the adjacent bank or rim, arms teetering out for balance and torsos tottering backwards.
By that time my heart was skipping beats, or maybe it was stopped; all I know was we’d planned to take you to Mariano’s, our grocery store across from the park, for pizza, but my mouth flew open on its own and barked at Grandpa, “I want to go home. NOW.” Grandpa started to say, “But I thought…” And I commanded, “NO. I want to go home. NOW. Hang on to Grand-five’s hand.” He must have seen the determination in my jaw, because he grabbed your hand, Grand-five.
With Grandpa grinning, watching you kids running around having a good time, it’s as if I’m watching three kids instead of two because he’s oblivious that you could go missing without a warning or saying goodbye. Later, when I told a friend about this nerve-wracking hour, she said, “When I babysit my grandkids, my goal is always to come home with as many kids as I left with.” I thought that was so funny, and I said, “And in the same shape as when we got them, with no broken bones.”
But it was not funny at the time.
When we got back home, I asked you to wash your hands before we had supper. You called from the bathroom. The soap dispenser was empty and neither of you seemed to know what the bar of soap was or what to do with it. So I showed you how to wash your hands using bar soap, and the three of us simultaneously and happily washed the bathroom walls and floor. And mirror.
For supper, Grand-five, Grandpa gave you cheese and meat. You wanted a cheese sandwich. I gave you a piece of bread, and you put the cheese on it and folded the bread over. You did not touch your meat. Grand-four, you liked the meat and cheese. Plus, you each had a chocolate covered peanut.
I loved standing by the bar, watching you chatter and laugh, and almost sit safely on your chairs.
After you ate, your folks came back. Grand-five, you worked on puzzles on the rug. Grand-four, you sat by me on the couch and colored until you scooted down to the floor and took one of Grand-five’s puzzle pieces. Grand-five, you rose up on your haunches to grab the piece from Grand-four, but she leaned father back so you couldn’t reach it.
Sensing impending meltdowns from both of you, I said, “Grand-four, let me show you where the toy box is.” You’d asked earlier. So with you distracted, Grand-five was happy with his puzzles and you and I got our wicker toy box from our little bathroom, full of junk because I don’t really have toys anymore. So you draped Mardi Gras beads, perched plastic Easter eggs, and tossed a few other things on our skinny apartment-sized tree. The incentive spirometer from my last hospitalization didn’t drape very well, but it worked well as a silent horn.
When you finished, Grand-four, you came to snuggle by me on the couch and said to your mom sitting in the rocker across from you, “This is my favorite home.” She said, “Really? Why?” You said, “Because Grandma lets me decorate her tree.”
Favorite home. Imagine that. Precious!
When the four of you left, after only two hours, Grandpa and I fell into our chairs, so happy you’d come. “They’re really such good kids, aren’t they,” I said to Grandpa, inhaling luxuriously for the first time since you’d arrived. Grandpa, in his usual understated manner, said, “Yeah, they are. Active.”
We love you so, but do slow down for us next time. And don’t fall. And don’t scare us like that again. Or, I guess I should say scare me. Nothing scares Grandpa. He’d say as a kid he fell out of the barn all the time.
Lots and lots of love,