My granddaughter likes to play the Memory Game. It involves pairs of images that are mixed up and turned backward. The object is to remember where the matching images are hiding.
At 4 years old, her little mind is like a blank canvas, whereas as my graying matter is like a Jackson Pollock mural. When we play I feel like I am going one on one with Michael Jordan. She effortlessly remembers where the second little ducky is hidden as she uncovers ducky No. 1. If I get a match it is pure luck. Last game, I was doing so poorly my young partner suggested that she would rather play with her mommy “cause she is a lot smarter than you, Grandpa.”
I started to think my granddaughter was a genius until I remembered that I felt the same way about my own kids. Then they became the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as they entered the sullen “don’t look at me!” teen years.
Today, my little companion is pure, innocent and totally guileless. Her complete honesty can be disarming. “Grandpa, why is your hair always so messy? Don’t you have a comb?” I know in a decade or so, she will likely morph into a disagreeable rebel, bored by life and humiliated to have parents. As a grandfather, I will become a slightly less embarrassing version of her mom and dad.
By then I’ll probably be non compos mentis. So for now, I will enjoy our talks. I’ll learn profound, childlike insights from her and she will learn bad habits from me. Just last week she was wandering through her house happily singing about suicide. My daughter was appalled. “Honey, where did you learn such an awful song?”
“Grandpa” she replied. “He always sings about killing himself.”
I explained to my firstborn that I was simply singing an old Elton John song called “Think I’m Going to Kill Myself.”
“Dad,” she said. “That is a sick song. And didn’t Elton John die a long time ago?”
Reprimanded by my own offspring, I wanted to say, “Hey, I used to change your diapers, missy!”
Fortunately, I am still allowed to visit my grandkids. The 4-year-old and I enjoy our walks where we discuss why birds can land on a power line without getting shocked or whether people are like caterpillars.
We recently came upon the remnants of a bad car accident on a busy street a few blocks from home. There were pieces of glass and taillights swept to the curb and large stains on the pavement from car fluids.
Her: “Grandpa, when people are hurt in accidents, how do they get to the hospital?”
Me: “An ambulance comes and takes them.”
Her: “But how do the cars go away when they are broken?”
Me: “Well, a tow truck comes and takes them away.”
Her: “What happens when a tow truck is in an accident?”
Me: “Do you want another gummy bear?”
As a second-generation parent, I am fully aware that this lovely age of innocence will soon end. My partner will move onto school and have friends her own age who know which one is Anna and which is Elsa. I will go from being her best friend and confidant to a gray-haired novelty who shows up for birthdays and holidays. I will miss our walks and deep philosophical conversations, but I know she must move on.
On the bright side, her little sister is only 18 months old and she thinks I know everything. Bring on the walks.