Clearing baby-gear hurdles in a single bound

Since our daughter, her husband and their three little ones moved in with us, waiting for their house to be finished, people often ask how it is going.

The truth is, we have settled into a lovely and comfortable routine, brought about, in part, by our willingness to live amid an obstacle course.

The various baby contraptions, small furniture pieces and assorted paraphernalia scattered throughout the house have become more or less permanent fixtures. As such, they have rerouted traffic patterns and altered many of our basic movements. Our reflexes are now sharper than ever, we burn more calories each day and are closing in on long-standing fitness goals.

Before their arrival, we simply walked from one room to the other with no cardio or stretch benefit whatsoever. Now the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room is occupied by a Jolly Jumper, a bulky contraption on a spring, suspended from the overhead door molding. The baby sits in the jumper seat and bounces up and down screaming with glee. To get from the kitchen to the dining room, we give the contraption a gentle hip bump, elongate our entire bodies, inhale deeply to minimize our girth, stretch until we can stretch no more, then slither through the small opening between the contraption and the door frame.

Our flexibility has improved dramatically, and we are both five inches taller.

The baby walker is often parked in the family room in front of the access area to the bookshelves. If you want books, a brief run and short hurdle over the walker will get you there. Reading, once a passive activity, now leaves us breathless.

The portable Rock N Play, in which the baby sometimes naps, is less negotiable as it has big feet and is easy to trip over. When it appears in your path, it is best to tread softly, turn sharply, cut a wide swath around it, then resume speed.

Further benefiting our cardio, we often take the stairs two at a time. A baby crying, preschoolers wailing, or the sound of water rushing from unknown origins and we are on our way!

It feels good to be running track again.

The Bumbo, a molded plastic seat the baby can sit in, has been a challenge as it is frequently mobile. It may be in the kitchen one minute, behind my desk chair another, or under the piano keyboard. You never know if it will be occupied by baby or by a life-size baby doll that scares the wits out of you. The Bumbo has been hard on our blood pressure, but we are adapting.

Even the downstairs bathroom has become a challenge. An adult must lean in at a precarious angle over the step stool used by the girls to reach the sink and simultaneously maintain balance while washing your hands. The hand towel will be somewhere on the floor or half-way in the sink, but never in the towel ring. We disdain predictability.

We’ve never been more fit. Who knows what we’ll do when they leave. Probably just sit around, grow sedentary and out of shape.

And cry our eyes out.

We said, “I do,”– they said we didn’t

I have to provide an official copy of our marriage certificate to the Indiana BMV to get the security clearance driver’s license. After waiting seven months on the state of Missouri, where we were married, the envelope finally came—with a letter saying they have no record of us ever being married.

Forty years.

Three kids.

Eleven grandkids.

The husband read the letter and was as stunned as I was.

Moments later, he was running through the house yelling, “FREE MAN!”

Free Man announced that if anything should suddenly happen to him, he’d like his obituary to refer to me as his “long-time companion.”

I laughed along with the rest of them. Then I told Free Man that he could do his own laundry.

News spread quickly among our friends. One, a pastor, sent a message saying he and some fellow clergy would like to have a discussion with the husband along the lines of making an honest woman out of me.

I told him I was ahead of him and had already informed Free Man that he’d be sleeping on the sofa.

Then the rumbling started about getting married again.

The youngest said, “So when people ask how long my parents have been married, I guess I’ll just say, ‘They were married in 2019, but they were together 40 years before that.’”

Offers of flower girls came in waves. Our daughter-in-law in Chicago sent a picture of their 10-month-old toddling behind a push toy and said, “She’s practicing!”

Nine of our 11 grands are little girls. The oldest is 9, followed by 8-year-old twins. Knowing the flower girl field would be crowded, they asked if they could be junior bridesmaids.

“Well, I’d need a proposal first,” I said.

“And a bigger ring!” one of the girls yelled.

I liked the direction this was headed. “I’ll want a bridal shower,” I said.  “We need new silverware. And towels. Maybe I’ll start a bridal registry online. I’m definitely checking the box that says we’ll accept cash.”

Away from the din of excitement and endless jokes, I wondered how you prove you were married when the state says you weren’t.

Our wedding book was buried in the closet, covered with dust. Tucked inside were five newspaper clippings from three different states about our wedding.

Our real ace in the hole was that we were both photojournalists when we married and nearly every wedding guest under 30 was a newspaper photographer as well. My mother said there were so many cameras clicking and flashes firing that it felt more like a breaking news event than a wedding.

I called the church where we were married, knowing a huge fire had destroyed most of the building a few years after we were married. The lady who answered the phone became distraught on our behalf and quickly transferred me to someone else who keeps records.

Within minutes, that woman had her hands on a church document with a number on it. She said it wasn’t like the wedding license numbers today, but maybe it was a start.

Meanwhile, the man who has found a million ways to drive me nuts over 40 years with his penchant for record keeping, his fascination with numbers and refusal to throw anything away, located the receipt he signed for our marriage license at the county clerk’s office. There was a number on it that matched the number the church had.

I called Missouri, gave them the number and a clerk found the license. She said she’ll send us a copy by mail.

We hope it arrives before our 50th.

Lost opportunities lead to lasting regrets

There was a link problem this week’s July 8, 2019 column sent to email subscribers. Please ignore the date that says this is February. It’s July.  If you share the column, use this link:

Lori Borgman |
Monday,  July 8, 2019

I read the email to one of our daughters over the phone and heard my voice crack.

“Where does he live?” she asked. “Is he close by?”

“I have no idea.”

The email was responding to a lighthearted column I’d written wondering if the grands would still come around when they’ve outgrown the inflatable pool and can’t be lured with Oreos. The column triggered a flood of responses, many talking about the joys of older grands who still greet grandparents with big hugs and even bigger smiles.

And then there was his email:

“I will soon be 96 in a few weeks. I am a widower with grandchildren in their 40s. My great-grandchildren range from 12 to 17. Two thirds of them live within a few minutes from me. The rest are a few hundred miles away.

“Granted, they are all busy people, doing meaningful things.  They are happy and healthy and for that I am very grateful.

“As the years go by, the distance between us gets wider.

“I am not looking for, or asking for, anything. I am not seeking accolades from anyone. But it would be nice, as well as comforting, in my older age to know that they care or even think of me. I guess the word I am trying to say is respect. Is that asking too much?

“I rarely see or even hear from them. I make excuses to myself, but it grieves me.  They, especially the great-grandchildren, are growing up and I am not in the loop. That is sad! Very sad!

“At this stage of my life, what else is there to look forward to?

“I guess just knowing they are well, happy, and safe, will have to suffice. But, does it?“

You learn of someone else’s situation, indignation flares and you think, “How hard can it be for someone to stop by?” Then names start coming to mind of elderly friends, relatives who’ve lost a spouse, people I’ve been meaning to call, but haven’t gotten around to it.

Maybe that man’s kids, grands and great grands aren’t the only ones remiss.

Another email poignantly illustrated the regret of letting time slip by.

“Concerning visiting Grandma, when I was growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, we often visited my only grandmother, because that’s what many families did on holidays, and we took virtually no vacations due to the expense.

“Grandmother was born in 1873 in the Reconstruction Era Mississippi, to a Civil War veteran. She witnessed a huge and important swath of American history, and her knowledge of family history was irreplaceable.

“She came to live with us in her 90th year, while I was in college, and on spring break in 1963, I mentioned to her that we should spend the summer getting family history and stories taken down for posterity. She agreed, and her mind was still as sharp as a razor, but unfortunately, she contracted pneumonia and died while I was taking final exams that May.

“Her knowledge of family history was lost forever—one of my great regrets! So don’t wait. Talk with your grandparents and all older relatives while they are able to remember! All life is fleeting.”

Both writers answered that perennial question of what to give the elderly people in your life.

Time. Sweet, precious, wonderful time.


Competition for babysitters heats up

One of the grands barrels toward me and squeals, “It’s hard not to let the beans out, Grandma.”

“What beans?” I ask.

“Mom said not to spill the beans.”

“You’re keeping a secret from me?”

“It’s not a secret. It’s beans. We’re keeping beans.”

“What are these beans about?”

“Mom is hiring a babysitter to watch us when she and Dad go out on a date. Mom said you’re too busy to watch us, but not to tell you about the sitter because you might not like that and that’s why we’re not supposed to spill the beans.”

“Wonderful,” I say, lying through my teeth. “What’s the sitter’s name?”

“Olivia,” she says with a breathy air of rhapsody. Her big brown eyes flutter and she nearly swoons. “Pretty name,” I say. “Did your mother do a background check? Maybe the recommendedpolice check nsw keeps advertising?”

“What’s a background check, Grandma?”

“Well, you can go online and-oh, never mind.”

“And guess what else, Grandma? She’s a teeeeeeen-ager!”

“Well, it just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it, dear?”

She said teenager in a fashion that lets me know she is officially throwing down the gauntlet. I am in competition with a teenager. Make that teeeeeeen-ager.

Clearly, this round will go to Olivia, as Grandma is on her way to becoming a seeeeeeenior and nobody swoons when they say senior.

“We had her babysit once before. Remember?”

“I do remember. I was restless all night.”

“Hey, Grandma, can you make a blade of grass whistle?”

She hands me a rough blade of grass. I place it between my fingers and try blowing on it, but nothing. I try again and again. I’ve got a cut on my lip from the blade of grass and drool on my hands. It is not going well.

“Olivia can make a blade of grass whistle.”

“That’s nice,” I say. “Can she do a barred owl call?”

“I don’t know Grandma, but she does cartwheels. Can you do a cartwheel?”

“Does Olivia have a baton?” I ask.

The kids discovered my old twirling baton under a bed not long ago. If I clear a six-mile radius, I can still throw it in the air and catch it and nobody gets a head injury.

“I don’t think she has a baton, Grandma, but Olivia can do roundoffs. Can you do roundoffs?”

Not since the 1990s, kid. Clearly, if I want to stay in the running, I’ll have to set the ends of the baton on fire.

“Guess what else, Grandma? Olivia is going to prom!”

Prom? There’s no way I can compete with prom.

“I’m going home now, Sweetie. Have a lovely evening with the sitter. Call me if you need anything, but I’m going to be very busy tonight.”

“What are you doing tonight, Grandma?”

“Baking my famous sugar cookies.”

From the look on her face, I may still be in the running after all.