Neighborhood grandfather

I consider reading as a means to freedom. Freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Reading takes you places that you did not think existed, reading introduces you to new ideas and lets your ideas soar. Reading sets you free. I was concerned my youngest child did not take to books as my oldest did. After many pushes and shoves towards books I finally realized that I can not shape him into any mold, instead, my job will be to expose him to new ideas via means that appeal to him and let him spread his wings on his own terms – discussion, research, news on television, non fiction books.

If you read my blogs you probably know, my young Ryan is a deep thinker. Since he was little his thoughts were different – he probed deeper. His teacher, in a recent meeting, reconfirmed our perception of him as one who thinks outside the box. Ryan seems to be an exception to my rule that reading sets one free. He has set himself free by observing, evaluating, thinking and reading books that appeal to him.

At dinner, the other night, we were discussing dreams. He was asked, “What are your dreams, Ry?”

“I don’t have dreams, I have goals.”

“Well, what is the difference?”

“You can dream but they don’t seem that solid. But you set your goals and you work towards achieving them. I set goals.”

Coming from an eleven year old, that sounded somewhat precocious. We asked him what his goals are then.

“My goal is to become a neighborhood grandfather.” He solemnly replied.

“Errr…what?!?! A neighborhood grandfather?!?!” His father and I exchanged bemused glances.

“Yeah, you know. I am going to be that grandfather in the neighborhood who is always there for someone who needs help, advice.”

“But you are just a child. Why are you jumping to old age and grandfather? What are you going to do in between?” It was hard not to laugh.

“No, no! There are many goals in between that. Being a neighborhood grandfather is the ultimate goal. Before that I will go to Stanford, swim in the Stanford swim team. I will open my own business and create lots of jobs. I will help a lot of poor people so they can have a good life. I will marry someone nice and have kids. And then I will become a neighborhood grandfather.” The fork rested on his plate as he got a dreamy look in his eyes. “Or maybe I will become a professional baseball player or an Olympic swimmer. I will be famous, I will earn a lot of money and I can help even more people that way.”

Dreams and goals got entangled at this point, but we smiled at our child as he dreamed on and set goals for himself. As I see my two kids grow up, I glance upon the innocence and beauty of childhood. I feel myself a mere observer and perhaps a chronicler of these beautiful times of their lives. I write them down judiciously so I can offer these moments up to them when they are all grown up. When asked about aspirations, a child mentions a profession – teacher, engineer, scientist…..
My child’s aspiration is to be a neighborhood grandfather. Personally, I think that is a superb goal. We need neighborhood grandfathers to bring back the human connection which we seem to be losing fast in our digital age. Grow up to be a neighborhood grandfather, child. Bring people closer. Bring them out to the porch again. Re establish the connection.


How was your day?

I am a part time library worker and full time mother of two. The days I don’t help customers get the books they absolutely want to read or the resource they absolutely need for their research, I do loads and loads of laundry, cook meals from scratch, organize music teacher, make doctor’s and dentist appointments, freeze in baseball games or practices, sweat in hot and humid indoor pools, arrange work schedules so I can listen to my child’s music concerts. The days I don’t work, my life is not interesting except for a few stolen moments in the afternoon, right before the children come home, when I crack open a book and get transported to another universe.

Yesterday was my day off. After all the commitments of Thursday we were finally home for the night. I had enlisted the help of my 16 year old daughter to make egg rolls for dinner. It is an assembly line production that she and I have perfected. She cracks the eggs, I heat the rotis. When the rotis are done I pour the eggs on them and cook till eggs settle. I flip the egg roti on a plate, she assembles onions, ketchup, lime juice, pepper and rolls it up. We chat as we work.

“How was your day, Mama?” She asked me, as she wiped tears from cutting onions.

“It was OK. Nothing to write home about!” I replied, waiting for the day to end.

“What did you do?” She persisted.

I really did not want to talk. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps I was wallowing in self-pity of how meaningless my day was. I started with, “Well, I did 3 loads of laundry, made appointments at the dentist’s office, then I spent some time talking to the insurance for the car, went to the library, errands….nothing interesting. I did nothing that I can talk about.”

She perhaps caught the slight catch in my throat. She said, “Well, we did not do any groundbreaking discoveries either. It was just a regular day and we did regular things.”

“Yes, but you learned something new. You got to hang out with friends.”

On retrospect, it sounded petulant – comparing my life with her’s.

She stayed silent for a moment and said, “You work hard mom. You work hard every day.”

We moved on then. I did not pay attention to her words or her sentiment that she understood my mood and acknowledged my need to be comforted at that moment. We had dinner, cleaned up, finished homework, set the alarm for next day and went to bed.

Today as I worked around the house, I thought back upon the snippet of conversation with my daughter last night. She wanted to know how my day was and despite the mundaneness of my domestic chores she gave me my due. How often do we overlook these simple gestures that carry so much meaning? Also my work of providing clean clothes, taking care of scheduling needs, assisting with homework, cleaning our living area and providing healthy nourishment actually contribute hugely to the health and happiness of all of us. They are all important little pieces that make up the big whole. It is so easy to forget the importance of the little pieces of the puzzle due to the monotony of the chore yet the satisfaction when they fit into the fabric of our daily life is priceless. And when a loved one says, “I see you. I see all you do for us” that is a lovely language of appreciation.