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Visits with Little Alex

The first time I met my great-grandson, Alexander William, was in the summer of ’09. He was about 2 months old, with blue eyes and a mop of bright red hair.

I loved watching the reaction of strangers to that red hair as I pushed him in his perambulator. That was a brief visit, however. Alex and his mom and dad live in faraway Virginia. I didn’t see him again until the next summer at a family reunion. By that time he was walking about with quick steps like a little robot, and we nicknamed him Energizer Bunny because he never stopped.

When he was 2, little Alex came with his parents to visit us at our retirement home, Mary’s Woods. We had lunch together in the bistro. On the shelf next to our table was a small locomotive engine with a caboose attached. Throughout the meal Alex played with the little train on the tabletop. When lunch was over, we invited the family to continue their visit in our apartment. To keep little Alex amused, I let him carry the train along.

For about an hour he was content to run the train and its caboose on a bench in our living room. The trouble started when it came time to leave. The toddler simply could not understand that the train did not belong to him. He wailed loud and long when the little train was returned to the bistro shelf. What kind of a grandmother would take a toy away from a youngster?

In remorse for such cruelty I sent him books and toy stories about trains and other train paraphernalia for his birthdays and at Christmas time. His dad erected a little train set in the living room. Little Alex had decided to be a locomotive engineer when he grew up.

Alex was in town again last week, accompanying his folks on the occasion of a wedding reception in the family. He has grown into an active 4-year-old. I was disappointed to discover that his red hair was shorn close to his scalp, in imitation of his dad, who works for the U.S. armed services.

At the reception I discovered that Alex has changed his mind about becoming an engineer. He now aspires to be a marine biologist, specializing in sharks. Talk about an about-face! Alex is taking swimming lessons to further his new career choice. He’s determined, however, not to submerge his face under water until he’s fully grown. (That always was the hard part about learning to swim.)

We were delighted when Alex’s folks asked at a Sunday morning brunch if they could visit us at Mary’s Woods that afternoon, but I knew I had to get cracking. Though I had a puzzle saved in the event of such an occasion there was no time to shop for toys or books. Where to find something — anything — about sharks?

I remembered passing a cocktail table-size nature book about marine life in the seldom used bookshelves on the far side of the bistro. Eureka! It was still there, languishing on a shelf, and I scanned through it quickly. Yes, a few pages about sharks, but what else could I find? My eyes shifted to the volumes of “National Geographic” on the same shelves, each with its contents exposed in tiny print on the binding. Good luck again! I chose two magazines which explicitly named sharks.

The trio arrived in late afternoon. Our get-together started off badly when Alex informed me succinctly, but politely, “I do not like pretzels.” (I thought all kids liked pretzels.) He did accept another type of cracker, but the Pepsi we offered was a mistake since it definitely heightened his over-activity. Ah, well! He is a delightful child and appreciated the shark pictures, though his attention span was brief.

I believe he will make an excellent marine biologist, but I’m not counting on that as a final career choice. As the family was leaving, I walked them toward the Provincial House exit. Passing the bistro, Alex suddenly darted in to search for the toy train I had taken from him two years ago. To his disappointment and to my relief, it is gone.

Audrey McConachie-Byers is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.




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