Nobody really likes getting old, but there are a few priceless perks
“Grandpa, tell me the story about hanging upside-down again!”
Why my grand-daughter Janey is so fond of this story, I really don’t know. She must have a special video in her mind of her young grandpa hanging from his feet and swinging back and forth like a pendulum.
I enjoyed sharing it with her the first eight or nine times, but it’s getting kind of old for me now.
“Janey, let’s do another story. You’ve heard this one so many times already.”
She cocks her head to one side and looks at me with those big blue eyes. (Somewhere down the road, some young man is going to find those eyes irresistible.)
“Grandpa,” she scolds me like a child, “upside-down story please!”
When you are tucking in the sweetest five-year-old on earth, it’s hard to say “no.”
“Okay, one more time…so I was 11 years old, and I had a job working for a greenhouse gardener near my house. I had just started working there, and I was younger and littler than all the other boys, so they liked to pick on me sometimes.
“One day our boss, Wilbur, drove us over in his truck to a set of greenhouses he rented nearby. He dropped us off and told us he would be back in a little bit.
“We were supposed to be working in the greenhouses spreading straw to mulch the tomato plants, but we all got tired of that pretty quick and we were horsing around in the barn instead.”
Janey interrupted, “Don’t forget about the rope.”
“Yes, the rope…all of a sudden the bigger boys grabbed me and tied a big rope around my ankles. ‘Let’s hang him!’ someone shouted. Then they tossed one end of the rope over a big beam about 10 feet above the barn floor.
“They hoisted me up until I was hanging upside down. If I stretched out my arms I could barely touch the floor.”
“Don’t forget the swinging part, Grandpa,” Janey chimed in.
“Do you want to tell this story yourself, Janey?”
She giggled and shook her head ‘no’.
“So after they hung me up, they started pushing me back and forth between them. There wasn’t anything I could do but hang there and try not to get sick.”
“And then the boss came back!” Janey snickered.
“Yes, so then the boss came back. When the other boys heard him coming up the driveway, they all ran back inside the greenhouse and started working. So when Wilbur walks in, all he sees is me in the barn, hanging upside down, and swinging back and forth.
“He got upset and started yelling at me. ‘Dang it, Smitty! What’re you doing goofin’ around up there when I’m payin’ you to work?’
“There I was, hung upside down, swinging back and forth across the main floor of the barn, and now I was getting in trouble! Wilbur just stood there watching me, and a smile started creeping across his face. I guess I looked pretty funny swinging like that.”
“I like this story Grandpa!”
“Yeah, I’m picking up on that … anyway, I was starting to get pretty irritated, and all I could think to say was, ‘Wilbur, do you think I did this to myself?’”
As always, Janey giggles at that line.
“Wilbur slapped his forehead and shook his head. He was trying not to laugh as he stopped me from swinging and untied the other end of the rope to lower me to the floor.
“‘Smitty, are you okay?’ he asked gently once my feet were untied and I could stand up.
“‘I think so Wilbur, I just feel a little dizzy.’
“‘Do you wanna tell me what happened?’
“‘I’d rather not say.’
“Then he told me to go sit outside and get some fresh air while he checked on the mulching.
“I’m not sure what they talked about in the greenhouse, but the bigger boys started treating me better after that. I think they liked that I didn’t tattle on anybody. Anyway, I ended up working there for five years, and we got to be good friends and we had a lot of fun working together and doing things after school.”
“I like that story, Grandpa.”
“Yeah, I know you do.”
Then Janey yawned and stretched her arms way over her head. She sighed the long slow sigh of a tired five-year-old.
“Give me a hug goodnight, Janey, it’s time to go to sleep.”
She sat up in bed, wrapped her arms around my neck, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
We rocked back and forth a few moments, and then I kissed her on top of her head.
“Goodnight, Janey, sleep tight.”
I left the room and stopped briefly in the hallway just to savor the moment. Is there anything sweeter than a hug and kiss from your grandchild? I am truly a blessed man.
I loved watching my kids grow up, and I have a lifetime of memories to treasure. Being a father is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
But there is something extra special about being a grandfather. Maybe it’s just that I’m older and mellower and have the capacity to appreciate it more.
Maybe it’s because I’m not all stressed out from trying to scratch out a living and keep them fed. Grandchildren come to visit, and then they go home, and grandma and grandpa can take a nap to recover.
It’s a pretty sweet gig.
A lot of years have passed since I was swinging upside down in Wilbur’s barn, and life has worn me out in a lot of ways. There are days I feel so old and past it that I can hardly get out of bed.
But other days are better, and some of the best days are when we’re visiting our grand-kids, or one of them is coming over to spend the night, and I can’t help but feel a bit peppier. Some of their youthful energy spills over into me somehow.
Grandchildren really are God’s consolation prize for getting old.
Just as good as an oysters, telling the story. But IJust as good as a oysters, telling the story. But I like that one cause I have grandchildren that are older now. Couple have children of their own. One lives near Lynchburg, Virginia, the other lives in Brooklyn, Indiana. The one in Lynchburg is three years old. The one in Brooklyn is two years old.
Thanks, Tom, glad you liked it.