Again I was reminded of why we have children when we’re young. Daughter Annie visited with her four children: Claire, almost six; Lila, four; and twins Henry and Luke, two-and-a-half down at our South Portland house. Annie is a marvel of energy, patience, and love as she mothers her brood. We explored the waterfront, flew a kite, threw rocks into the sea, saw numerous jets fly toward and away from the Portland Jetport, and watched boats large and small make their way in and out of Portland Harbor. I was charmed by the wonder in the grandchildren as they took all this in. That’s one of the joys of being a grandfather. I’m the one who chronicles it all. Well, not all of it, but some at least. I take pictures and write pieces like this.
My camera is always nearby because I always expect to see beautiful things. Seldom am I disappointed, especially when the grandchildren are around. When I’m with them, it’s nearly always hanging from my right shoulder. The girls made fairy houses in my wife’s garden. When I encouraged them saying, “There are a lot of fairies in the Portland area and we don’t want any of them to be homeless,” my wife gave me that look. The girls then drew a hopscotch grid on the front walkway and challenged the rest of us to hop along, something I hadn’t done since my sisters issued a similar challenge more than fifty years ago. I’m happy to say I can still do it.
|Lila and Claire making Fairy houses|
It’s a different life at their home in Sweden, Maine (population 391) on a dirt road where no neighbors are visible unless you’re willing to take a long walk. Seeing the sights in Maine’s largest metropolitan area is a thrill for them all, especially for the twins. For them, every plane that flew overhead was something to marvel at. The deep base of larger ships sounding their horns as they moved along the shipping channel thrilled them. It was all they could do to point wide-eyed exclaim, “Whoa!” Back at the house they tried to mimic the sound.
|At Fort Williams|
The twins still take afternoon naps, so I went with Annie and the girls on another waterfront expedition. Returning, we found the boys dressed only in their diapers and playing in the yard with their grandmother. It occurred to me that boys really do mature more slowly than girls of that age. Their sisters were housebroken before they were two, and girls were much more verbal, much earlier. I remember having conversations with them when were two. Although the twins understand almost everything they hear, their expressive vocabulary is much more limited.
With each other, however, there’s a curious non-verbal communication understood only by them. During a break in the hopscotch, they began a pantomime during which one would bend over and pretend to scoop something off the ground with both hands, then offer it to the other who would bend over and pretend to eat or drink, I couldn’t tell which. Then the other one would bend down and do the same thing for his brother. This they repeated a few times before going on to something else. I have no idea where it came from but I was charmed to watch their mutual giving. Who knows what sort of bonds they developed in utero together for nine months and being together constantly ever since. Though I grew up with seven siblings in a relatively small house, I preferred to be alone whenever possible. I cherished solitude and still do, keeping my own counsel most of my life. In spite of this, I rather envied the twins their closeness.
|Pretending to feed his brother|
My wife agrees that males of the species mature more slowly than females. We catch up around forty or so, I claim, and she agrees with that too. When I contend that we blow right by females after forty, I get that look again.
|Flying kite at Bug Light Park|
Grandparents don’t have the energy we had as parents, but we have more experience upon which to reflect— and the time to do so. There’s an important place for us in the extended family and I’ve become content in the role.