There’s no deeper joy a grandfather experiences than the joy he gets when his granddaughter hops into his lap and whispers, "Sing me a song, grandpa."
I’VE SEARCHED MY memory bank over and over and I’ve finally come to the conclusion there’s no deeper joy a grandfather experiences than the joy he gets when a wee, small, three-year-old, blonde-haired girl – one with the deepest blue eyes you’ve ever seen – looks innocently at you and, in a tiny gentle voice, whispers, “Grandpa, can I sit on your lap?”
To say your heart leaps with joy would be an understatement. You’re tempted to play with her and ask, “Why?” You’re tempted to say, “Not now, dear. Grandpa has to finish his taxes!” You’re tempted to give every lame excuse in the book to satisfy her mind that some other time would be better. Especially if you’ve been reading the sports section of the daily paper or watching the Tribe on the tube.
But you quickly realize Uncle Sam’s taxes can wait and even a Tribe victory could never duplicate your joy. Besides, the ball scores will still be there long after the grand kids have gone home and to ignore this precious bundle of joy, a “not now” answer just isn’t good enough.
You gaze into those big, blue, innocent eyes of a young child that carries your very own genes and you melt. And your own mind asks the question, “How is it possible for a 32-pound child to conquer the heart a grown man who has withstood almost all the harsh conditions, hard times and physical maladies thrown his way that life has to offer?”
You ponder this for the split of a nano-second and then, satisfied there is no logical answer hiding anywhere among the nooks and crannies of your gray matter, you hold your outstretch arms her way and say, “Li’l Ella, Grandpa would be thrilled if you sat with him on his lap. One, two three, jump!”
Until then, a concerned look of doubt covered her face, but suddenly her eyes lit up like a 10,000 candle powered searchlight and she immediately beams your way with an agreeable smile, crouches down and jumps, landing perfectly – smack dab – in the middle of your lap like a space shuttle at Cape Canaveral. Whether or not it hurts, you say nothing. Just having this precious little girl think you’re so important in her life that she asks to sit on your lap is all the reward you need and, if there is any pain from that jump, it’s never felt.
“Now what would you have Grandpa do?” you ask, even though you know the answer. After all, years earlier you’ve gone a similar route with your other grandchildren and have the outcome nearly memorized.
“Sing me a song, Grandpa,” this tiny voice that you can barely hear, asks.
Page 2 of 3 - From past experience I know my grand kids love songs with goofy, nonsensical lyrics. As a matter be the fact, the goofier, the better. Whether they get that from me still remains to be determined.
“Sing a song?” I ask. I repeat it in a surprised tone, pretending this is so new to me she caught me completely off guard. “A song?” I ask again. “What song would “Li’l Ella Marie want Grandpa to sing? Ol’ Mr. Froggy?”
She shakes her head ‘No’ and, in an almost whispered tone, says, “The spaghetti song. Sing the spaghetti song.”
By this time, everyone in the room has hushed their conversations and are watching every move this wee child is making as she cajoles her Grandpa into singing.
“What makes you think I know a spaghetti song?” I ask. “Grandpa doesn’t think he knows a spaghetti song. What spaghetti song are you talking about.”
Becoming somewhat annoyed as I play with her mind with what she may consider to be grandfatherly nonsense, she turns her face my way and whispers, “You know. The one with the cheese on top.”
“Oh! Okay! Now let’s see,” I say, “the one with the cheese on top? Hmm! I’ll tell you what, you sing the first few words so Grandpa knows which one you’re talking about, that way he won’t sing the wrong song.”
“The one where my meatball rolls out the door and grows into a tree,” she answers.
The rest of the company is watching attentively, holding back snickers and wanting in the worst way to remind me that this small child has my number. My wife, Peggy, unobserved by others, but making sure she’s in my direct line of sight, shakes her head as if to say, “Don’t blow it now, Frank. You know what song she’s talking about. Just sing it.”
“On top of spaghetti,” I start out, and a bigger smile than before beams across this three year old child’s face, “all covered with cheese; I lost my poor meatball, when Li’l Ella sneezed.”
The smile becomes wider as she hears her name and when I sing about the meatball rolling out the door, into the garden and under a bush before turning into red mush, she giggles with the glee only a child is capable of making. Between applauding, her one hand is directing me as she, herself, contributes a few words to the song that by now she has pretty well memorized.
Now, I’m at the part where the red mush turns into a tree the next summer and on it grow meatballs and tomato sauce. She openly laughs at this silly song picturing her meatballs growing on a tree. And for the grand finale I sing: “So if you eat spaghetti, all covered with cheese, hang onto your meatball when Li’l Ella sneezes.”
Page 3 of 3 - The whole gang applauds, Li’l Ella applauds, Anna May applauds and as I look down, I see our latest grandchild, 27-month-old Wee Li’l Mia, imitating all the rest while giggling.
Li’l Ella, still content to sit on my lap, turns my head her way with her tiny hands and in her small soft voice, whispers, “Sing another one, Grandpa.”
“Another one?” I ask, feigning a surprised look. “Grandpa doesn’t know any other ones.”
“Yes you do,” she answers adamantly with her hands positioned on her hips. “Sing the one that goes, oo ee oo ah,” she suggests. And in the split of a second, remembering the goofier the lyrics, the better they like the song, I start once again, this time on the 1950’s hit, “The Witch Doctor.” And this twice mended heart of mine fills with life’s contentment and joy as she rests her head against my shoulder and sings along, “Oo ee oo ah, ting tang walla bing bang…”
As the wife listens she mutters, “You sound like a wounded frog croaking for help,” and Li’l Ella suddenly stops me, turns my head her way and whispers, “Don’t forget, Grandpa, we still have to sing ‘Ol’ Mr. Froggy!’”
Isn’t Grand parenthood wonderful?
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