Ah, summer — which can’t be ruined even by rampant military-style weapons in the hands of the egregiously aggrieved, a Supremely Elitist Court in the hands of the egregiously aggrieved, weekly testimony about the Capitol building and the previous White House in the hands of the egregiously aggrieved.

Summer, when it isn’t in the hands of egregiously aggrieved Mother Nature, is a refuge from the insanity of a country and a world at war with itself. My sanity sanctuary is my weekly day with my grandsons. When school is out, I have the luxury of longer, more leisurely visits. They just finished second grade, have joined a swim team, and by now are on their fourth Harry Potter book (a group read with Mom each night before bedtime).

Summertime allows the relatively unscheduled inner child to make his presence felt. In the back seat, as we drive to Morton Arboretum, Tyler uses old-fashioned phrases like “I beg of you” (where did he come across the archaic “of you”?) and shows dramatic flair when he says (about the latest revolting development), “That would be tragical!”

Recently, as they held a secret planning session (within earshot) for a collection of extremely involved pranks they’re planning to pull (I believe they’re writing a how-to book), Tyler says, with a mischievous smile, “I can’t tell you. Let’s just say it involves bean burritos!” Ooh, that can’t be good.

In addition to the tragical, we also touch on matters philosophical.

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Bryce asks one day.

“That’s a tough one,” I say. “You can’t have a chicken without an egg, and you can’t have an egg without a chicken.” Wisely, I fall back on a tried-and-true grandparent maneuver.

“What do you think?”

“I think chickens evolved from dinosaurs,” Bryce says with authority.

“You’re on the right track, Bryce,” I say encouragingly, “but it’s a long way from a dinosaur to a chicken.”

“I think they evolved from a monkey,” Tyler says. “Just like us.”

“Interesting,” I say, “but how could both people and chickens evolve from monkeys?”

“God — he uses magic,” Bryce replies confidently.

And with that we resolve the age-old divide between science and religion.

Last week on the way to the car, I overheard the following exchange:

Tyler: “When did you start finishing my …”

Bryce: “sentences?”

Can I get a rimshot? These two are ready to take their act on the road!

The boys recently broadened my cultural education by urging me to read the Harry Potter books, so we can talk about them. Somehow, I managed to reach the age of 70 without sampling any of the books — or seeing a single Harry Potter movie. So I have some catching up to do. I’m halfway through book one. What a fascinating world J.K. Rowling has imagined. In our first discussion, I mention the Diagon Alley shopping district.

Bryce said, “You mean Diagonally?”

“Hey, wait a second, I’m the one who points out the puns!” (How did I miss that one?)

Hogwarts (what a name for an institution of higher/lower learning — or is it another pun?! Warthogs?) is a curious blend of darkness and light. Like our world, come to think of it. I found myself feeling surprisingly comfortable with it in a very short time. And the school song captures the essence of navigating a world that intermingles the dark and the light:

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot,
Just do your best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.

Sounds like a summation of the grandfather/grandsons relationship — all are teachers and all are students.

But there is one place in our world where darkness is minimized and light rules: summer afternoons in the backyard. I bought the boys a new slip’n’slide, set a chair in the shade, and watch them fling themselves headlong down the slick wet surface — or create a fox den with towels and chairs on the deck — or pile into the hammock and re-enact their days in the gestational womb.

As we inspect the garden, I ask if they would like to be a bee, flying from flower to flower spreading pollen and gathering nectar to make honey even though it looks like hard work.

“I’m the King Bee,” Tyler proclaims, “even if there is no such thing.”

Summer afternoon in the backyard is the grand and glorious Now, an eco-system in harmonious balance under a spreading silver maple, serenaded by songbirds, whisked by welcome winds, an endless sermon on the goodness of living. Add a popsicle and maybe a squirt-gun fight or water balloons and you’ve got a prescription for sanity.

May it never end.

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