Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 27, 2005


The calm returns after the 3-Ring Circus leaves town


          Our home is rather large for only Grandma and me. Like many folks we often think about downsizing now that the kids are gone. We waste money heating and cooling space we do not need.

          Are we then moving to a smaller place? Not a chance. This place is home to us. We built the original cabin in 1960 and have added on for 45 years. So we are here to stay. My friend Mary Wise once gave me the perfect response to anyone who asks if we may move somewhere else: “I am staying right here until they take me out with my toes pointed up!”

           That is the plan now. I realize it could change. One or both of us one day may need the care that only a nursing home can provide. If that day comes, we will adjust and move on. Nothing but the love of God remains the same. Still we will not deny ourselves the peace that hope provides. If we stop hoping, we might as well be dead.

          The truth is, there are a few days every year when our home seems not quite big enough. That is when the great grandchildren come to visit. They quickly relieve Grandma and me of feeling lonely.

          Last week for awhile it seemed none of the family was coming to stay with us and enjoy Thanksgiving. Then Clair called. She and Matt were coming on Wednesday with their three fine boys in tow – Tyler, 7; Walker Dean, 5; and John Alex, 2. We were delighted. On Wednesday we kept asking, “When will they get here?”

          Finally they arrived. Within minutes I remembered what I learned when we were raising four small boys: Boys that age are a 3-ring circus! Each one is cute as a button but at the same time committed to rearranging everything in the house.

          In no more than an hour’s time half of our possessions were scattered on the floor. Dominoes are not fun to step on. Grandma’s fragile angels, so easily broken, were flying around the house. Actually that is one way we gauge the visits of these boys: How many angels had a broken wing when the boys left for home? And how many magnets no longer adorned the refrigerator door?

          Where is the remote for the television? Oh, here it is – under the couch. My comb is missing from my bathroom. Oh, there it is – on the floor in the den. Why it is so cold in the house? Oh, the front door is open. My dad would have lamented: “Somebody left the barn door open!”

          What is that yellow stuff in the chair? It looks like butter. I pray that it is as I look for more butter in strange places. And what is that dark lump beside the chair. Inspection reveals it to be a bit of link sausage, chewed and discarded. How did the little rascal know that sausage would raise his cholesterol level? These kids are brilliant.

          Shoes and socks are everywhere. Boys are allergic to shoes and socks. Everyone should know that. I counted them – eight pairs of shoes and a wild assortment of socks scattered about. But I dared not complain; I noticed that two pairs were Grandma’s and one pair was my own! I smiled, concluding that kicking shoes off is contagious.

          Breakfast was a blast. Scrambled eggs, link sausage, hot rolls with butter and honey, and hot chocolate for the children. For the most part the sausage was spurned. Everyone enjoyed the eggs. I learned again the importance of praise. I commended Tyler, the oldest, for being a good example by eating his eggs. He ate two more helpings, obviously proud to be a leader.

          We were into the second day before the naughty question formed in my mind: When are they going home? I never asked it, but I confess that I did wonder. The joy and stress of having little children under your feet reminds me again how smart God really is. Except for Abraham and Sarah, he lets young parents raise babies. That job is simply too much for old folks.

          Clair and Matt are wonderful parents. Their patient gentleness is beyond belief. They teach the kids to behave without beating them with a stick. Then even teach them to respect their elders and to remain at the table until the meal is finished. That in itself is a minor miracle.

          When they finally leave for home, the calm returns to our big old house. In those hours my memory plays tricks on my aging mind. I soon forget the ways they got on my nerves. I remember Tyler climbing into our bed at 5 o’clock in the morning and going back to sleep.

          I remember Walker Dean asking me to let him help me put a log on the fire. He wanted to help granddad. And I remember John Alex crawling into my lap and letting me give him his bottle of milk. He was at peace in my arms and that made me feel so good. Best of all, the next morning when he walked into the kitchen and saw me, he smiled and said, “Papa.” Two-year-olds may be terrible sometimes but they are also able to touch your heart in deep places. In those moments you rejoice to be alive and be blessed by the sweet innocence of a child that loves you.

          Once again the circus has left town. Thanksgiving is over, the kids have returned home, and the calm has returned. But I find myself already hoping they will come back for Christmas – a least for a couple of days! Old folks may complain but they need a circus now and then. + + + +