Friday, 30 September 2011

Twenty-four hours with granddaughter


From yesterday lunchtime to today lunchtime we were over at H & R's while they stayed in London for Bloomsbury's 25th. It was the first time nearly seventeen months-old M was entrusted to us for the night, and the instructions were many and clear. It was a trust exercise for everyone involved.

In the event it was easy, M being in happy and playful mood throughout. At one or two points she frowned and was clearly aware something or somebody was missing but the frowns vanished and she was busy sweeping or transferring fallen leaves from one of us to the other, or placing them carefully into a box. Then, since it was a beautiful, most unlikely end of September day, she set off watering corners of the garden with her baby-sized watering can, always toddling and teetering. Then she would be fetching and carrying a set of coloured plastic balls, then crawling into her hiding place in the cupboard where we would give her her soft toys for company. On our walk through the cemetery she kept noticing the bold grey squirrels that were bounding and scampering everywhere. She understands a lot of words now and is making a variety of noises some of which are close to words. Book, door, and flower hovered on the edge of saying, then dada in the morning.

She lightens the heart. Not that it was low, but she has the power of lightening it further. It is pleasantly amusing,in fact dizzying to see a child run and sway and turn and take delight in tiny things. She is a particularly pretty child, in fact a rather beautiful child, and will, I suspect, make a very beautiful young girl, her eyes intelligent, full of animation and scrutiny. She loves books and will point to the animals in the picture when we ask her to. Turning pages is fun, even thick card pages. Bright colours are good. She smiled to greet us when we arrived and smiled every time one of us reappeared. So I will go into Hs office and work for a while then when I come out again, she grins.

C falls readily back into young mother mode. She is crisp decisive and business like but carries on talking to little M. while fixing her food or bathing her. She takes M down to the nursery for a music session and stays with the young mothers. I too find myself whistling and singing and talking away at her when with her, playing with her, commentating on everything we are doing.

She likes her bit of power, of course, so she'll try to get keys and shut doors to keep us in or out. Opening and shutting things is power. Throwing something is power. Handing me the watering can is power: fill it, she means. Who doesn't seek to control the world in however small a way? And we too like to be fun to be with so we play along with her. But the big decisions are ours: meals, bath, bed, lights on or off. These are tender decisions, gentling her into the security of routine. Float off to sleep now, there's nothing to worry about.

It is very good to be with a young child in good temper. Less good when her mood is foul, or when it is raining, or when you yourself have a pain or a worry. Good times are good times, which is not all the time, but this was an unexpectedly hot sunny day at the very end of September and the mood was sunny too.

I remind myself I shall be sixty three in a couple of months. I see the evidences of my ageing but experience them lightly. A certain heaviness in breathing, a certain stiffness in bending. I have lost about an inch and a half in height since I was twenty. My frame is broader, my head sunk further into my chest. If I hunch my shoulders my neck seems to disappear. Still, I don't look bad compared to.... to what or whom? Perhaps only to what I imagined sixty to be when I was twenty. It's not as bad as that. I carry on working in my usual semi-hallucinatory way. There are minutes, very rarely hours, when everything seems astonishingly lucid. One wouldn't, on the whole, want to trust those intervals entirely. I looked over my new book, due in early 2013, and that too felt like a period of lucidity.

Often this last year I have gazed extra hard at whatever was around me, thinking: This is what I will not see once I no longer exist. There's an instant of devastating terror in that, then a shrug of indifference, but even then, sometimes, the faintest glow of pleasure.

Being with granddaughter warms me to those moments by suddenly filling out the colour of all that is. It's pretty good, I think. It will do. Lucky to be here.


charles said...

Not bad compared to . . .? Well, as you say, compared to what we thought it would be. Things rarely are (what we expected them to be). Bus passes and at the same time a rekindled delight in the young, which feels, whether or not, to be mirrored back. Hitting sixty (these round numbers), I become more acutely conscious of the three-score-and-ten adage, because despite the prolonging medical advances it feels about right, in the general turnover. Becoming a grandfather, yes; great-grandfatherhood is pushing it. So, the home straight, and watching the future already already happening as I become the past, and (these diminishing bodies that we are) it’s curiously invigorating.

George S said...

That's darn right. It is invigorating by perceived contrast. 'Something is pushing them to the side of their own lives'. But maybe when you have less of it and are moving towards the latter end of things it helps to be slightly at the side. I have no great desire to be a centenarian either.