When I sign onto my e-mail every day, I usually see about 20 new messages: four or five forwards from relatives and old friends gagging on the latest misbehavior in our nation’s capital or sending along the appropriate joke about it; four or five from companies from which I’ve ordered shoes or e-books or booked cruises or other travel; four or five that want to give me my credit rating, enroll me in on-line colleges, help me make money at home; and four or five containing beautiful or amazing pictures and/or inspirational lines, and occasional wit from the likes of Maxine and more funny foolishness aimed at the elderly.
The other four or five — am I keeping this count straight? — are from people who’d like to make some money off a gullible senior, with frequent notifications from a “lawyer” that I’m mentioned in the will of one of his clients to the tune of $3.7 million and from “my Internet server” to the effect that if I don’t quickly part with some pertinent information my account will be closed. Or “shorted down,” which indicates that the sender isn’t very fluent in my native tongue.
I enjoy the category 3 e-mails most: Photos of an intriguing trio of 56-story buildings with a connecting garden, pools and restaurants across their tops piqued my interest and resulted in an awed visit to them on a recent trip to Singapore. And, more important, while I mostly yawned through a slide show of blooming cacti, I woke up fast when this accompanying message appeared on the screen of my PC: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”
It was a bingo for me, right between the eyes, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors.
I’ve been blue — as Mama used to say — this year because it’s a pivotal one in the lives of our grandsons; exciting for them, a major and depressing change in our relationships for me.
Some of you have been there — big guy goes off to college, and little guy is going into high school and now also has more fish to fry than traipsing down to grandma’s house for an afternoon of talk with cookies and root beer.
Several of my friends see their grandchildren only four or five times a year; ours have lived down the street, just three or four blocks away. At retirement 13 years ago, when they were 3 and 5, I became a fulltime grandma, taking them to nursery school, on wild outings in the park behind our homes, to the east bank to ride the streetcars, to movies … you get the idea. If my husband and I went out of town for a few days, I sent them postcards.
We went to Burger King for breakfasts, did Disneyworld, rode the bike trail near our weekend house in Abita Springs, waded in whichever of “the three rivers” flows past the bandstand in the park there. We talked about God and the theory of reincarnation and how girls are superior to boys (I pointed out that I am one, to their surprise) and the little one and I pretended the big one was a doctor and was SHRIEK! trying to give us a flu shot.
When a birthday fell on a weekday, I decorated my car to take them to school and sometimes — unknown to their mother — let them split a Sprite on the way there. We ran from the honking geese in the park — they were taller than my little grandson — and we dined on squid in Oriental restaurants and on other favorites like fried oyster po-boys and tacos.
I watched them get merit badges at Scout meetings, and entertained their friends at sleepovers. We went to sno-ball stands, to the Riverwalk, and to the carousel at City Park, and drove up to Tennessee for the first years of summer camp.
We’ve had a fabulous time — I, of course, remember much more of it than they do — but times are changing. I’m determined not to cry because it’s over, but to smile because it happened.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at email@example.com.