Two summers ago, my then- 6-year-old grandson propped himself on a comfy chair and clasped his hands behind his head to watch me make a spectacle of myself in our kitchen.
I was performing, as if grinding 4 cups of fresh basil into pesto were the ceremonial equivalent of turning water into wine.
“Now, let us add the minced garlic!” I yelled over the food processor. He pumped his fist in the air.
“Next, the lemon!”
“Woo-hoo!” he yelled.
This was to be our final bigfamily dinner before my grandson and his parents whittled our numbers by moving far, far away to a new job awaiting his father — formerly known as my son, before he announced he was moving my grandson far, far away.
Away from me, I want to emphasize.
For my grandson, I was determined to be jolly.
I picked up the bottle of olive oil and raised it in the air. “And here we have the olive oil! Extra-virgin! Don’t ask what that means!”
I brandished the salt and pepper mills. “And must I remind our television audience that we only use freshly ground salt and pepper?”
He waved his arms. I shut off the processor and offered forced smile No. 223. “What is it, honey?”
“Grandma,” he said, his brow knitted with concern. “What are you going to do without me?”
We interrupt this cooking extravaganza so that Grandma can scurry off to the bedroom and bury her face into the skirt of her apron.
He is my first grandchild. He was the only one to lay claim to the title of “only” for nearly five years before our family’s baby boom would give him four cousins in three years. Until then, he had me all to himself. The best word to describe our mutual affection during that time: smitten.
We had our own habits, our own ways. By the time he was 3, one of our rituals involved my looking up at the ceiling as if I were pondering a question for the ages. “Hmm,” I’d say, “who’s the center of the universe?”
“I am!” he’d say, to the headshaking groans of anyone within earshot who claimed to love us.
This was the child about to leave me — the child wise enough at age 6 to see right through me. Two years later, his mother tells me he sleeps with my letters under his pillow. I cannot type that without pausing for a moment. The relationship between a child and a grandparent is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing magic.
Here is where I admit I have set you up — maybe. My grandson and I are not what you might assume us to be. I did not meet his daddy until his daddy was 6, through marriage. I was raising his father full time by the time he was 8. Ten years after my divorce, he walked me down the aisle to marry the man who is the love of my life.
If you were ever misguided enough to tell me that our beginnings mean he is not my son, our conversation would be brief, and I dare say you would not enjoy it. He is my son, and he has given me this miracle of a grandson.
That is only the beginning of this crazy tale of this family of ours. My husband and I brought two children each into our marriage, and we now have five grandchildren, period. Challenge this at your peril.
Why am I telling you all of this, you might wonder.
Well, it’s summer, which is that time of year when so many grandparents long to see the children they love no matter what. No matter who is divorcing. No matter who brought them into the world. No matter who is angry with whom.
Children should not bear the burden of unfinished grudges. This is especially true now, when the briefest snippet of overheard news via TV or radio can make a child believe the world has lost its collective mind.
I’m not saying grandparents are perfect or that we’re even someone you’d choose for neighbors. But we are in this for your children. For so many of us, the moment we become grandparents, in whatever way that happens, something changes in us.
Your children become the center of our universe. Shouldn’t they know that? Shouldn’t all children, everywhere, get to feel that way at least once in their lives?
Connie Schultz filed this on American Airlines Flight 1068, her second flight of three to spend a week with the grandchild who rightly worried about what she would do without him. Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.