The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Leap Day

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It is Leap Day in this Leap Year. That is just what I needed–an extra day. There really is no extra time alloted to us; we have not gained an extra day of life. It is just a day on paper, the attempt to align the rotations of the earth, moon and sun or some such thing with the calendar, a correction to the measurement of time.

It was a wet watery day in western P.A. this morning. That wetness must have lured me into taking photos of moving water. I had to pick up papers at the doctor’s office in Kittanning early this morning. With my grandson strapped into his car seat, I drove out my driveway; but I stopped to watch the geese floating on the gleaming greenish water of our pond. It is often cloudy with orangish, brownish debris floating on its edges from the long ago strip-mining on this land. The rain cleared the pond of that sludge and showed us what we may have once again. My grandson was asleep when we reached the office, but he awoke when we stopped. When we came back to the car, I thought he might fall asleep again with the motion of the car; so I took a detour down Sotos Road stopping at the bottom of the first hill to watch and listen to the flow of the water in this creek. My grandson was asleep again. I drove to the end of that road and turned right. Another right, then left, then left, then right, then left, then right, then left again finally brought me to the bridge crossing over Buffalo Creek and perpendicular to the blockaded road leading to the empty houses of Shadyside Village. I watched the horses loitering near their picnic shelter and swing set in the fenced field along the creek. The water was moving energetically from Worthington flowing beneath the bridge and softening the edges of stones and rocks in its path. I turned right from the bridge and drove along the road parallel to this creek until I reached Main Street. As I reached the beginning of the long hill leading to downtown Worthington, I was faced with the view of the creek running beside the road. The water flowed over and around moss-covered rocks down its path carved between the hills. I pulled off to take a photo. I remembered as a child climbing over these rocks and walking along this creek, sitting on large boulders left by the forces of glaciers passing through. I remembered visiting an abandoned Boy Scout camp on the hillside and hearing the threatening stories of dangerous Copperheads living among the rocks.

This morning my grandson awoke early with his mother–no sleeping in to slowly awaken to the rain hitting the roof and windows. My grandson cried inconsolably when my daughter went to the bathroom to shower. I picked him up, and we went downstairs when all I wanted to do was lay in bed a little longer. I turned on the television; he seems to need the sound of voices. When the box is black and silent, he points to it and brings the remotes to us. I too turn on the television to break the silence and hear the sound of voices. We sat quietly until my daughter came downstairs, then he was up running to the kitchen to be with her. The first few weeks when she put on her coat to leave for college, he cried loudly as he watched her go down the steps. Now he kisses her and waves goodbye without crying. He has become accustomed to her leaving him for those few hours. How easily humans become accustomed to what they must, even at this young age. He has already learned what I have learned; you must be adaptable or constantly unhappy. We sat again for a short time until he climbed off my lap heading for the kitchen. He looked behind as he walked to make sure I was following him. It was time to eat now. We got our food and returned to the living room. When I was a child, eating in the living room was for those special television shows; and those occasions were rare. My mother would place the plate on one of her flowered, metal folding TV tables bought with her books of S&H Green Stamps. Now the living room has become our dining room. I think it all changed when we remodeled our kitchen and replaced the table with an island and two bar stools. Or maybe the change came when Roy and I were left alone to eat.

After eating my grandson was ready to play, running to pick up this toy and that toy. He ran to the sunroom and back to the living room. He brought his truck to turn on the sound. He climbed onto the recliner of the sectional sofa and slid back down. Roy came downstairs looking for his chewing tobacco. He searched his cubbies on each side of his special section of that sectional. He searched through his stash of snack foods and mail. He lifted the footrest to search beneath. My grandson crouched with him to search underneath not knowing what they were looking for. I told my grandson to tell pappy it was time to quit tobacco. Perhaps he is the one who will finally persuade Roy to quit. Roy went back upstairs to find the tobacco; when he came down my grandson was ready to bounce at Roy’s feet. Roy started this bouncing play weeks ago, and it has evolved into my grandson holding Roy’s legs and bouncing up and down. My grandson does all the work and loves it. Each day he has become more daring. Today he stretched his body across the footrests of two sections of the recliner at a 90 degree angle. I called out, “Watch out, you’re going to fall.” He did. He hit nothing and was not hurt. Still, he cried and came to me for comfort. I picked him up, but it was over as quickly as it began. If only I could get my way by crying, I would ‘cry me a river’.

He was soon down from my lap again at a run, chasing the cats who tolerate his many hugs and examination of their paws. Eventually they leave and escape to the solitude of the upstairs bedrooms where they might hide under the bed or sit on top of a bed where he cannot yet reach them. The cats who were once my nightly companions awakening me by leaping on or across my chest or chewing and pawing my hair until I covered my head with the sheet, now spend many nights in the bedroom of my daughter and grandson. I complained about them, but I miss them. Sometimes though they spend the night hunting. A few nights ago, my daughter awoke to a racket in the hallway. She walked out to find them playing with a mouse. She went back to bed, just not ready to deal with the mouse. They are proud of their catch and show off their trophies. Since moving to the country, the pair of them have caught five or six mice and one shrew in our house. My husband wonders how all these small squatters get in. Hopefully they have begun to spread the word that this house is no longer safe for them.

Caleb laughed each time he climbed up and down the sofa. He laughed each time the cat came in the room. He laughed often, and we shared his laughter. Roy commented that our kids never laughed that much. “I don’t know; it’s different,” I said. Grandchildren are just more enjoyable; fun without many of the worries of raising them or without the same types of worries of young parents. Still, it is not as worry-free as my own parents and in-laws enjoyed with our children. I thought of Roy’s comment as I was driving to the doctor’s office a little later. It somehow made me sad to think of his words. I wish that we could have grandchildren first, then our own children.

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