I’m single, divorced. No children, no grandchildren. A quarter-century of special needs students, all of whom I consider “mine,” plus the teens in my church youth group. Not to mention a dog and a cat, whom I consider my family.
On Saturdays, I lead a homeless outreach in Boulder, Colorado—we provide a safe place off the streets and out of the weather, along with a Christian message and music, a high-quality hot meal (our cook is a homeless chef), and fellowship. Over the months, I’ve gotten to know a lot of the regular guests.
Dave is young, with curly hair and sparkling eyes. We chatted chat idly about the menu, and one day he and his girlfriend started volunteering to help man the appetizer table or call names from the clothing distribution list.
Then he said, “You remind me of my grandma! Do you want to do that cheek thing?”
“Grandma always did it! I hated it! Do you want to?”
“I can if you want me to …”
He turned his cheek to me, and I poked it as if making a dimple.
“No! Not like that! You should pinch the cheek! I hate it!” he told me, grinning.
So I gently pinched a fold of his cheek, commenting, “My grandma used to spit on her handkerchief to wash my face.”
“Yeah, that’s gross!”
About half an hour later, he was back, turning his head so his cheek was reachable.
“Wanna do it again?”
So I pinched his cheek again, a bit baffled by the whole exchange.
“Hey, Bianca! This here’s my new grandma!” he called.
“Hi, Grandma!” she responded happily.
We played this game for several weeks. Occasionally I would use both hands, one for each cheek.
“Oh, Grandma! You’re so funny!”
After a few weeks when I didn’t see them (the homeless population is pretty mobile, especially when the weather is fine), Bianca showed up again, alone.
“David’s in jail,” she told me. “He wants his grandma to come visit him.”
O—kay … I suppose that’s in the range of grandma responsibilities … but if this grandma-thing is going to be a real relationship, then I must also have the privilege and responsibility of praying for David and Bianca, keeping track of them after our outreach closes for the summer, and bringing them something fun from my next trip in the RV.
I know my granny loved me … maybe I can pass some of that love on to Bianca and David!
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Elsi Dodge contributed the story “Let them Come” to Grandparenting Through Obstacles. She drives a 30-foot RV in her travels with a beagle and a cat for companions. She is the author of RV Tourist: Tips, Tools, and Stories, a handy guide for those wishing to travel by RV as well as entertaining stories from her own travels. Learn more on her web site at http://www.rvtourist.com/rvtourist.php.