Memory and other delivery systems

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility.

William Wordsworth

Humor is emotional chaos recollected in tranquility.

James Thurber


'Bryce, don't suck my blood!" 

When this is the first thing a grandfather hears from inside the bathroom where he sits, momentarily indisposed, he knows it's going to be a long (but interesting) day.

The second thing he realizes is that, somehow, his 5½-year-old twin grandsons have already become familiar with vampires. 

Useful information for later when Tyler, at lunch, suddenly announces, "I'm a butter monster!" shortly followed by "An alien ate my eyes!"

I ask him, "Did you hear that somewhere?"

"No, I made it up."

I was afraid he'd say that. This is what comes of playing too much Ghostbusters in the morning.

The Orkin Pest Control man pays a visit and sprays under the sinks, which, of course, fascinates them even though they're hiding behind my legs. The ensuing conversation about this (I can't remember how) leads to the following pronouncement by Bryce: "Special people don't die."

You mean in movies? Because in life, everyone is special. And everyone dies. 

But that's not useful information — not yet anyway.

Recently, I attended a memorial service, where one of the eulogizers recalled the dearly departed, an epicurean and all-around lover of life, as someone "who looked at bread as a delivery system for butter." If memory keeps people alive after they're gone, then Rich will live on every time I encounter, or think of, butter. 

Which will also remind me of Tyler the butter monster. 

Lunch went well, by the way. On their request, I made "bacon with pasta," the latter serving as a delivery system for the former — as well as for butter. 

The boys like it so much, they have two "helpings," which is a nice old-fashioned term for "seconds." I tell them how much I, too, like it, if I do say so myself, and Bryce says, "You really like it because you're having it with us."

Why that's true, I say. I can't imagine anything better than being right here, right now, sharing this meal — except maybe giving Tyler a ride on my shoulders, with Bryce straddling Dad's, at the zoo on a sunny spring day, which we did the week before.

These shoulder rides won't last much longer because the boys are getting heavy. But it's a grand tradition nonetheless and will live on as long as any of us remember.

I also like the tradition where they slide their hands in mine as we make our rounds, checking on the general welfare of golden lion tamarinds, gibbons, squirrel monkeys, the solitary orangutan, the Gorilla family, the cloud leopard, sea lions, the beak-agape bellowing of a penguin, dolphins, giraffes, polar bears, bison (OK, Bryce, buffalo), the endangered rhino rolling in the dust after a shower, and the panhandling peahen and Guinea fowl around our feet at the picnic table. Zoos are a delivery system for the animal world, what's left of it.

Holding hands won't last forever either, but I will remember the feeling. Hands are a delivery system for emotional security.

Bryce's favorite number is "100 thousand million," as in, "What if there were 100 thousand million screaming penguins?" which is consistent with his current penchant for excess, such as getting excessively wound up during playtime at my place. What begins as happy exuberance can spiral out of control and before you know it, he's trying to suck Tyler's blood while I'm in the bathroom. That forces me to draw the line, which doesn't always have the desired effect, but it does let him know there is a line to be drawn.

Useful information for future reference.

So we're working on learning to throttle down whenever my "out of control" red flag goes up.

Useful skill. Let's hope. It helps to redirect by reading a book — books being a delivery system for settling down.

In the afternoon, we prepare for our weekly visit to see Grandma, which involves picking up the 100 thousand million pieces of play-abilia that have been remarkably well distributed throughout the learning laboratory formerly known as my apartment.

Another useful skill, still evolving.

A visit to Geppetto's Toybox is dangled as an incentive. Toy lust has been known to overcome chore aversion. On this day, it works.

As Bryce puts on his shoes, Tyler picks up the piano horn (looks like a clarinet with piano keys, obtained recently from the aforementioned toy-lust emporium). He blows a respectably loud fanfare out the window.

Me: Tyler, are you announcing our departure to the neighborhood?

Bryce: What's a neighborhood?

Me: Good question.

Tyler: I wanted them to think it was a tornado siren.

Geppetto's, with its diorama of the original Disney woodworking studio, generates a discussion about Pinocchio and the nose that grows from lying and the importance of being a truth-teller (Thank you, Geppetto's). 

We buy them a couple of spinning tops, but what they really want is a popsicle-making kit, top-of-the-line, $40. We tell them we can't buy it because it's not summer yet. Our noses grow slightly longer. 

At Grandma's, Tyler suddenly feels under the weather (curious phrase, which I don't use because it would necessitate another definition for Bryce, the word collector). Tyler curls up on the couch under a blanket and falls asleep. Bryce should be thrilled to have all the attention, but he's bereft. He keeps trying to wake up his brother, whom he suddenly misses, and slumps to the floor, forlorn. 

Grandma reads him The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash. As the story progresses, Tyler's eyes flicker, then open. He lies perfectly still, listening. Books are also a delivery system for focused attention.

Spending the day with Tyler and Bryce is a delivery system for hugs and kisses and questions and answers and surprises and testing and hand-to-hand combat and time-outs and smiles and roughhousing and hiding the butter in the refrigerator.

And most important of all: 



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