Tony Vagneur: I do have Sunshine even on a cloudy day
Memorial Day, we’re driving down the road to my house for a little R&R together and my grandson, who has been completely silent, abruptly says from the backseat, “I heard on the news today that it might rain.” He’s 4 years old and, before you know it, we’re talking about the storm cloud forming in front of us and how “we really need some rain.” It’s a conversation I might have had with someone my own age.
Don’t you get tired of people talking about their grandkids? No sooner does an opening appear and their hands go for the iPhone pocket and you know what’s coming. That is just the worst, in my estimation, and I refuse to keep photos of my grandkids on my phone, although there’s no doubt, the day is coming. Who’d have ever thought old bastards like me would be using cellphones, period, let alone recording the passage of time on them?
Several years ago, I tracked down a friend on Facebook whom I hadn’t seen around in a while. Here’s a guy who had a thriving business in the valley, was in the prime of his life and he’d moved down south somewhere. Followed the grandkids down there, he’d said. I didn’t get it at the time, but the honesty and straightforwardness of his remark rings clearly today.
For a majority of my life, I thought mostly about how important my grandparents were to me. Grandfather on my dad’s side, a rugged, tough rancher; and my grandmother on the other, a shy, intellectual school teacher who had me writing and reading before I began school at the Red Brick. We didn’t have any celebrations about grandparents visiting or vice versa — we all lived within 12 miles of each other.
My grandmother died in January of my high school senior year. When spring rolled around, I found myself walking across what is now the playground of the Yellow Brick school, as I had hundreds of times before, looking forward to having lunch with my grandmother, who lived on the corner of Second and Bleeker streets. The reality hit before I got there, naturally, and in spite of my knowledge to the contrary, the disappointment of her absence ran deep.
The importance of myself to my grandparents wasn’t part of my thinking, and it’s hard to turn that mindset around, but having my own grandchildren helps. As badly as I wanted to have lunch with my grandmother on the day mentioned above, how many days were there when she would have welcomed me without a second thought, those days when I had more important things to do. Ah, but she was pleased at watching me thunder through a teenager’s life.
We stop at the grocery store for drinks and snacks, and I’m pretty sure the only person who knows more people there than his granddad is my grandson, and the first woman we see asks what we’re doing for Memorial Day.
“Are you guys going to a barbeque,” she asks.
My grandson gives me a look like what is she talking about. Ten minutes later, we’re standing in line and I think he’s invited half the people in the store to a barbeque.
Talking to my 4-year-old grandson is sometimes like talking to a wizened ol’ rancher, knocking the dust off his hat as he tells you just how it is. And in the next breath, he’s laughing and dancing like the kid he is, going for the tool box or thinking he can outrun me.
“Ampa, let’s tear your house down and build a new one.”
And we hang out on the porch, him looking for imperfections in the logs that he can “fix” or cutting small dead branches off an overhanging tree, basically entertaining himself. He tries to pull a nail left from long ago and I show him how he needs a fulcrum under the pliers to make it work. He doesn’t know fulcrum from pancake batter, but later on demonstrates that he understands the concept.
We had a bear hunt scheduled, replete with his lever-action pop gun, but in the hectic world of a kid’s life, we never got that far. A bit of an energy crash came along and someone had the brilliant idea to watch cartoons so we turned on the television and a sleepiness came over the land. And then, his mother and sister Charli showed up to show us how the women in the family operate.
His mother asked him to sing the song he learned in school, and before you know it, we’re at the piano beating out a great rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” Charli wandered in and out, freed from infancy by her new-found ability to walk.
One day soon, I’ll have both of them over for a lazy afternoon. It didn’t rain.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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