Grandsons to grand men

Posted: January 17, 2013

They rush into the house escaping a cold wind outside - and suddenly, it feels like a hurricane inside, too.

Three of our four grandsons are now teens - two brothers, one cousin. They seem to take up the entire foyer space in our house. They also seem to suck up all the oxygen.

And wow, are they tall!

I stretch up my arms and barely reach a neck - granted, I am only 5-foot-1. But when I finally get to a cheek, I feel a rough patch. Stubble?

Sam, Jonah, and Zay shave. And they laugh uproariously at my shock. Sam, the oldest, reminds me that he started shaving a year ago. Jonah and Zay allow that for them, the razor has been a more recent acquisition.

Now these giants announce that they're hungry, even though they had lunch an hour ago. But like big cars, these big guys need constant refueling. So I get to work.

They sprawl on the kitchen chairs and watch me make epic quantities of macaroni and cheese, their voices shockingly deep, and their humor surprisingly sophisticated.

These boy-men are allowing me microimages of who they will be a few years from now, and I'm still amazed. That's because I remember holding each of them close to my heart, rocking each to sleep on their fussy days, and cheering as each tiny boy took his first step in my presence.

Where are those adorable little bandits in overalls now? Vanished!

Before grandsons, my only proficient language was "girl." I spoke it fluently as a daughter, sister, and mother. I could talk of jean cuts, eyeliner, and how to heal a broken heart. The femaleness was so familiar and natural.

But for the last 17 years, starting with Sam's birth - one heralded as if a future king had arrived - I started to actually speak, and understand, "boy."

I learned that boys moved like greased lightning even when they crawled, that their tolerance for sitting quietly in a car was extremely limited, and that around 14 they started speaking in monosyllables. Then they returned to words, sentences, and yes, even paragraphs.

I learned that little boys in socks turned hallways into skating rinks, and that they wrestled like they meant it, even when they didn't. It was, I was told, a way of expressing affection. Who knew?

I also understand now that Sam, Zay, and Jonah are far more interested in examining Grandpa's vintage car for hours than they are in shopping for anything considered clothing.

And my oh my, have I learned that at least most of the time, they are free of the diva-drama of girls. We've just been through a prolonged ear-piercing siege with granddaughter Emily, 10, who insisted that not only did she want her ears pierced but she desperately needed them to be. And she got her way.

No such rants from her male cousins.

But there are glimmers of peacock syndrome beginning. I recently detected a whiff of aftershave - subtle, but there. That's when I also realized the era of "Did you wash your neck?" is behind us.

These days, I eavesdrop shamelessly as our grandsons talk of subjects their mothers - my daughters - never did.

Bodybuilding is one area of concentration. The Giants are another - two of the three are North Jerseyites, and the local guy inherited Giants loyalty from his father. They also spar about the relative merits of certain video games, and, of course, who said what on Facebook.

But when the subject of girls comes up, they lower their voices so they're inaudible. My best efforts to spy are foiled.

So I never ask these guys about romances - or, in fact, about specific feelings. That just doesn't work. But I listen for nuances under those male news blackouts.

Who knows what will come next?

With some wistfulness, I think I can guess.

Sam is spending a school vacation looking at colleges, and Zay is not far behind. Jonah will follow in no time.

Yes, before too long, these grandsons will be taking off for that chapter of their lives, and it will happen before their grandparents are ready.

But for now, they are delightful companions, still occasionally eating our food, sprawling out on our furniture, and most of the time shedding their huge sneakers as they offer running commentaries on sporting events or, more often now, world events, too.

And on good days, when no one's looking, they allow me to hug them, no matter how high my arms need to reach.

They are the delayed pleasure of the sons I never had, the bonus boys inexorably approaching manhood.

What a wondrous journey for them, and for me.

Sally Friedman can be reached at

comments powered by Disqus