Reader Essay Because it’s my own, comfortable house, I let one rip. From deep within I issued a rich and satisfying belch. It echoed off walls and, I think, chimed our crystal. And made my two granddaughters, Lisa, 4, and Leia, 3, giggle.
Uh oh. I forgot. I’ve got to watch what I do or say in front of the grandkids. They’re grand, but not my kids.
But it’s too late. Looking up from their coloring, they already were exchanging surprised and festive looks that said, "Grandpa belched!" Then came an avalanche of giggles, signaling that, yes, they had encountered something new on the road of life’s discoveries: "Wow, so that’s what a real belch sounds like!"
Suddenly, they knew the difference between a burp and a belch.
That’s not all they discovered: Grandpa does stuff that they can’t do at home! They wonder: Can we do the same thing, as long as it’s at Grandpa’s house? Can we get away with it at home because Grandpa does it? Grandpa was Mommy’s daddy, so isn’t he the boss of her? And can’t Grandpa tell Mommy that we can belch if we want?
Worse, Leia started chanting: "Grandpa burped, Grandpa burped, Grandpa burped … "
I was terrified. What if she’s still chanting when we drop her off at home? I made a futile appeal to reason: "I’m sorry, girls. I shouldn’t have done that. That wasn’t polite. Little girls shouldn’t do it either. Neither should big girls. I mean, no one should do it, not even grandpas," I lied.
"Grandpa burped, Grandpa burped, Grandpa burped … "
Maybe she’d stop if I confused her: "I’m taking back my burp. I’m going to do an unburp."
"An unburp?" they repeated in unison, their voices rising in their best "Grandpa is silly" singsong.
While they were momentarily distracted contemplating this, the latest of life’s mysteries, it was my chance to fire up the TiVo for another Dora episode, maybe the one about how she and Boots finally run out of patience and rat out Swiper to the cops.
Look, sometimes grandpas just can’t help themselves. Without thinking, they unravel all the comportments the parents are carefully teaching. Maybe you can forgive grandpas, but you must always be on guard against what they’ll do next.
Here’s a secret: Grandpas work extremely hard to make grandkids understand that they shouldn’t tell on their grandpas.
"Oh, you don’t want to tell your Mommy or Daddy that, do you?" we ask as we try to pull them in as co-conspirators. To your advantage though, grandkids can’t help but tell. Ask them, "Did Grandpa burp?" and they won’t be able to contain themselves: "Grandpa burped! Grandpa burped!" Giggle. Giggle.
The trick is to know what specific question to ask. To Grandpa’s advantage, though, the list of specific questions to be asked is endless. Asking if Grandpa took a nap while he was supposed to be watching the kids will not turn up the answer to: "Did Grandpa give you cookies?"
Now, when you actually catch Grandpa with the goods, you’ve got to remember one thing: Grandpas aren’t mature; they’re not supposed to be. Maybe they were when you were their children, but not any more. Grandpas have been exposed to countless reminders about how kids behave—sweetly, innocently, spontaneously—and they (we) eat it all up. It’s enjoyment in its purest form. We run wild.
In truth, grandpas don’t think that livening things up with a good belch or two is a bad thing. Not after we were shopping for a book for the grandkids and discovered in the children’s section a book titled Walter the Farting Dog.
Dennis Byrne is a Chicago writer.