Tom Stafford

Stafford: Spending time with grandchild special

Our 4-year-old grandson Atticus and I are in the full heat of fierce combat.

He’s about to come to full giggle while locked in a vice grip from which I tell him he can never escape – and in which his ribs are ripe for the tickling, not that I’d do such a thing.

At such a crucial juncture in the struggle, I could say – and maybe for the sake of his language development, should say — “I’ve got you.”

I don’t.


Because, that doesn’t get it, whereas “I dot you!” does.

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That’s in part because it gives him the chance to shoot back with “No, I dot YOU,” which, because he can pronounce a hard g fairly well, shows that he’s into the game.

His response then affords me the opportunity to invoke full grandparental authority and, with all the dignity of a 215-pound man fighting a preschooler shorter and not much stockier than a yardstick, rise up and, say “I dot you dooder than you dot me!”

If I’ve ingested too much caffeine, that can stretch into: “Ya know what? I dot you dooder than you’re ever donna det me! And dat’s dat!”

In “Drandpa’s Drammar,” the system of communication I’m describing to you, that kind of outburst is called a soliloquy.

Like other forms of communications, Drandpa’s Drammar can and must adjust to change.

The arrival three months ago of Atticus’ younger brother, Finnegan, represented such a change. As regular readers of this column know, one of the changes has been the addition of the term “Yidda Guy” to the lexicon or, as we call it, yexicon.

For the moment, wrestling with Yidda Guy as I do with Atticus is contra-indicated. For one, he’s in what pediatricians call the Bobble Head phase of development. Secondly, even without the insertion of a quarter, any excess jostling can lead him to pre-treat my shirt for laundering with a liberal coating of the contents of the most recently ingested bottle.

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In short, for Yidda Guy, the b in burp is sometimes silent.

What’s freakiest about the process is his ability to spew forth without any trace of emotion, often silently, while looking me straight in the eye. I sometimes think, zombies dot nothing on Yidda Guy, largely because, even while drenching me with partially digested lactose, he demonstrates the dexterity to wrap me around any one of his little fingers.

He’s had plenty of time to do recently in the course of the Yidda Guy World Tours that have become as important a part of my relationship with him as “I dot you” wrestling, which sound faintly like a martial arts form, is with Atticus.

The maiden Yidda Guy World Tour left port at a moment when I was trying to figure out how to distract him from the worries of his everyday life, which I reason he must have because of the old man wrinkles that appear on his forehead.

Of course, nothing can distract him when it’s time to lap up the aforementioned lactose. But at other times he can be de-wahhhed by walks around the house. I have slowly learned that he is more prone to happiness when he’s parallel to the ground with his back on my extended forearm.

This squares with my memories of Atticus’ earlier days, during which we’d visit the lighting department at Lowe’s or Home Depot so he could look at the fixtures and fans attached to the ceiling. It elicits what I call alternately 1,000-mile or texting stare.

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During the daytime, Yidda Guy plays the home version of that game by looking in whichever direction there is a window in the house, indicating that he really prefers the great outdoors.

So a couple of weeks ago while the boys were visiting, my wife was occupied with Atticus, and our daughter was out shopping, I came off the front porch swing in bare feet with Yidda Guy on my arm to amble around the block.

It was one of those beautiful, sundrenched early evenings with low humidity and the kind of gentle breeze that stroked my skin in the way my thumb was stroking Yidda Guy’s forearms – forearms every bit as supple as and significantly more hygienic than the celebrated baby’s bottom.

Even with my eyes on his, I couldn’t always determine his focus taking in. His eyes would seem to track an object steadily, then quickly flick back in the direction from which they’d come, before resuming their original direction.

There was plenty to look at: The sky, bushes, low-hanging flowers, houses, insects that happened by and some old guy’s graying nose hair.

But more striking to me than what he was looking at was how: In center of blue irises, his black eyes seemed to drink in everything in a way that made me think of all that he’ll be seeing and learning about both in the next few years and his lifetime.

Then it struck me. This summer, my friends Doug and Margaret traveled within the course of a few weeks to the Grand Canyon, in which they took a full day’s hike through awe-inspiring land formations, and the Galapagos Islands, which inspired Charles Darwin revolutionary vision of the power of nature.

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As inspiring and eye-opening as those trips were, I can’t imagine that them being more eye-opening to Doug and Margaret than simple walks around the block are to Yidda Guy.

That’s the reason I call those walks his World Tours.

A final thought: In addition to sharing a letter with Yidda Guy’s name, the Grand Canyon and the Galapagos share places on many people’s bucket lists. I’ve never been-forward thinking enough to establish such a list.

That’s lucky for me, because even if I had, I wouldn’t have known to put Yidda Guy World Tours and the “I dot you dooder than you dot me” soliloquy on my list. Both, it seems to me, are more than drops in my bucket.

Sun out of eyes, warm body just enough.

Pleasant, peaceful day

Flower or something.

Not sure though.

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