Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life with Papa

copyright 2008, Aaron Paul Lazar

My grandsons, Julian and Gordon, have always called me Papa. I answer to it more readily now than to Aaron or Honey, and I guess I'm rather comfortable with this role in life, having transcended from 20 years as Dad, in recent times. Oh, I'm still Dad, but now even my daughters call me Papa. LOL.

Maybe it's that crop of silver around the temples. Or the streak of gray in my beard. Or the way I grunt when I get up from the chair. Who knows. But Papa, I am.

A few weeks ago we had a challenging evening that reminded me why young people have children.

It all started when my daughter asked me if I could pick up the grandkids from her future mother-in-law's on the way home from work. Delighted to have them for an unexpected evening, I jumped at the chance.

When I arrived, Barb had the baby ready to go and the diaper bag packed. The boys raced around her playroom in circles like they'd just ingested a five-pound bag of sugar, and while we tried to determine if they had coats or even knew where they were, Barb's golden retriever kept licking me all over and scooting between my legs to show his affection. Bella just watched with her bright button eyes, placid and quiet in her car seat.

Not only did I have to finagle the three little ones out to the van, but there was also a cake leftover from Julian's birthday party at kindergarten, a giant card his classmates drew for him, two backpacks, a monster pumpkin that Gordie picked out on his field trip, and of course, Isabella's giant diaper bag. It took four trips to the van.

I'd asked Bella's father the night before if all three car seats fit across the bench seat in his van, which was similar to mine. He told me, "Sure!" That morning, I had doubts. I could swear a look crossed his face as if he were brushing me off. I knew I should have lugged the ridiculously heavy captain's seat out of the barn, just in case. But that morning it was cold and pitch black, I was late for work, and my back throbbed at the thought of it. First mistake.

I tried. I really tried. I could not figure a way to fit all three seats in the van, no matter how I pushed and pulled and fastened and unfastened all three kids. There was no question about putting someone in the front seat, not only was it illegal, but I'd heard it was the least safe space to transport a child. By the time six-year-old Julian suggested I just let him ride in the middle with the seatbelt, my back was screaming and I gave in. I finally figured out the very bizarre and goofy way the middle seatbelt worked. Yes, I'm an engineer. And no, I didn't figure it out right away. I still haven't figured out how to get it unbuckled, but Jules slithered out of it anyway.
The drive home was mercifully short - just two miles of quiet country road. But all the way home I crawled, scanning the roadside for leaping deer like a paranoid robotic lunatic with wild eyes and gritted jaw. No wonder I have so many headaches. Anyway, I was so relieved when we pulled into the driveway, I almost collapsed to my knees to thank God.

The whole time, Isabella remained quiet and content. That baby is just too good to be true.
After lugging all the stuff into the house, including the monstrous pumpkin, I realized Bella needed to be fed first. After setting up the boys and my wife with a game of cards in the living room, I chose bananas from Bella's baby food packs and rooted around until I snagged a baby spoon in our silverware drawer. I set her up on the kitchen table in her car seat, unbuckled by now and resettled on a soft blanket.

Transfixed by this relatively new process of eating solid food, she insisted on grabbing the spoon. I had to clamp her little fists together in my free hand to gently guide the mush into her mouth. It went everywhere. Of course, I noticed the bib in the diaper bag - when we were done and I was spattered with bananas.

My wife offered to hold the baby while I fed the boys. Not exactly a hardship for this doting grandmother. Fortunately I had enough leftovers from Julian's birthday party the day before, so I heated up plates of chicken, yellow rice, kale, and homemade applesauce. We had leftover birthday cake for dessert. Julian spilled his piece on the floor, then smeared it on his sock, the chair leg, and all over his brown corduroys. Orange frosting, mind you. Luckily we had just enough so I could serve him a second piece.

During all this, Gordie didn't eat much, and looked feverish, with those telltale fever eyes I remembered so well from my three girls. When Jenn moved her family out to their own place, they'd taken all of the baby Tylenol and thermometers and Ambesol, etc. with them. I used to keep tons of extras all over the house, but we hadn't had to deal with sick kids since she'd left, and I got lax. I had nothing to offer him. I called my daughter, and she arranged for her fiancé to bring some when he picked them up at 8:00. Only a few hours to go.

I was just about to get Gordie upstairs to my bed to watch his favorite movie and bring the baby up, too, when Julian screamed.

"Papa! I had diarrhea in my pants!"

His face fell, humiliation written all over it. He walked to the stairs like a stiff legged Tin Man, trying not to cry. With patience, I talked calmly to him, told him it was okay, helped him up the stairs (it's hard to climb the stairs when your legs aren't bending!) and got him in the shower. I threw his clothes downstairs for my daughter Allison to wash. While I jumped from child to child, Dale and Alli juggled kids in the background.

Meanwhile, a very specific odor arose from Isabella. It must've been those bananas. I grabbed the diaper bag, which had NO baby wipes inside. But it did have a container of sprinkles in it that my mother-in-law had given Jenn to take home on Saturday.I grabbed a washcloth and got her cleaned up. But in the process, I managed to smear some on her clothes. So I had to change her, and gave THOSE and the yukky washcloth to Allison to add to the wash.

I laid her in her portacrib. She seemed happy. Like I said, she's an amazing baby.Gordie and Jules fought over which movie to see, and Julian finally convinced Gordie that his choice would be fun. But Julian kept sitting on my bad knee, which has been hurting ever since the doctor made me stop taking the Advil for my headaches.

Anyway, poor little Gordie had a terrible cough. It sounded as if his asthma was starting up, which scared the hell out of me. He kept wanting me to lay with him, and asked, "Papa? Why are you taking so long?" every time I tended to someone else. The poor kid just wanted to be comforted and snuggled, since he felt so bad.

His stepfather-to-be arrived at 8:00 to pick them up, but Jules burst into tears, begging to stay with us. After some back and forth conversations, we agreed to keep Julian for the night.
About fifteen minutes after Mike left with Gordon and Isabella, I noticed the baby formula was still on the counter. My heart sank to my feet and I called, certain I'd have to take the long drive to Dansville and back. On a work night. When I felt as wrung out as I had in years. Maybe since I parented my three little girls. LOL.

Thankfully, Mike had an extra can of formula at home, so we were able to breathe a sigh of relief and settled down to watch Julian's new favorite movie, "My Girl." He camped on the floor of our room, happy to be the sole source of our attention for one night.

Of course, Dale and I raised three girls that were all within two years. (Jenn was two when the twins were born) We managed to handle it just fine, and I'd gladly do it again. If we were that age again, LOL. And I've had all three grandkids for a whole weekend, and both boys for a whole week, without problems. But this particular night was a bit unique. Maybe I'm just out of practice!
But we did survive those three crazy hours. Barely. And realized with even more clarity the wisdom God had when he decided only young people should have kids!
Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at and and watch for the fourth book in the LeGarde series, MAZURKA, coming in January 2009 from Twilight Times Books.


High Power Rocketry said...

: )

s.w. vaughn said...

Ah, the lovely three P's of young childhood. Pee, poop and puke. :-) I remember those years. Before I had my son, I could never deal with nasty messes resulting from bodily functions. After a while I didn't even flinch when someone's baby tossed a quart of half-used formula all over me. :-) It's quite a tolerance parents build up!

Makes you glad you can give them back after a while, huh? LOL You are an awesome Papa, my friend.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

What a wonderful tale, Aaron.

We're one hour from our closest grandchildren, now 14, 6, and 3. After experiencing many similar adventures, we designated a special spot for all the extras that babies & even teenagers always seem to need. Now, we're hard pressed to be caught off guard.

Or so you would think.

My grandson jumped into the biggest mud puddle he could find, and before we could stop him, laid down.

I said "Nobody panic; we're stocked up on boots, socks, t-shirts & snow pants."

And we were. Except none of them fit. Somehow I'd estimated growing times incorrectly and the clothes were either way too small or hilariously too large.

Gave cause for a good laugh tho. And of course, plenty of pictures were taken.

Kim Smith said...

God bless you man. God bless you.

Marta Stephens said...

Ah, I remember when and glad those days are over! ;)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Thanks, everyone. ;o) Now as most of you know, I've published tons of pieces on how LOVELY it is to have little grandbabies. This one was just too funny to keep to myself. A little part of me kept laughing at our crazy night and imagined writing about it. Of course. What else?