Being a Grandma ◎Charmian Cheng

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My husband and I lead a very simple life, our days glide by peacefully, like the flow of water in the river. Last week, my usually absent-minded husband suddenly said to me, “Do you know, we have been together for forty-five years?”
Unbelievable! How can two people, who have nothing much in common, manage to stay together for such a long time? But fact is fact, there is no denying. As I look back, we didn’t really accomplish much at all, except bringing up a son and a daughter; and they, in turn, gave us six grandchildren. We put the kids’ photos all over the house–on the walls, on top of the tables and on the mantelpiece. And every time we look at them, our hearts are filled with joy and pride.
As for our grandchildren, they will only look upon us as just two accidental visitors in their lives.
Accidental visitors or not, my husband has managed to leave his footprints in their lives, and he endears himself to all of them. When the kids were toddlers, my husband wrestled with them, played hide and seek with them. As they grew older, he taught them how to play chess; he taught them how to throw baseball; he taught them how to play tennis and soccer. He played football with them in the backyard, chasing each other and rolling on the grass. He also took them fishing, swimming and treated them to ice cream. Where can you find such a grandpa like him?
Last semester, my 11-year-old grandson wrote a composition, entitled ‘My hero’. It turned out that he had just won the championship of a chess tournament in his district, and he wanted to honor his chess tutor, his grandfather.
Compared with my versatile husband, I have nothing to offer my grandchildren. I don’t know how to tell a joke, and I don’t know any game to play with them. I did learn how to play chess from my husband, but my skills as a chess player are still at the elementary level. The other day, my 8-year-old grandson challenged me to a game. I accepted cheerfully, thinking that there wouldn’t be any contest. After all, he was so young. But, to my surprise and dismay, he checkmated me in less than 20 minutes. Somehow, he managed to ambush my king without my knowing, and I had to surrender.
However, being a poor chess player is the least of my worries. The worst of my nightmares is that I cannot swim. It is our family tradition to spend our summer vacation together in Rhode Island. Every morning, we pack our umbrellas, our beach towels, our suntan lotions and walk to the beach. My family is like a school of fish, big and small, swimming, frolicking in the waves. I am the only one left on the shore, too scared to go into the water, for fear of being swept away by the tides. So, what can I do, except to stay under the beach umbrella, taking a long nap?
Last summer, during the Independence Day holiday, my two older granddaughters asked my husband and me to take them for horseback riding. I did not hesitate at all; thinking that, in my youth, I had had experiences riding horses. When we got to the horse farm, the trainer there helped me get on the horse. As I settled down on the saddle, she said to me, “This horse you are riding is called ‘Pepper’, she is quite a spirited girl. If you sense that she is trying to gallop away, you have to pull hard on the bridle and try to stop her. Do you get it? Anyway, stay alert.”
I was sitting way up there on the horseback, feeling a bit scared and uneasy, and this woman had to tell me that the horse was called ‘Pepper’ and she liked to run away! What if she threw me? What would happen to me? Suddenly, the terrible image of Christopher Reeves in his wheelchair flashed into my mind. He was the movie star who played ‘Superman’ on the silver screen. Unfortunately, he was thrown from his horse in a terrible accident and broke his back. He became paralyzed from the neck down and suffered a terrible death a few years later. I was gripped with fear, so I told the trainer, “Let me down, I don’t want to ride the horse anymore.”
After the episode, after my display of cowardice, I was too embarrassed to even go on a boat ride with them.
My eldest granddaughter is about the only kid who is willing to give me the benefits of the doubts. But even she is not sure about my abilities to handle things. Last August, she came to stay with us for a week.
One hot afternoon, I told her, “Let’s go have some ice cream at Thomas Sweet.”
“But grandpa is not home.” She replied.
“We will go by ourselves.”
“But, isn’t it too far to walk there?”
“Who said we are going to walk? I will drive.”
“But, Grandma, you don’t know how to drive.”
I was amazed. “Who said I don’t know how to drive?! How do you think I get to work everyday? “
My granddaughter was truly confused. “But I never saw you drive a car. I always thought Grandpa drove you to work everyday.”
In my grandchildren’s minds, their grandma is totally useless. They always see me in the kitchen, busy preparing something; and they think that is where I belong. Whenever they are hungry or thirsty, they will come to me. They clamor for my attention and ask that I prepare their favorite dishes for them. How can I say no?
To tell the truth, I am only a mediocre cook, but in my grandchildren’s mind, every dish I put on the dinner table is delicious.
My 6-year-old grandson came to me the other day, with his dimples and his sweet smile, he said, “Grandma, you are a good cooker!”
I hugged him with joy. What a lovely child, what a wonderful bunch of grandchildren; for them, I am willing to do anything.

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