Grandparents Day

Every year our elementary school celebrated grandparents by having them come for a luncheon. In Art class that week we'd make crafts with construction paper or dry macaroni to present to them when they arrived. A couple kids from each grade would read little poems at the mic that made the grandmas cry.

But my grandpa was always dead on Grandparents Day. He died when I was 3. And although I was glad that my only living grandparent, my dad’s mom, was sturdy and reliable, I won’t lie-- there was a slightly-hunched, balding, grandpa-shaped hole in my little heart.

So one year I decided I’d find a stand-in grandpa for Grandparents Day. Mr. Huggies was an old friend and neighbor of my grandparents, and he would do just fine. The problem, however, was that he had a wife. That meant an extra grandma, which I had no use for, especially one whose severe asthma left her in a state of constant wheezing. She wheezed so loud that you’d have to repeat everything, especially jokes. And she was never able to come over to our house because we had three cats and a rabbit, which made her suck at her inhaler like a lollipop. I wished she’d just buck up and get over it. But she wouldn’t.

So when I walked up the hill to Mr. Huggies’ house to invite him to Grandparents Day, he was honored and enthusiastic.
“Oh, wonderful! Wait til I tell Louise. We’ll have such fun!”
“Oh, no, Louise is part of the package,” I thought to myself.

In the coming days I tried to cold-shoulder Louise out of coming, but she didn’t notice because of all the wheezing.

“Hi, Mister Huggies,” I’d say, not even looking at Louise.
But her eyes were closed as her inner ear echoed with a monstrous wheeze--the kind that blew the little pigs’ house down.

“How does Harold deal with this?” I wondered to myself.
He appeared to spend a lot of time doing yard work. He also appeared to have hearing aids.
“Is it possible he’s just used to it?”

“Would you like to watch The Price is Right with me?” Louise asked hoarsely from the velvet recliner she was sucked into.
“No, thanks. I want to help do the yard work,” I replied.
“Oh, I can’t go outside because the pollen and cut grass --“ and she went into another fit recalling the organic stimuli to mind. As she was grasping for a butterscotch to coat her throat, I backed my way to the door and let myself out into the fresh air with Mister Huggies. He was wearing yellow goggles as he clipped the bushes.

I wasn’t allowed to touch the clippers, not even the dull manual ones. My helpfulness extended to poking around the flowerbed with a hand shovel to clear out rocks. He mainly didn’t want to get in trouble with my parents if I hurt myself on the motorized, sharp, or otherwise deadly yard machines.

“Parents think kids are so incompetent,” I mused digging around the orange and yellow mums. “Even when they let you use things under supervision, they somberly warn you, ‘Now these scissors are sharp--don’t cut yourself.’ But the worst is when you’ve already fallen down and they say something like, ‘Be careful!’ Gosh. I wish parents didn’t treat their kids like idiots simply because that’s how the warden treated them when they served an 18-year sentence in their parents’ prison. I think it’s funny that parents can get in trouble with the police for hitting their kid, but not for being so annoying!” I became aware that the mowing was completed when I saw Mister Huggies raking piles of cut grass together as Bob Barker blasted through the living room asking who wanted to play Plinko.

When I woke up on Grandparents Day I was anxious about how this 3-wheeled Grandparent contraption was going to ride steadily through the day. 3 grandparents, but only two crafts--one for a grandma, and one for a grandpa; 3 grandparents, but only two seats--one for a grandma, and one for a grandpa. Lying in bed, a series of unfortunate but not deadly events played across my imagination: what if Louise lost her inhaler? What if she overslept and couldn’t curl her hair in time? What if Harold just gave it to her straight and had her stay home to make soup? She came. And I think it worked out fine, besides my bad attitude.

You may be disappointed that I didn’t tell you more about what happened on Grandparents Day. Well, me too. I’m disappointed that I don’t remember much more about it. My recollections are clustered around the dread leading up to it. I do remember liking what my grandma wore to the event--a cranberry suit with an ivory, silk blouse and elegant brooch. Louise wore a lavender sweatshirt with huge cat heads on it.

I vaguely recall that the long luncheon tables were covered with spring-colored disposable tablecloths. Potted plants (which grandparents got to take home) were dropped every few feet to keep the cloths from flying away. My real grandma insisted that the Huggies take the little violets with them. I wish Grandma and Louise would have had a tug of war over it, cracked the pot, tousled their curly helmets of hair, and then ended with Grandma holding the plant aloft with dangling roots as she stepped triumphantly--with one sensible shoe--on a heaving Louise. I think the poor plant was covered in a grocery bag and placed in the trunk to get it to the Huggies--because surprise surprise, it was a variety possessed with offensive allergens.

Some kids didn’t have any grandparents attend Grandparents Day; and some had all four. My grandma seemed genuinely pleased to have the Huggies there and even more pleased with me for “adopting them.” She was a very generous woman with an enormous capacity for overlooking peoples’ flaws. I doubt she even noticed Louise’s wheezes; they were all I could hear. At the age of 10 I wasn’t yet able to conduct myself with her same generosity--they were mighty sensible shoes to fill--so I gave up on a surrogate grandpa. Instead I contented myself with my Grandma, who would then receive all the crafts and poems on Grandparents Day, without one wheeze.