The Last Word

The Last Word
Let me tell you about TylerIndulging in the Unmitigated Joy of Bragging on My Grandson

By Chuck Bowen 

I have to admit that the gregarious, full-tilt playtime activities of the boys north of the Mason-Dixon Line likely are no less boisterous than those down here in the deep, deep South. Still, we like to think that our youngsters are faster, stronger, more skillful – and smarter, to boot. (It’s the old Rebel residue, I guess.)

Also, there’s another factor in play here. No hack wordsmith ever should be tempted to take on any subject that nestles too close to the heart. Otherwise, the adjectives and verbs invariably shoot off into some soft, sweet literary otherworld that only grandparents understand.

You were warned; indulge me.

First, if our Tyler is a normal example, 7-year-olds have absolutely boundless energy. We’re talking around-the-world-and-back-again, blast-off-into-space, kinetic lightning energy. He has been known to play two official soccer games, swim an hour or so, play some basketball and then ask someone to play pitch before supper. (It’s commonplace for him to score most or even all of the goals for his soccer team.)

This little dynamo spent his first six years on Capitol Hill, but now is a large-for-his-age second-grader at Hawks Rise Elementary. Naturally, he wasn’t too pleased to leave his D.C. friends, but his outgoing nature and straight-A work ethic quickly endeared him to his new classmates.

Let’s talk brains. His classmates had a chess tourney. (Second-graders playing chess? Have mercy! My old cranium is taxed to the limit by a casual game of Scrabble.) You probably know where this story is going.

Of course Tyler won the class championship, but the story doesn’t end there. Shortly after his victory, he and his mother came to see us in South Georgia, and we visited a local coffee shop with a chessboard on prominent display.

“If anyone wants to play chess, my grandson’s ready,” I announced to the small crowd as we entered.

The shop owner’s kid – a 13-year-old – took the challenge. Before we adults could finish our hot chocolate, Tyler casually strolled to our table, smiled that bigger-than-life grin and announced, “I smoked ’em.”

Back in school, the agreement had been that the student chess winner would play the teacher. My grandson summarized the results this way: “I won, but it took a long time – probably 25 minutes.”

Recently, grandparents were invited to lunch at Hawks Rise. My wife’s intuition indicated that Tyler would enjoy it more if we made it a “boys only” occasion, so I lined up for my complimentary tickets and then was directed to the cafeteria. “T-Man,” as his Mom calls him, joined me immediately. I exchanged a few pleasantries with another boy’s grandmother while the boys discussed – what else? – sports.

Picture-taking was optional, but Tyler agreed we would like a memento of the occasion. The professional photographer insisted on “posing” us in a semi-snuggle, and my hug-resistant grandson, surprisingly, didn’t protest.

The schedule then called for a short kickball game before returning to the classroom. The teacher had not yet arrived when we reached the play area, so Tyler proceeded to arrange the bases and then cavort joyously about the field with the other guys.

The teacher “pitched” for both teams and T-Man settled in defensively at shortstop (if, indeed, that’s what they call the position in kickball). He treated his Poppy to a nice catch, some learned footwork stopping grounders, and a strong kick to score a run.

My daughter had suggested that, given the opportunity, I should teach Tyler’s  class one of the dozens of funny songs I recall from pre-TV days. She warned that he wouldn’t be overtly enthusiastic (one must be “cool” at all times), but that secretly he would be pleased. Once back in the classroom, his teacher,  Mr. Weideman, approved, and I received what I gauged to be a better-than-average reception for Phil Harris’ “The Thing,” with the kids providing the three staccato hand claps at the strategic places in the old song.

My wife and daughter arrived as I  finished the last stanza. They announced that they would “get this crazy man out of here before he subjects the class to any more punishment.”

As we exited waving and thanking the class and Mr. Weideman for their courtesy, Tyler glanced our way and casually lifted his hand – in a cool manner, of course.

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