The Morning After…

For me, 2013 began just like many past new years. I got up late, feeling exhausted and fragile, to a house that was a wreak.

“Oh, dear, what did I do last night?” I wondered.

In 2013, like many past years, I didn’t get up on my own. My husband came upstairs to our bed, bearing a rather young man.

“Ane, you should get up now!” he declared imperiously. There is no one is quite as serious and self-righteous as a two-year old. At that point, the night began to come back to me.

Our plans had been to celebrate New Years in our own time-honored tradition. This would entail the two of us, alone, together with a few good books. At 9pm, we would take a brief break from our reading to pretend that we were watching the NY Times Square ball fall. We would make a lot of noise, clink glasses, and then, satisfied, read in bed until we fell asleep. This year, we had one grandson over during the previous day. We hoped for quiet evening and a chance to pick up the house…but our plans went awry.

In the late afternoon, while we were stretching, yawning, and debating supper, we got a phone call.

“Would you like to go out to supper with us?” asked our youngest, “after all it is Ellen’s birthday!”

“Sure…” we said. “…but maybe we should just babysit and let the two of you go out?”

“No, no.” they insisted. “We want you to come out with us. Abel will be fine.”

We have discovered that being a grandparent is a bit like being in an improv skit. Things go better if you always say yes, however improbable the request. And when we got to the Indian restaurant, our two-year grandson was, improbably, behaving quite well. We remembered that we had also brought two-years olds out to dinner, back when we were young and irresponsible, and sometimes it had gone well. Although it was a bit like Russian roulette…with success rates that may have been a bit lower than 5 out of 6.

But Abel was happily eating Indian bread with with various Indian sauces. We were impressed and joined them at the table.

It started as a festive occasion. We ordered a bottle of wine and then all ordered different exotic dishes with plans to share. At this point that the situation began to deteriorate a bit.

Abel got antsy. He didn’t want to stay in his high-chair. His parents tried to maintain discipline; but it is a wise parent who knows when to retreat. First his father and then his grandfather held him in their laps. But when appetizers arrived, we persuaded the young man to get back into his own chair. This frequently works, you see, because the way to my grandson’s heart tends to be directly through his stomach, and he can sometimes be reasoned with.

But not this night.

“Get down. I want to get down. All done. I’m all done.” he explained earnestly.

He wasn’t happy that we weren’t listening. He emphasized his distress by trying to stand, and repeating his request in a louder voice.

We looked around the restaurant. His father winced, blinked, and picked him up. But Abel was still not pacified. He wanted to leave the table altogether and play. He twisted and he turned, and he began to cry. Then he started to cough and cough and the cough turned ugly. He ‘coughed’ up Indian food. He ‘coughed’ it all over his fathers’ shirt, his jacket, and chair. Then he ‘coughed’ again and this time he hit the restaurant floor.

Parents should never underestimate a toddlers’ ability to have the last word.

At his point, his father picked him up and made a hasty retreat to the men’s room.

Our Indian waiters hovered, and tried, in broken English, to ask what was wrong. His mother and I used napkins to wipe the restaurant chairs and floor. His father returned to the table wearing a white tee-shirt with his dress pants.

“Do you think we just ask them to put everything in doggy bags?” I suggested.

To the rescue!

While we were reluctantly looking at our appetizers and bottle of wine, grandpa sprung into action. He tore off his shirt to reveal a secret superman emblem.

“I will save you!” he declared. “I’ll take Abel home with me, and let the rest of you stay. After all” he added “I really don’t like Indian food.” and off he dashed with the young lad in his arms.

We tried to protested…but not that much and dinner had arrived at the table, and there was that bottle of wine…

Still, after that, I couldn’t let super-grandpa totally show me up so as dinner wound down I made a decision.

“You kid’s should enjoy yourselves.” I started generously.

“I do want to enjoy this New Years Eve.” my son interrupted, gesturing, clad in his undershirt, toward his extremely pregnant wife. “I have the feeling that 2013 may be a very challenging year.”  

“Yes.” I nodded “Oh yes. So,” I continued determined to match and one up my husband. “Would you like us to take Abel overnight? You can go home…change…and then go out again.”

And, I thought, we can go to bed at nine with a few good books.

The young couple quickly agreed, returned to our house, put their son to bed, and headed out. My husband sighed and we headed to bed ourselves. All was good.

The Prophet

Unfortunately my son’s prophesy for 2013 proved prophetic.

At exactly 12:01 2013 there was a loud wail from the spare bedroom. “Mommy! I want Mommy. Daddy! I want Daddy!”

Super-grandpa jumped up and rushed to comfort the young man. I groaned, and tried to turn over.

I listened from bed. “Mommy. I want Mommy. Daddy! I want Daddy!” Abel repeated this mantra, over and over, accompanied by loud sobs. It was 2013 and our grandson was clearly on a roll.

“Maybe you should put him in our bed.” I mumbled, trying to roll over. I am a strong believer in avoiding short-term pain.

This worked. Our grandson did calm down. We did not have to burn the midnight oil walking him around, or turn truly craven and call the parents.

But we remembered what we had forgotten. Small children are really, really squirmy. We spent the night asleep and awake, alternating between the child crawling up onto our faces, and putting his feet over our necks. He also talked in his sleep. A lot.

“I think we’re too old for this…” I muttered.

The next morning, a thousand years later, I was not at all charmed by my grandson’s cheerful command: “Ane, time to get up!”

Super-grandpa really, really looked like he needed a break.

“Do they really put up with this all the time?” I asked my husband.

“We did.” he answered.

I groaned. The more things change the more they stay the same, I thought to myself, rubbing my eyes and looking at the disaster area that passed as my living room.

There was, I reflected, only one difference between then and now.

When we were young and irresponsible, with each passing year we resolved. “We won’t do this again.”

This year, we prayed that we would.

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