By A Grammy (Joan Cianelli)


I had tried to have my six-year-old grandson spend a few hours with me at least once a week. I always tried to make it a special time for him. We cooked his favorite meal – lamb chops and applesauce – or went to his favorite hamburger place. Then either a movie or a walk through the park, and home for some fun together. We’d get down on the floor and have car races. Sometimes we’d make candy, or maybe read some silly or scary book. Rafael delighted in all these activities, and so did I.

But it had been a busier than usual week, and trying to cope with a stiff neck had made it worse. By Thursday afternoon I had used up my supply of energy and patience. All I wanted to do was to get home, put on a comfortable robe, fix a bowl of good hot soup and collapse with my feet up.

Tonight there was no way I could handle it. I was going to have to postpone our evening with my grandson Rafael until next week. When he arrived with his mom (my daughter), I hugged them both and then explained how badly I was feeling.

“Rafael honey, I’m sorry,” I said. “Tonight your Grandma Joan isn’t up to any fun and games. I’m just going to have nice hot bowl of soup, a lazy hour of TV and then early to bed. We’ll have our night together some other time.” Rafael’s smile faded, and I saw the disappointment in his eyes. “Dear Lord, forgive me,” I prayed, “but I’m really not up to it tonight. I need this night to relax and renew myself.”

Rafael was looking up at me solemnly. “I like soup, Grandma.” As a grandmother, my heart knew what he was really saying. In his own way, he was saying, “Please don’t send me away. Please let me stay.”I heard my daughter say, “No, Rafael, Grandma Joan’s too tired tonight. Maybe next week.”

But in Rafael’s eyes, I saw the shadow, the uncertainty. Something else was changing. Maybe Grandma Joan wouldn’t want to have him come anymore. Not tonight, not next week, not ever. Then I had an idea, so I suggested, “Just soup and TV tonight, Rafael, O.K.?” No card games, no toy car races on the floor, no baking chocolate chip cookies, no books, and if I fall asleep, please turn the TV volume down low.”

He said, “Grandma,”I like soup,” With a sigh of resignation, I gave in and placed my hand on his shoulder. “Then you are cordially invited to dine at my castle. The meal will be small, but the company will be delightful. Escort the Queen Mother in, please, Sir Rafael.”

It was worth it to see his eyes light up and hear him giggle as he made a mock bow and replied, “Okay, your Royal Highness.” While I put the soup on the stove and changed into my robe, Rafael set up trays and turned on the television set. I must have dozed off after the first few sips of soup. When I woke up, there was an afghan over my legs, the bowls and trays were gone. Rafael was sprawled on the floor, dividing his attention between a coloring book and a television show. I looked at my watch. Nine o’clock, my daughter would be coming to get Rafael soon. Poor boy, what a dull time he must have had. Rafael looked up with a smile. Then, to my surprise, he ran over and gave me a big hug. “I love you, Grandma,” he said, his arms still around my neck. “Haven’t we had a nice time together?” His big smile and happy eyes told me that this time he meant exactly what he was saying. And, to my surprise, I knew he was right. We really had had a nice time together.

That was the key word – together. We had done nothing exciting or special. I had slept in the chair. Rafael had colored and watched TV. But we were together. That night I realized something important. Rafael’s visits don’t have to be a marathon of activity. The important thing is that he knows I love him and want him. He knows he has a place in my life, which is reserved particularly for him. A time that is just for us to be together. He still comes once a week. We still bake chicken or eat out, make cookies or go for a walk in the park. But every now and then we enjoy our favorite together time, our special feast of love – soup night.

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