The Mystery of Grandparents

Life is full of mysteries and children will learn that whether we set out to teach them or not. Why, I wonder, do small children in Church School get introduced to a friendly Jesus when they are likelier to understand mystery?

Consider, for example, the mystery of the modern American grandparent as exemplified by me. About twice a year we bop out to California to spend a week with two grandsons (and, by the bye, with their parents). Maybe twice a year they come to visit us. I last saw Eli in October. Toward the end of February we visited again, arriving mid-afternoon on a Wednesday.

Eli is still not two so he’s in no position to give an account of what he remembers from the last visit but we have to assume it isn’t much. Instinct tells one to be cautious about the unfamiliar, so for several days he was courteous but not overly friendly to these strangers in his midst.

On Sunday, we gave Eli a book Peg had selected from a local bookstore. On Monday one or both of his parents read it to him. On Tuesday he brought it to me and discovered that I, too, could read it. That happy discovery kept both of us occupied much of the day. I was asked to read it again at least seven times and maybe nine. On Wednesday we left for the airport before he was up. His mother read him the book twice that day and tells us that he asked often for Grandad.

Now what does a developing brain make of that? Suddenly two persons materialize in your house and seem to be part of the family. Cautiously you respond to them and finally incorporate them into your life. And then, with equal suddenness they are gone and the place thereof knows them no more.

I have been trying to imagine how I would deal with it if two strangers appeared suddenly in my house. I would, I am sure, respond with greater caution than Eli did, take longer to make them welcome, and be even more unnerved if they were suddenly and totally to disappear. (Abraham and Gideon had that experience and, from all accounts, handled it better than I would.)

Possessed as we are of brains that try to make sense of things, I suppose I would fall back on the concept of “mystery.” Some things just don’t fit into the pattern of logic that helps me cope with, if not fully understand, atoms and black holes and computers and George Bush. We learn to speak of mystery: realities that seem to march to a different drummer, God being the outstanding example.

Perhaps the mystery of grandparents can help prepare the developing mind for an approach to that ultimate reality who seems also to bring occasional gifts, to be more patient than parents, and to be present or not present in our lives in a way that transcends understanding.


AnonymousMarch 10th, 2007 at 7:48 pm

What a moving analogy! After almost 30 years of childrearing I’ve never looked at this “mystery” thru their young eyes; though with grandparenthood not far away, certainly something to keep in mind! And is it not the “little children” that shall lead the way into heaven? We’d do well to see all of the world through their eyes, yes?
Pace e Grazia ~ jennie

PegMarch 11th, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Granddad has forgotten that Eli (and his family) were with us at Christmas. But this was the first time he’s really remembered us from the previous visit – Delicious smiles!

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