It’s mid-morning on Saturday and Charlie is on the couch with a remote in one hand and his iphone in the other. He checks his favorite website for the listing of today’s college football games. This is going to be a great day. Games from eleven this morning until midnight. Everyone stay out of my way and leave me alone. Just then the doorbell rings and his wife leaves the kitchen to answer it. It doesn’t take long for Charlie to realize who’s at the front door, when his two grand-kids come running into the room and jump on the couch next to him. Sara is nearly three and her older brother Nathan is five. Charlie feigns enthusiasm as his daughter and wife enter the room. “Oh, hi kids! What are you two doing this fine morning?” “Hi Daddy” his daughter remarks as she bends down to give him a hug.
“What are you two ladies, and the kids, planning for today?”
His wife Judy answers him from the kitchen. “We were thinking about going shopping today, but we have the kids.”
Charlie doesn’t take the bait and pretends like he didn’t hear her. He remains focused on the television while the two little ones wander around looking for something to break. As he watches the pre-game shows, the women plot with muffled voices behind cups of coffee and blueberry scones.
“We really need to go shopping. Christmas is only eight weeks away and I wanted to show you some ideas for the kids. But I don’t feel like dragging them around with us.”
Judy is sympathetic. “I agree, but it’s too late to find a babysitter.”
Hanging around the two women in the kitchen is Nathan, and overhearing their conversation he pipes up, “What about Pops?”
His mother and grandmother look at each other and then break out in uncontrolled laughter. “Pops! Nathan, you are a funny little guy. We’d no more leave you with your grandfather than with a stranger down at the Quick Trip.” The two ladies continue laughing, but eventually the reality sinks in. “Who will we leave the kids with?”
“I know Mom, but Dad is dangerous. He won’t keep an eye on them. They’ll be running around in the street when we get home and Dad will be sitting on his couch, just like he is now.” The two ladies glance into the family room and sigh.
“Ashley, we really don’t have much of a choice. It’s either your father watches them, we drag them along with us, or we stay home.” They finally make up their minds and proceed with the next phase of their plan.
Still sitting on his couch, trying as hard as he can to concentrate on the pre-game blather, Charlie doesn’t realize what, at this very moment, is heading his way. Without warning the two ladies appear on the couch; one on either side.
“Charlie, your daughter and I have a huge favor to ask you.”
Charlie drops the remote and cell phone onto the table and leans back in his seat. “I don’t care what you do or say, I’m not watching these kids. I have games planned for the entire day and I’m not watching these kids.” Thinking he’s put the punctuation mark on this conversation, the remote and iphone are returned to their proper place in each of his hands.
“But Daddy, this is important. Mom and I have to do our Christmas shopping and this is our only chance before Thanksgiving.” Charlie looks into his daughter’s eyes and his defenses begin to deteriorate. Seeing an opening, his daughter continues, “C’mon Daddy. Mom and I will only be gone a couple of hours. And we’ll bring you back a large, turtle Blizzard.” Charlie knows that the two hours of shopping in reality will be eight, but against his better judgment he agrees. “Okay. I’ll watch the two little angels.”
Within minutes, the two women are out the door and down the street; not allowing for anyone to change their minds. Charlie sits on the couch and stares at Nathan and Sara. He can’t help but smile and soon his inner little boy takes over. At halftime of game one I can put them into the stroller and take them down to the park. They have swing sets and slides down there. I can show Nathan how to jump off the swing. This might be fun.
After loading the two little ones into the stroller, Charlie pushes them down the street. He makes sure to point out all the cool things he sees along the way. “Hey kids, look over there at that squirrel. See the walnut in his mouth. It’s almost as big as he is.”
Nathan asks, “Pops, is the squirrel going to eat it?”
Charlie, enjoying the child’s curiosity, answers, “No son. He’ll take it home and eat it later. He has to gather as many of those as he can, because once it gets cold and the snow falls, there won’t be any other food around.”
“Couldn’t the squirrel eat from your bird feeder?”
Charlie laughs. “He already does that, but he can’t count on me all winter. Gathering food for the winter is something that’s been built into him for centuries. All the animals do it. It’s natural.”
Once at the park, Charlie pulls the stroller up to the swing sets and takes Nathan to the swing specially built for little kids. He leaves Sara in the stroller and she’s content to watch the two of them play. After swinging Nathan high enough to elicit a few gasps and giggles, Charlie decides it’s time to show his grandson a few tricks. He mounts one of the “adult” swings and begins pumping back and forth. After reaching a maximum height, Charlie turns to Nathan and says, “Watch me Nathan. And you too Sara. This is how you really have fun.”
The second he leaves the swing, Charlie realizes that this isn’t one of his better ideas, and he begins to lose balance almost immediately. Instead of coming down on two feet, he lands on his right foot, but his body is moving quickly in the direction of the slide and jungle gym. Unable to slow himself and trying to regain his balance, Charlie begins to fall backward. And then the lights go out.
Charlie opens his eyes and the pain at the base of his skull is throbbing. After a minute or two, he begins to regain his bearings and slowly sits up. Looking around, he realizes where he is. The park. Why am I at the park? The kids! Regaining his feet, Charlie rubs his head and tries to remember what he was doing when he went unconscious. He recognizes the stroller over by the swing sets and is relieved to find Sara sitting exactly where she was when he last left her. He removes her from the stroller and gives her a big hug. He then realizes that someone else is missing. Where did I leave Nathan? He looks at the swings and remembers Nathan watching his tricks from the kiddy swing. But he’s not there. Charlie begins to panic. He spins around in a full circle, looking in all directions, but he doesn’t see anyone. “Nathan” he calls out. No reply. He calls again, but silence is the answer. Squatting down in front of the stroller he asks Sara, “Sara, where’s Nathan?” Sara stares at him in return and then giggles.
Alright. Think. How long was I out? Did someone kidnap Nathan? The girls are going to kill me. I may as well kill myself. Where would he have gone. Maybe he went home. Charlie grabs the stroller and quickly pushes Sara home, looking up and down both sides of the street and hoping the girls are gone longer than the two hours they promised.
Arriving home Charlie yells out for Nathan and checks every room in the house. No Nathan. After putting Sara to bed for her nap, he returns to the family room. Sitting on the couch, Charlie is near tears. What am I going to do? When he hears the back door open, Charlie thinks, I’m done. Turning toward the door to meet his fate, he sees, not the women, but instead, Nathan coming toward him with a big grin on his face. Charlie jumps up and grabs his grandson, and hugs and kisses him as if he hasn’t seen him in years. “Where have you been Nathan? I’ve looked all over for you?”
“I was playing hide and seek Pops. Like you taught me. You’ll never guess where I was.”
Charlie laughs and cries at the same time. “No I can’t guess Nathan. Where were you?”
“I was hiding on top of the slide. You walked right by me, but I kept real quiet. It was fun.”
As much as he wants to, he just can’t chastise his grandson. He’d only done what he’d been taught. What a wonderful kid. And what a knucklehead grandfather.
As the ladies enter the house, carrying bag after bag of goodies from the mall, they find a quiet house. Not a good sign. The television is on, but the sound is muted. They find Charlie stretched out on the couch, snoring away. Checking the back bedrooms, both kids are found; sleeping soundly and peacefully.
Judy turns to her daughter and says, “Honey, I think your father is amazing. Just think, we laughed at the thought of him watching the kids.”
Ashley smiles and shakes her head. “I think we’ve found a babysitter Mom.”