By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
I was terrified for Isaac’s first day of school. Terrified he wouldn’t go. That we would see his tremendous stubbornness arise. Somehow, we made it. The thrill of the newness got him there. I woke up on Day 2 even more worried. The newness had passed. The daily reality would start setting in and the idea of staying home all day to play with me and Cedar would be hard to leave. Erinn had gotten an attachment to her bike so that they could ride the 3 miles to school each day. We hoped that the excitement of biking would help and that the exercise would help him with the long days of sitting and focus. But by Day 2, the excitement of the bike wasn’t enough. We started hearing “I won’t go.” I kept a smile on my face and a calm, upbeat attitude as my heart raced. I had been on the opposite side of his stubbornness and there had been times I had lost. It is a powerful force that only joy seems to be able to crack. We went downstairs with him kicking and screaming, stepped outside, and there…..was Grandpa. On his bike, helmet on, ready for a race.
He saved the day. Isaac delightedly hopped right on that bike with a smile on his face and off they went. Each morning, out we came, and there was Grandpa ready for the 6 mile round trip. The ride was fun. The race was on. Grandpa cut corners, but was not match for the speed at which Isaac could peddle. Nicknames ensued- my dad was christened Crazy Cat and Isaac Snorkel. Cedar and I would stand on the street and wave goodbye as they rode off into the sunrise. My heart smiled each time. I was watching Isaac grow up- off to a day of learning, laughter, and maybe even tears but that was completely separate from me. Gratitude. And I watched the way he loves my dad and the way that my dad loves him. They were saving each other. It was a time of transition for my dad that could leave his heart heavy, but he got up each morning and dressed for the cold and hopped on his bike. And it was a time of transition for Isaac, and what he needed was his grandpa.
I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to live five houses down from my dad- to have my kids know him in their daily reality. We regularly and spontaneously go to his house for banana chocolate chip pancakes. And on days when my own loneliness due to lack of adult conversation grows too heavy, we walk over and there is always a warm welcome. There is a pile on top of our fridge of broken wooden toys waiting to go to Grandpa’s basement workshop to be carefully mended. In fact, my dad has spent this Advent and every Advent of my life in his basement workshop building and loving us all.
He loves my kids and they love him. It is a mutual delight and longing. When Cedar hurts himself he asks for Mama or Bampa. Isaac has gotten several overnights with my dad and there is an intimacy they share as they snuggle and my dad reads Isaac into dreams (just as he did with me).
I don’t underestimate the incredible gift this is. I am insanely lucky to have him so close and filled with such love to give. It is a blessing that blesses us all. My kids are lucky to have many grandparents…some because they are parents of their parents and some who have been named and claimed. These kids are loved by the generations. It is a gift that has been lost in so many ways in our current culture where parents are overworked and homes are no longer designed to be intergenerational living and our elders are sent to assisted living facilities. Families are spread out around the country. These relationships matter. They benefit the children, the tired parents, and the elders among us. There is learning and loving and saving that happens to us all.
I know that my dad will always live in my kids’ hearts as his love and daily tenderness sinks into their souls, but I also watch the ways that his life affects their understanding of this life and this place. They have sat on his shoulders walking in circle after circle in front of the Water Board protesting the water shut offs. They have watched him be arrested and have listened to his testifying in court. They have received books narrating the powers and principles dedicated to the two of them and their one-year old cousin. They have seen his passion and conviction and understanding of what it means to be a Christian. What it means to be alive.
My dad is one of the rocks in my life that keeps me rooted in this place. I am grateful for the ways he delights in me becoming my fullest self and it is amazing to watch him do this for my kids. He is tickled by their quirks and saddened by their tears. I give thanks for all the tickling, laughing, wood crafting, biking, actions, reading, cooking, tears, learning, and love that is to come.
The last few weeks as I put the kids to bed, Cedar says “Bampa sing” and Isaac echoes in a agreement which means they want me to sing “Skidamarinkadinkadink.” “I love you in the morning and in the afternoon. I love you in the evening and underneath the moon.” As they drift in to dreams hearing my dad’s voice in mine, I am struck at how I hear my grandma’s voice singing to me. It is a love that moves through generations.