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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Sharing inside jokes with grandkids creates meaningful memories

It's amazing how little kids notice things. Just the other day my 4-year-old granddaughter Jayden walked through our kitchen and suddenly asked, "Memaw, where's your calendar?" We usually have it hanging on the fridge held by a magnet, but we had moved it onto the table to pencil in an appointment. I never even realized she would observe, remember and miss it. When they're young, kids are so curious about what they see. And they want to understand everything. I'll share a secret with you - a joke between Jayden and me that we both love and have fun with. One day about a year ago I was holding her in my lap and she noticed something about my arm that was different. Pulling my arm out, she jiggled the loose skin between elbow and shoulder. "Memaw, what's this?" she asked with a sincere look of interest. How to respond? I could tell her it was nothing and change the subject. I could say it was just loose skin and leave it at that. But I was charmed by that young curiosity and so I decided to say something that has become a binding joke between us.
"It's Grandma flab," I explained and showed her how she could flap it about. She laughed, loved it and has been flapping periodically ever since. I love it too because it's like a secret just between the two of us. Every so often she'll visit, walk over just a bit shyly and ask almost in a whisper, "Can I see your Grandma flab?" And I extend my arm so she can play with it. For me, it also soothes one of the wounds of aging. Since then whenever I work out in the gym, I lift some weights just to strengthen the muscles a little. And recently when Jayden reached for my arm, I clenched my fists and told her to feel my muscle too. She was impressed by the small bulge, squeezing it as she fingered the flab. I now understand more clearly that as I age, she notices things about me - changes she sees and wants to know more about. Having a kind of private joke just between the two of us is fun. Oscar has one too with all of the grandkids. One day at the dinner table he told our two older grandchildren Della and Max a theory of his and he demonstrated it with a smile. "Whatever you like to eat alone will probably taste good together," he explained as he dipped a fork of his salmon into some jelly that was on the table. "Ewww!" they responded, making a face and crinkling their noses. That was just the beginning. Out to dinner one night at a Chinese restaurant that had a chocolate fountain next to the fruit, he told Della, then 11, that it might be delicious to let some chocolate dribble across an egg roll. "You like egg rolls? You like chocolate? Try it," he challenged, swallowing the mixture. She did and had a very surprised yum-yum look on her face. Now the kids love to challenge him with ideas at the table. "Hey Poppa, how about eating pickles and scrambled eggs?" And if we have these ingredients in the house, he'll try it just to surprise them. It's their ritual, their joke, and it binds them together when they share in the challenge Oscar and I agree that it's fun to have a private inside joke with our grandchildren that we can share and laugh about with them. It's the kind of thing they'll remember with a smile when we're no longer here. Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of "Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age."
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