Commentary: A day with the grandkids makes grandpa a little sentimental

Tom Stafford
Tom Stafford

Even 7-year-olds are nostalgic.

They remember when they were little ones being carried out to the cars in the arms of their grandparents.

So do their grandparents, of course.

Which meant that on Tuesday, our older grandson and I enjoyed a double-dose of nostalgia.

Mine began as I lifted him off front steps where he was standing. His began, I suppose, the moment I asked if he wanted me to carry him to the car when it was time for him to go home.

True, he was a little tired as sunset neared from a great day exploring at day camp - one we all celebrated with him.

MORE FROM TOM STAFFORD: Sharing stories with someone of another race is opportunity to learn

But I knew there was more to it than just tiredness when he doubled down by doing what a 7-year-old boy seldom does: Rest his head on my shoulder and slacken his weight against me during the brief walk to the car.

In the moment I was reaching out to him, he was reaching out to me - and to the past when he had been the only grandson and our trips to the car were ritual.

That, of course, was before the arrival of the 3-year-old, who stayed with us Tuesday while the older one was at camp.

Knowing he was in full charge of the schedule, the 3-year-old decided it would begin at 5:30 a.m.

Grandma much preferring the p.m. to the a.m., I was on the hook for the seven hour stretch to nap time. Even at that early hour, however, I was in a good mood, knowing I was in full possession of a strategic advantage we try to achieve more and more as we grow older and older. On this day, we had the little guy outnumbered 2 to 1.

So, the odds were only slightly against us.

The grandson and I us got off to a great start with a little male bonding while watching the classic Daniel Tiger potty episode. The highlight, of course, was singing along to the soundtrack: “If you’ve got to go potty, STOP … and go right away. Then, flush and wash and be on your way.”

No, it’s not “We Will Rock You.” But I think of it as his first concert experience, and I found the lyrics mind-altering enough to be reminiscent of mine.

After a little Daniel, we fit in a trip to get a donut whose anti-freeze blue sprinkles are now the major interior decorating accent in the back seat of our car.

Then it was on to the Snyder Park playground, during which we took off down separate slides at the same time - and I learned while climbing through a tunnel why the sign out front labeled the equipment for ages 5 to 12.

God created this grandpa as a male so no one would make the mistake of calling him Grace.

MORE FROM TOM STAFFORD: Swapping stories about race opens door to real conversation

Back home, we multi-tasked on the front steps by having popsicles and staining our clothing; swinging together in the hammock in the shade of the back yard; and tossing the Nerf football over our garage, so he could find it on the other side.

Later in the day, we made our way through a little initial fear, then laughed our way through our own swimming party at my friend Karen’s pool.

Thrown in there somewhere came competitive puzzle assembly, a contest in which I tried my best to put them together while he tries to stop me.

The day was so busy that, in late afternoon, grandpa had to remember we hadn’t played Mr. Potato Head together. And it was worth it, because after his happy feet had cantered around the couch to get the pieces, I made personal Potato Head history by putting an ear where the hat is supposed to go.

The two of us paused to enjoy the result, knowing we’d reached another Potato Head milestone.

Oh, the nap went well. We read the two books I’ve now read to him for 1,000 times before his nap.

And before settling down with his stuffed animal Puppy, he gave me Cedric, a guinea pig who bears a creepy resemblance to a guinea pig of the same name who recently passed away in their home, my way.

Before I could go to sleep I asked him if he knew the word taxidermy.

When we all gathered around the table for a meal whose highlights were chilled ripe watermelon and peaches were proof of the existence of a higher being, I told the older grandson that the earliest birthday I remember was the year I turned his age, 7.

As my inner Kodak recalls it, the party was in the basement of the house we lived in and would move from that summer. The games included pin the tail on the donkey (not then a partisan game) and dropping a wooden clothespin from the center of the forehead into the mouth of a milk bottle that sat on the floor.

MORE FROM TOM STAFFORD: Escape from turmoil is not an option when you care about the world

I don’t remember the saying “cha-ching” having been around at that time, but the sound of the clothespin pinging off glass was a thrill.

And that brings us back to the moment I took the 7-year-old in my arms.

Because he still weighs about the same as a 2-cubic-foot bag of mulch, I didn’t have any trouble handling him. But it did come to mind that his growing weight and my declining strength probably mean my years of grandchild carrying are numbered.

Another couple years and either his size or my back will prohibit me lowering him into his seat.

Before we got that far, there was another sign of my age.

Just before the migration to the car, the 3-year-old was playing a game of keep-away with me - with my new smart phone.

The look on his face was impish, and he was teasing me the way we often tease one another when I accuse the two of them of stealing my cookies.

But because grandpa’s battery doesn’t recharge as fast as his does, I got a little grumpy, in the way a child gets grumpy at the end of the day when tired out.

Still, it had been an excellent day, which ended with kisses from the kids in the car and a ritual hug from our daughter at the curb.

It wasn’t quite a cha-ching feeling, more of a peaceful one.

And though it came two days beforehand, it was a 66th birthday to remember.