(Talking Heads reference)
Yesterday, I was tasked with going to baby sit my grandson, Scooter. He is my only grandson, and he is a young one at that, about nine weeks old. My own children include his mother, who is, well, a woman, and so I will not give out her age, and her younger brother, five years younger, who is 24. 🙂
I was nervous about this, to be honest, and I will get into that, but first I should probably explain why I think it even merits time on this site.
Last June, that is, in June of ’07, I was told I had “a minimum” of 10 months to live. My daughter and her husband were in the room when OncoMan said that. Onco Man was wrong, as you can clearly see. But he meant well. (Well, actually, he was right, wasn’t he? I mean, I did have a minimum of 10 months to live. At the time, though, we took him not so literally, I guess you could say, and I suspect that his intent was different as well.)
In the meantime, my daughter, working on her masters’ degree at one of the top universities in the country for her field, and my son-in-law, who is working his way steadily up the Army chain of command, had long ago decided they would have children when they got the hard work out of the way.
My diagnosis changed that.
They can say what they want (and they have not disputed that notion), but they immediately, obviously, began doing the rabbit thing. My daughter started testing, and you know, probably better than me, what all of that is about these days. In my time, we made whoopee and it pretty much led to poopie.
That’s as polite as I can be about the subject.
They worked hard, apparently, but also, apparently, enjoyed the task. Let’s not go there. I am her dad. I am not his dad (we do not live in West Virginia…JUST JOKING!!!!)
Ten years ago, the very thought might have led me to homicide, soninlawicide, whatever they call it. But no. Now I am older, wiser, and more dying or so I was told. So I appreciated the effort. They wanted me to see their child before I passed away, and they wanted him or her to see me too, I think, before I passed away. I was not averse to the idea, myself, to be honest with you.
As an aside, it seems that when people who are dying set goals for themselves, being at a graduation, for example, making it to Christmas, making it to a wedding, seeing a first child, seeing a first grandchild, having a birthday, having a nurse or a neighbor, they seem to find the strength to live for those goals. And, okay, just joking about the nurse and the neighbor since you are probably going to be a bit too weak for that proposition if you are dying, but you get the drift. You create dreams, or remember dreams, you create goals, or remember goals, and you set your sights on them and they seem to help you get past the projected expiration dates.
I think that we simply fight harder, knowing that we will eventually not be able to fight, and often, more often than not, we make those goals, achieve those dreams, and then go fleetingly into the unknown darkness.
Again, I digress.
And so they (daughter and her husband, in case you lost the thread due to my meandering) apparently did all of the necessary things, and lo, behold, my daughter became pregnant. On July 30 of this year, he was born (my grandson, not my son-in-law). Had OncoMan’s prediction been right on, of course, they would have blown it by about three months, but I do not hold that against them. The effort was there, after all, I am sure.
And when my grandson came, he came in grand fashion, a big ol’ nine pounder plus a few ounces. As we said back in my fishing days, he was a keeper. In fact, he was a citation keeper.
(Another aside: why is it that a beer-bellied guy can sit in a boat all day drinking beer and tossing worms over the side of his boat on a hook, catch a nine-pound bass and get a citation for it, perhaps a local record, who knows, and a woman can have a nine-pound baby and only gets to keep the child? You will say that, hey, she gets the big reward: her child. I say she should also get a certificate or a plaque or something. If your baby is over a certain number of pounds or inches long, the hospital should give you an award of some kind reflecting your efforts. You did more to create that huge baby than any fisherman ever did to catch that lunker. That’s all I’m saying. Of course, if a woman has a baby and screams for a certificate, they may take her baby away, but that is under current standards of decorum. I say put the kid on the scales, weigh him, measure him, and if he meets the minimum requirements, mom gets a citation, at the very least. You may debate that once we get that started, the state will want to start issuing licenses to have sex, insist on minimum and maximum weight and length (or you have to throw them back), and you are probably right, so ignore this aside. But, my daughter deserved a citation.)
Some folks claim he was born with a full set of teeth and a complete Armani wardrobe. That is not quite true. The Armani part probably is. I have never been around a situation where a kid-to-be had more showers than this one. Since my daughter lives about three hours away (depending on whether you hit the morning 10-mile parking lot traffic jam or not, depending on how closely you follow the state’s speed limit laws), she got showers there and here. Friends and co-workers and fellow students and faculty gave her showers up there. Down here, she got mom’s shower, mom’s friends’ shower, her own friends’ shower, you get the idea. The kid was in Armani for life.
Or Oshkoshbygosh, one or the other. He had lots of Virginia Tech gear, since that is where grandpa went and where mom is in grad school (Vienna extension). He got some wimpy purple crap from Minnesota, since that is where dad is from, although he tries to hide it if he can (not his dad, my grandson). He got a lot of junk, trust me. Lots of stuff, I mean.
And he is my cancer baby, bottom line. I would not have seen him yet were it not for that hideous diagnosis. Another silver lining, to be sure.
I do not call him that, of course, and never will. He is Scooter. He and I are desperadoes waiting for a train. Or will be. Not right now. He is even less patient than me, it turns out. Right now, he is not waiting for anything. When he wants something, he wants it now. Sort of reminds me of his grandfather and his mother in that regard.
Here is what happened when CancerGramp went to baby sit Scooter:
It started at about 4AM. Everyone told me I was nuts to get up that early in order to be in DC, Woodbridge, actually, by 10:30AM. It is true that this is just a three hour drive, but we have traffic issues both here and in the DC area. I got up. Woke son, who had agreed to come with me. We hit the road.
HE got up, showered, dressed, got in car, and said, let’s go. I had to load a bag with Jevity and beakers and funnel and assorted drugs, of course, along with CDs that I thought we might both tolerate.
We made immediate stop for gasoline top-off and party junk: potato chips and cheese stuff and, um, a few other commodities, and we were on our way. There was the issue of whether my son AND the junk food would both fit, since my car is very small and we bought a bunch of junk, but it worked out, as long as some of the junk was in the ‘trunk’.
The early morning decision proved to be the right one. Right up until we got about 20 miles from my daughter’s house. Where we hit the 11-mile parking lot traffic jam.
Normally, I will admit, I am the kind who would go nuts in such a scenario. Bear in mind that we were new to the area, and knew of no alternative routes, and I do not have NorthStar or whatever they call that stuff. We were stuck. And moved like you move in an 11-mile-long parking lot traffic jam. Very slowly. But no problem. We were alive, we had food, we had some, um, other commodities, we were not in bad shape, really, and my son reminded me that we were fine from time to time, while changing radio stations constantly but, on the other hand, pointing out the occasional fine-looking women in nearby vehicles. He is a good scout, not that I was interested, of course.
One lovely lady (according to me), one old lady (according to son), pulled up beside us and asked if we had a cell phone. I assume she was wanting to call ahead to work to let them know she would be an hour or two late for work. I wanted to assume that she wanted to get my number, but that is too much to ask when you look more like Freddie Krueger than Paul Newman. It was that kind of morning, anyway. But my son had a good point: what if we had answered ‘Yes’? Did she expect us to hand it over to her? Did she expect us to call her job and provide an excuse for her? Hmmm.
Things get weirder and weirder, the closer you get to Washington, DC. I’m soccerfreaks and I approve this message.
We do make it to my daughter’s home with plenty of time to spare, even while stopping for more commodities right before we get there. Here’s the deal, re the commodities: I told my daughter, I will watch your son if you grant me these conditions…(1) I WILL be drinking beer; (2) you have to move the rocking chair from your bedroom to the entertainment room (also known, more formally, as the basement, but tastefully done, I assure you, with a television bigger than some of the walls in my own home; (3) um, I forget the rest of them. They were important at the time, but, in hindsight, they really didn’t add up to much, I suppose.
She, my daughter, bought more junk food for my son. That is good. We are talking frozen pizza and more chips, and who knows what else. He never got to most of it. She bought me nothing, such is her love for her father. I’m just saying.
But she agreed to my conditions, and the rocker was in the basement, I mean entertainment room.
And as we arrived, she was at the door, waiting for us, with Scooter in her hands.
If I have not yet mentioned my greatest fear regarding this event, let me do so. If I have done so, let me do so again, because it happens to be the focus of all that follows: I had one fear. I knew I would not harm my grandson, either purposely, of course, or even accidentally. I knew that I would treat him well, that I would sing to him, that I would talk to him, that I would play with him.
I did not fear changing him, really. I did not fear him spitting up. I did not fear changing him (did I already say that? Okay, maybe a little bit, but not much :).)
I feared him crying and me not being able to stop him. That is what I feared.
What do you do when a nine-week-old kid decides that he is going to cry and you do not have a clue as to why he is doing it or what you can do to stop it, short of committing a felony, which you are hopefully not going to perpetrate on anyone, least of all your one and only grandson?
His mom put him in my lap as soon as I sat down. He was happy. He was gurgling like a happy brook, he was smiling like the sun, he was even laughing like the very breeze rippling through the trees outside. He was one happy camper. And before she left for her extremely important appointments, my daughter fed him, and changed him, and made all right with the world, his world. He was ready for sleep, and I was ready to take my son on in some Wii stuff, since I had never played with that before and was looking forward to it, while listening to some of the CDs I brought, even if they drove my son insane.
And Scooter, all of nine weeks old, decided to derail those plans. His mom gone, he sat in my lap and did some more gurgling and laughing and smiling in the basement (entertainment room), and then decided to try out for a part in the Exorcist.
I admire anyone who does something well. Scooter is no exception. His blood-curdling screams are beyond reproach. I challenge any nine-week old to match him for volume, intensity, and seeming sincerity. I believe, for his age, he is peerless. I worried that the neighbors would call the police to say that a murder was happening in the adjacent townhouse. I worried, really, that he would set a record for youngest person to blow a gasket. He was that much on-point with his screaming attribute.
Now, I had changed him. As soon as his mom left, of course, he dropped a load on me. Not much of one. I changed him. He wore those Velcro-type diapers. It was easy. I took off the old one, I wiped him up with the nearby wipes (for want of a better word) and put the next diaper on him.
No sweat. My son watched. He had been falling asleep but was wide-awake to see how G-Pa was going to handle THIS matter. I was a pro. Or so I thought.
That done, and if you are still reading, you really need a life, I tried to put him in his little porta-crib, and then on the floor among his pillows and stuff, but he would not stop being Jamie Lee Curtis in a Halloween flick: he was screaming with the best of them, with intermittent pauses (as in Halloween movies) for the plot to thicken.
So, I changed him again. (That’s twice now, if you are counting, and I was.) I suspected that maybe I had left some of that tape on his skin, and that this was uncomfortable for him. I changed him. He seemed to settle down, but for only 10 minutes, maybe 15, long enough for my son to decide that he was going upstairs and going to sleep. This is my family.
I tried to feed him (Scooter, not my son) and he seemed to take the bottle (mom’s milk), but then spit it out. Okay, I thought, he is not hungry (wrong!). And so it went.
I sang to him. I talked to him. I rocked him. I let him watch television. Nothing was working. I decided his clothes were too small for him at some point. In other words, at some point I had a baby wearing only a diaper, covered by my attempt at swaddling, which tended to exclude either his toes or his chest, and he was alternately crying (screaming) and seemingly wanting to sleep, and every time I laid him down he told me in no uncertain terms that I had made the incorrect decision.
Finally, I gave him the bottle again. Now, it may be that the bottle had warmed up to room temperature (yes, I had heated it up, but cut it short because I did not want to scald him, folks…it’s been more than 40 years, lighten up on me, eh?) It may be that this time when he spit it out, I did not make the rash assumption that he was done with it. You have to think like your opponent, and I was doing my best to think like a nine-week old. So far, I had been doing a poor job of it, but this time, I got it right. Every time I re-supplied his mouth with the nipple, to be polite about it, he took it in. By the time we were done, he had sucked nearly most of it down. By the time we were done, he was ready for another change, and time for some hard-earned sleep (for one of us, not sure who).
And he went to sleep!
Thirty minutes or so before mom got home.
I dimmed the lights, turned down the television, and rocked quietly, lest I wake the screaming demon. And he slept. I wrapped him up in blankets (quietly) so that he would not freeze to death, and he slept.
When mom came home, she said nothing, but I am sure she was concerned that he had eaten from only one bottle in five hours. I don’t blame her. She woke him, she fed him, she thanked me, and once dad got home and we said hi to him, we left.
I decided that the next time I baby sit Scooter alone, he will be old enough to ride a scooter.
Even so, it was great to be alive :).