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Silver Threads: 'Grandmotherhood'

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

After missing Sunday night’s Oscar presentations for probably the first time in 30 years, I turned to the two newspapers that arrived early Monday morning to check out how my favorite movies and stars had fared. Not much news there; both Sunday night deadlines had been too early to say more than that Patricia Arquette and J.K. Simmons had snapped up supporting actor honors. Hurrah!

Realizing that I’d probably get more from an on-line edition, I fired up my Kindle to tap into an app from the Washington Post. Birdman and Julianne Moore had also triumphed, and I made a mental note to catch Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, one of the few movies I’d missed.

Then a headline that wasn’t about make-believe caught my eye: “How Will the U.S. Fight the Islamic State?” And I slumped — because my adorable, loving, red-headed, one-of-a-kind 19-year-old grandson, Roke, left on Ash Wednesday for Paris Island, South Carolina for boot camp as a U.S. Marine recruit. He’s now living his dream. But it’s at the mercy of a drill sergeant, and it’s pretty rough on a grandma.

So back to the Oscars — if you can make this unexpected jump with me. Another movie nominated for this year’s best picture award was Boyhood, an engaging, 12-years-in-the-making portrait of the life of a 6- to 18-year-old. It did so well that I’m proposing that somebody make Grandmotherhood, starring an actress who’s now 60 and expecting her first grandson.

Like me, she lives down the street from her daughter and son-in-law, falls in love with the new member of the family, and babysits constantly with him and a little brother who arrives when he’s 2. She drives him to nursery school, takes him to the aquarium and for a ride on a streetcar and camping on a creek up in Mississippi.

She and the boys explore every inch of Brechtel Park, which lies across a canal from their homes, looking at baby nutria in the waters of a lagoon and being chased by geese taller than his brother, Jack, and they learn to ride their bikes on the road alongside the baseball diamond.

They go to movies made for children, and on Saturdays she honks her car horn outside their house and takes them for surprise pancake breakfasts at Burger King.

They go to the zoo, slide down the big hill created especially for New Orleans youngsters, and they spend some weekends with her and grandpa at their house in Abita, where they wade in the river, buy funny things at the UCM museum, and pedal along the bike trail through the woods.

The boys learn to eat crawfish, and Jack complains that not one single oyster was served at Boy Scout camp, and they go to restaurants and feast on tacos and quid and sushi and lobsters at Grandma and Grandpas on birthdays.

She invents a story about “two knights in shining armor” who battle evil while riding high above New Orleans on a dragon and tells them a different and more exciting version every time they spend the night.

Lying on the sofa, she and the boys pretend they’re clinging to a raft, their ship has just capsized and fierce alligators will chew off their hands if they dangle them overboard.

She tells them “enough already” with the potty jokes, and when they start dissing girls informs them that girls are superior and explains that she’s a feminist. They talk about God and the afterlife and the possibility of reincarnation, and Roke tells her that in a previous life, “I was an old soldier.”

Now he’s a young one, and Jack will be getting ready for college in another year and going who knows where?

Just before the credits begin to roll , closing Grandmotherhood, a quotation from Dr. Seuss will appear: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

I plan to remember that.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]