Matthew is my nine year old grandson.
In his brief time on earth he has experienced things most adults wish to avoid.
He is an old soul.
Being a grandparent to Matthew is the only thing in life that has ever lived up to the hype. We love each other from the moon and back ten times over.
If you ask him who loves him best he will say, “Gramma”.
I am his soft place to fall.
Some of our best conversations happen while driving.
“Gramma, how do they know if you are having a girl or a boy?”
“Well, there a few ways but usually people find out via ultra sound…” I proceed to tell him how an ultra sound works, hoping I am right because he takes everything I say as gospel.
I talk about sound waves bouncing off the baby and amniocentesis for women who are older.
“I’m confused,” he says. “don’t you only get a few eggs?
“Yes. Women are born with a certain amount of eggs but men have a lot of sperm and those sperm have to swim really fast for it to work.”
“I’m confused… how does the water break?”
“Well, it breaks in different ways.” I respond “You know how when your stomach hurts and you have to go to the bathroom?”
“Okay, so imagine that times a thousand!”
I go on to explain how the contractions help to break the bag of water. I take the time to explain it in medical terms. I read some where that it is best to honest and use the appropriate terminology when speaking to children.
“But Gramma, I’m confused… does the baby come out with the water?”
As you can see, Matthew’s favorite line is, “I’m confused…” I have to admit, it works.
“The short answer is yes but it’s a bit more complicated than that.”
We went on to talk about cervix and dilation and much to my surprise it’s a concept he seemed to grasp. We moved on to ovaries and hysterectomies (his mother had just had one a few months prior).
“Gramma, do you believe in God?”
I take a deep breath here as the conversation becomes more philosophical.
“I believe in a power greater than myself and I choose to call that power, “God”.
“Do you believe in God?” I ask
“Yes.” his answer is simple and sure. I wonder where and when he decided there was a God.
“Gramma, how old is my “other” dad?”
I inhale deeply, exhale slowly. This is tricky territory and not the first time we’ve been here. “Your dad died when he was 24, a month before his 25th birthday.”
“But how old would he be now?”
“If your dad was alive he would be turning 31 on November 5th.”
“So, he’s 31?”
“… yes, sweetie. I guess he would be 31 this year.”
“The last time I saw my dad he died.” he says as a matter of fact.
“I know sweetie.”
“Do you remember your dad?”
“Kinda… not really.”
‘Gramma, did you love my dad?”
Wow… this is a huge question without an easy answer. For a moment I feel trapped, not sure what the “right” answer is.
“I loved the way your dad loved you, sweetie.” deep breath. “And your dad loved you more than any thing in the world.”
It’s the truth. His dad did love him more than he loved himself. Unfortunately, his demons got in the way thus the sudden demise of one so young.
I am careful not to put his “other dad” on a pedestal but at the same time I want Matthew to know how much he was loved by the man no longer in his life.
Abruptly the conversation changes.
“Gramma, if two men get married that makes them gay, right”
This is not our first conversation about gay and lesbian relationships.
“Nope, you can be gay and not get married.”
“But it’s their decision to kiss another boy, right?”
“No, not quite. You decide what shoes you put on every day, right?”
“Well, being gay or lesbian is not about a decision. It’s about how you are born. Some people are born wanting to kiss boys and others that want to kiss girls. It’s not a choice. It’s how God made them.”
“The choice comes in when you choose to act on those desires but that goes for everyone whether they are gay, lesbian or heterosexual.” Yes, I speak to him in these adult terms. That is how he will learn the truth.
“I kissed a girl…” he tosses out this fact like we are in the 9th inning of the seventh game of the world series and the score is tied.
I take a moment and then ask my nine year old, fourth grade grandson, “Really? Who have you kissed?”
“”I’ve kissed you and mom and auntie…” huge sigh of relief because one never knows.
“That’s good. That’s different.” I say with relief.
“Gramma, I love you.”
“I love you, Matthew.”
Shortly thereafter we arrive at our destination and he is once again a nine year old boy ready to play transformers with Eli and Ryan.
I am grateful that Matthew trusts me to tell him the truth however painful or difficult it can be it at times.
I look forward to our conversations in the car. I am often surprised by the depth of this boy and the insightful questions he asks.
I love him more than I could have ever imagined.
He loves me more than I could have ever hoped.
Conversations with Matthew… Never a dull moment.