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Last Dispatch from Brooklyn

Grandparenting

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

I’m weepy. My weeks with Mr. Poop-adore end Saturday, and I won’t see him again for two months. Right now, he’s on his play mat. I look at him and smile. His grin reveals he knows precisely what he’s done to my heart.

Early mornings before I get my hands on my Mr. Poop, I read about Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Ferguson—you know, the infernos. And that WTF (?)-horrifying hole in judgment—the nine-year-old girl who accidentally killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi.

Both the deliberately insane decisions and the stupidly unstable choices can be suffocating.

I’ve made a vow to stop whining—about anything in my small personal life. Because of the huge numbers of people who have legitimate reasons to complain, to be outraged, frightened, to become hopeless, depressed. I imagine parents who bear the weight of “The Talk”—with their sons, the necessity of having to list survival rules, saying words like, “Don’t walk in the middle of the street.”

Mr. Poop was unusually fretful yesterday. So much so, I renamed him Mr. Piss Pissedofferson. He’d squirm in my arms, open that perfect little mouth, and wail. I whispered sweet somethings, sang a song I composed years ago to sing to his uncle as I rocked him to sleep: “He was lonesome for his mommy. He was lonesome for his dad. He was lonesome for his grandma.They’re the best friends he ever had.” (The original version with “brother” instead of grandma.)

While I’ve been in Brooklyn, I’ve thought about all the grandparents who are their grandchildren’s caregivers, some only during the day, and others with grandchildren living with them. For many, this is the only option. There could be tragic reasons why—war, any variation of war, any conflict, like domestic abuse. Or illness, death from disease, drug addiction. Here, see this—7 million: the number of grandparents whose grandchildren lived with them in 2010. And that’s just in the U.S.

I sit inside, singing lullabies to Mr. Squealy McSquealerman, whose pissiness has passed. He’s now trying to out-vocalize me. No, that’s inaccurate. I truly believe we’re harmonizing. I want to put him in a bubble. Want to put all the children in a bubble.

Before I forget: I told you I’m a scaredy-cat, acrophobic. I’ve whipped it. Kicked it. I’ve been out on the balcony of this 13th floor apartment to stare at the vastnass of the night sky. There’s so much beauty in the world. And enough ugliness to destroy it. I look up, feeling helpless to change much of anything, but I wish you peace, wish each of you peace. Oh, dear. Spell Check isn’t working. I’m not complaining; just splaining.

Missy Beattie can be reached at missybeat@gmail.com.