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.
So when I pulled into the driveway and saw my daughter-in-law Wanda’s car, I groaned in despair. I had forgotten it was Bryan’s night.
Since his parents’ separation, 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 – chicken and cranberry sauce – 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. Bryan delighted in all these activities, and so did I. Usually.
Tonight there was no way I could handle it. I was going to have to postpone our evening together until next week. I hugged them both and then explained how badly I was feeling.
“Bryan, honey, I’m sorry,” I said. “Tonight your Grandma Joan isn’t up to any fun and games. Just a nice hot bowl of soup, a lazy hour of TV and then early to bed. We’ll have our night together some other time.”
Bryan’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.”
Bryan was looking up at me solemnly. “I like soup, Grandma.”
My grandmother’s 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 Wanda say, “No, Bryan. Grandma Joan’s too tired tonight. Maybe next week.”
But in Bryan’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.
I hesitated and then tried again. “Just soup and TV, Bryan. No car games on the floor for me tonight, no baking cookies, no books. I probably won’t be awake very long.”
“I like soup,” he repeated.
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 Bryan.”
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, Bryan 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. Bryan was sprawled on the floor, dividing his attention between a coloring book and a television show. I looked at my watch. Nine o’clock. Wanda would be coming to get Bryan soon. Poor boy, what a dull time he must have had.
Bryan 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. Bryan had colored and watched TV. But we were together.
That night I realized something important. Bryan’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.
Bryan 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.
By Joan Cinelli