When I found out that the grandson was coming over last Saturday, I prepared myself mentally. What can we do for fun? I realize that Jake is only three and a half years old, but it’s important that I establish the tone of our relationship early on. Anytime Jake thinks of his Pops, I want the word “fun” to be the first thing that comes to his mind. At least until I’m too old to have any. I would prefer that he be a little older, old enough that he can dress himself and follow me wherever I go without the aid of a wagon or stroller. But, at this point I’ll work with what I have.
So, when I consider the options for having fun, there is always a great movie, such as Madagascar or Toy Story, which we can sprawl out on the couch and watch together. Or we can go out back and throw rocks at the rabbits nibbling on the grass at the edge of the yard. I can teach him how to make a whistle with a leaf, by inserting one between two thumbs and blowing. That’s always good for some fun. Or Jake can hop on his tricycle and pedal up and down the sidewalk, but then all I get to do is watch, and what fun is that? I can put him in the Cozy Coupe and then push him at a high rate of speed down the sidewalk, which is quite exhilarating until I run out of gas, but we just did that one the last time he was visiting. Hmmm. What to do? Julie saved the day when she asked me if I wanted to join the two of them on a walk to the park. I thought of the awaiting swing set and jungle gym and I answered in the affirmative.
Disappointed that teeter totters and merry go rounds have been banned from public use, I nevertheless saw possibilities in the swings and jungle gym; specifically the monkey bars. I climbed up on the playground apparatus and slid down one of the plastic slides. “See Jake. That’s how you do it.” Jake was eager and he followed suit; sliding down the slide, giggling all the way down. His GiGi was adamant that he not climb backward to the top of the slide, but I corrected her and encouraged him to do just that. He climbs like a monkey. Speaking of monkey, the next part of the apparatus that needed investigating were the monkey bars. Jake would have to be lifted to the bars and supported the entire time, but first I had to show him the proper technique. I grabbed the first bar with my right hand and planned on swinging to the next one and catching it with my left; these actions to be repeated until I was on the other side. I was doing well until I grabbed the second bar with my left hand. Something odd happened. My hand slipped off the bar and I dropped to the ground. Julie laughed. I stood there shocked and thought You’re so far gone that you can’t even hang onto the monkey bars? I quickly recovered and asked Jake, “You get the idea don’t you?”
After the debacle at the jungle gym, I felt more confident as we approached the swing sets. At first it was Julie and I pushing Jake back and forth in the kiddy seat (the one designed to keep the kid from falling out). There were moments when I was alone with him, when I was allowed to push Jake really high; with the resulting look on his face reminiscent of someone on a speedy roller coaster. But once Julie returned, the fun was over and it was back to the boring, slowly pushing him back and forth between the two of us. I decided to spice things up a bit and mounted one of the bigger kid’s swings. “Watch this Jake.” Remembering how it used to be, I decided to swing myself as high as the swing would go and then at the apex, jump out and stick the perfect landing, with both feet square on the ground. The first attempt was successful and the judges all rated me at 9.5 or 10. I strolled past Jake and said, “See Jake. That’s how you do it.” Jake seemed impressed.
Showing off for my grandson being an obvious objective, I decided to do it again. On this second attempt I took my time, ensuring I achieved maximum height before attempting my second jump of the day. I reached the apex and just like before I jumped out of the swing. Everything was going as planned until my feet hit the ground. My center of gravity must have been skewed in one direction, because when I hit the ground, I immediately lost my balance and fell backwards; onto my rear end, back, and elbows. It’s odd how the falling process seems to take so much longer than it used to; almost as if it’s occurring in slow motion. This time the judges weren’t kind. I saw a few 6’s and one judge even gave me a 4. They must have been a Russian judge. This time Jake wasn’t impressed and Julie was anything but sympathetic; laughing throughout the entire ordeal. “Are you okay honey? Ha, ha, ha.” We decided it was time to go home and began walking back to the house, Jake in the stroller and me walking with a slight limp. I now feel confident that when Jake thinks of me from this day forward, one word will definitely be the first thing that comes to his mind; Knucklehead!