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Monday, July 31, 2017

(15) ED REFUSES TO BE A GRANDFATHER. I'M ON MY OWN, HE SAYS.

March 25, 1965
Cohasset
To Kathie
     I don't know what this strange power is that you have, but when you addressed me as "Dear Grandmother" in your last letter, things began to happen.  A certain stork was lounging in his nest, reading the latest birth announcements, and giving the merest glance to a date circled on his calendar, two weeks hence. 
     Suddenly a strong west wind (originating in California?) swooped him from his easy chair and wafted him toward the South Shore Hospital.  So abrupt was his departure that he left his bifocals behind. This probably explains why he delivered, not the baby girl I stipulated in my order, but another variety.  Vonnie and Bob, in the way of easily satisfied parents, were pleased, of course—I believe they'd have settled for almost anything.  I was inclined to send him back until I saw him.
     Gazing through the nursery window at the infant sleeping in his basket, noting his beautifully formed head, his perfect features, his air of regal tranquility, I realized this was no ordinary baby.  This was a prince of babies, intended for some royal family who, ignorant of the mix up, were even now cooing over their little girl.   Don't tell a soul or they might take him away from us.  Even your dad doesn't know that the stork, in his nearsighted befuddlement, left us the world's most remarkable grandson.
March 26, 1965
     Ed and I looked through the nursery window at Michael Wayne Crosby, and I murmured, “Isn’t he beautiful?” 
     “Humph!  I’ve had a million of ‘em,” he said.
     “Don’t exaggerate, dear, it just seems like a million.”
     Vonnie’s report after Michael’s first feeding.  “He’s a little pig.  He finishes his bottle in ten minutes flat.  They leave the babies with you for an hour, so I had all that time to play with him.  He could only get one eye open.  It was dark blue.  At the end of the hour he managed to get the other eye open.  It was dark blue too.”
     I asked Vonnie if she was going to have the baby circumcised and learned she didn’t know what the word meant.  After I enlightened her, I suggested she talk the matter over with Bob and her doctor.  The next time I saw her she said, “I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and have the baby . . .castra— . . . what was that word, Mummy?”
     “Good grief!” I said, unmanned at the very thought.  Circumcised, Vonnie.  Make sure the doctor has it straight.”
     With that little misunderstanding cleared up, Vonnie told me she was introduced to another new word when the nurse brought a bedpan.
     “Did you void?” asked the nurse, returning a few minutes later.
     “No,” Vonnie said, “but I urinated.”
     “That’s what I meant,” the nurse said, staggering out to the corridor, where she repeated the conversation to hilarious co-workers.
     Vonnie told me this story amid fits of giggles alternated with gasps of pain.  “I’ve had to learn a whole new way to laugh, Mummy.  I used to laugh with my whole body, but if I did that now my stitches would be right over in that corner.  If I just let the surface of my stomach joggle a bit when I feel a chuckle coming on, it doesn’t hurt so much.”
     She says she cries often, too, but her tears are tears of happiness.  “I lie here thinking of how lucky Bob and I are.  We had so much, and now we have this darling little baby to love.”

March 30, 1965
     I’ve been wondering how Ed would accept his new role.  The answer is, he hasn’t.  He refuses to be a grandfather.  We’ve shared many experiences in the past, good, bad, exciting, scary, some requiring no small amount of cajolery on my part, like the time I talked him into dancing lessons at Arthur Murray’s.  But when it comes to grandparenthood, I’ve never known him to be so stubborn.  I’m on my own, he says.
     I’ve decided not to press the issue.  I admire his spirit.  If he doesn’t want to be a grandfather, he doesn’t have to.
June 29, 1965
     Vonnie dropped Michael off for a few hours.  Ed read the paper while I gave the baby his six o’clock bottle.  Then I improvised a bed in the bathtub, tucked him in, and started dinner. When I returned to the living room, who was propped up in Ed’s lap, all smiles, but our three-month-old cherub.
     “I heard him crying, so I went upstairs to see what was wrong,” Ed said.  “When I picked him up, I said, ‘Your mean grammy put you to bed too early, didn’t she.’”
     “And what did he say to that?” I ask.
     “He said I was exactly right and he likes me best,” Ed says smugly.
     “Better,” I say, correcting his grammar.
     “Oh, you noticed it, too.”
     When Michael begins to fuss again, Ed decides he needs burping.  “Remember the time Timmy spit up in my pocket and I went to work smelling funny?  I’ve smartened up since then.”  He produced a hand towel and cradled Michael on his shoulder.
     Half an hour later I say, “Do you want your dinner or are you going to play with that baby all night?”
     “I’ll be there in a minute,” Ed says.  “Michael tells me he’s ready for bed now.”  Indeed, the baby has conked out in Ed’s arms and is snoring softly.  “Smart kid, that grandson of mine.”

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