When Rahul was born and we were still in the nursing-home, both his grandfathers did the same sweet thing, albeit separately. Both came to visit during a fairly quiet time, and they came without their families. They pulled up the chair next to my bed, positioned themselves next to their precious bundle, and stared at him with adoration. Completely ignoring me, in fact, they almost had their backs to me, both of them.
But when I saw the look in their eyes I couldn't complain. That look I saw in my father-in-law's eyes is pretty much what kept me going all the months afterwards, when I wanted to give in, stomp my feet and declare that R need not have anything to do with his paternal grandparents. When I remembered that look, I knew it was not a lack of love for him that kept them from calling us. And when I remembered how each grandfather had sat, rapt, quiet, for quite a long time, then I couldn't very well let my ego come in the way of mending bridges either. For there were bridges to mend on both sides. My father and I have some terrible fights from time to time, and each time I promise myself that I will walk away and never go back to him. Unfortunately, it's no longer about me, is it? It's also about a son-in-law they have welcomed into their lives, a grandson who makes their whole day brighter.
We all know that grandparents are not parents. That to them, grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your children. But it was only when I had a child of my own that I truly began to understand how important a person's grandchild is to him/her. It's the culmination of their lives in a way. It's a reward not just for putting up with your children, but also for all the hardships you went through, the sacrifices you made. It's a chance to not make the mistakes you made with your children. It's the chance to love someone unconditionally, and get that same, all-encompassing, all-forgiving, unconditional love back. It's their chance to pass on their knowledge -- when their children were young they didn't have the time, but they do now.
And it amazes me how The Bhablet is never far from their thoughts. They are in the habit of picking up random toys or funny things just because it reminded them of him or they thought that he would like it. They positively enjoy him breaking these toys because it gives them a chance to buy some more. To their credit, they hardly ever buy him anything very expensive. But they also keep him in mind in other ways. My father rushes home after a long day's work, picks up my mother and drives through heavy traffic to battle the crowds in a mall because I mentioned that a certain store there stocks these diapers which suit R. My father-in-law goes to Bhutan on work and brings back a tin of mango juice ostensibly for us, but really so that his grandson can have a taste. My mother-in-law worries that we don't feed him the fish that is vital for his brains to grow and insists on sending him a fish curry every day. (I don't know how far the brains are being helped though -- my belief is that any good the fish does is immediately challenged by the addling his brains get from his head being banged all over the place.)
My father the confirmed male chauvinist actually takes pride in changing R's diapers, even the potty ones. My mother knows all the kids' stores in Madras by now and has gone through their entire stocks looking for funny things to dress R in, to amuse him with, to bring his grin out. I believe that of the four, she is the one who misses him the most and hides it the best. She looked after him for his first three months and then for a month this summer. That does create a bond.
It helps me deal with all four parents when I think of how they treat their grandson. It's easier to remember their good points then.
To them, he is this wonderful little boy:
(This photograph was taken by my father when R was seven months old.)