Perhaps I am projecting … But he looked old, and his body was bending over. His hair was completely white. With his legs permanently creased at the knees he wasn’t as tall as he used to be. Maybe he was bent because he did not want to lose his grip on the little hand of the child next to him.
He was dropping the boy off to Day Care and I am assuming he was a grandfather. I only watched him for a moment or two as I had just fulfilled the task of delivering my charge safely to the confines of her classroom. I was close enough to see some detail, but far enough away as to be unobtrusive.
The protocol for entrance into this Day Care is first to swipe your hand across a screen that makes a keypad appear. After the hand swipe you have to enter your code into the keypad. If you pass the hand-swipe and you know the code the door will unlock. Otherwise you have to ring a bell that hangs off to the side. I don’t mean a doorbell; I mean the kind of bell folks would use to summon the family inside for dinner. It’s a bit loud, and it doesn’t always work for you. If someone isn’t standing right there on the other side of the door, they won’t hear the bell. And that bell – I’ve had to use it before – it seems to proclaim that you are not a “regular”.
Don’t get me wrong. Once inside people are incredibly friendly. But I watched as the elderly man rang that bell. I could hear it loud and clear from where I had positioned myself. And all the while, he did not let up on his grip of the child’s hand.
More and more grandparents are stepping up to the plate and providing care for their grandchildren. I’m not talking about the occasional night of babysitting so the parents can get away for supper. I’m talking about providing what amounts to the main source of stability for the little ones among us. For what seems to be an increasing number of children the choice is between the grandparents, some form of “Kinship Care“, or it’s DCF.
I was recently listening to some parents who were talking about being tired. Some mention was made of how demanding – and exhausting – it can be to be a parent. Listening to them talk reminded me of another conversation from years ago. I was getting the info second-hand from m mother about a conversation she had had with her mother back when we were little ones. As we were growing up my mother found herself worrying more rather than less about her children. So she asked her own mother:”Mom, when does the worrying end?”Her mother’s reply was quick and succinct. “You stop worrying about your children,” she said, “when you die. The worry doesn’t end until you die, Dear.”
Almost 5 million children live in households headed by a grandparent. For over two and a half million children a grandparent is the primary caregiver. (Grandparents Stepping In)
Seeing the man and the child reminded me of another snapshot from earlier in my life – Dr. Harrell Beck was my adviser at Boston University School of Theology. He was an older man when I knew him with hair and beard a color between grey and white. He was like a grandfather to his students. He had high expectations that was balanced by a large capacity for love. His field of expertise was the Hebrew Bible; but he was incredibly conscious of the fact that he was lecturing to many a future church pastor. His voice was somewhat muted, but it could make up in intensity what it lacked in volume. I remember him looking hard at us during one particular lecture. He was discussing what it meant to be “family” within the tribal structure of ancient Israel.
“You church pastors,” he said … “You need to remember this and you need to constantly remind your people of this: The children have a home. That’s true. They have a mom and a dad. But don’t ever let your church people forget this: The children belong to all of us.”
Bless the beasts and the children … and all those who care for them. Whether we are a parent or not, the children belong to all of us. It’s a responsibility and a blessing that doesn’t end until we die.