A Different Bike RideR5

Janet Perez Eckles

Love is the poetry of the senses.

—Honoré de Balzac

"I just went for a bike ride with my grandson. He giggled as he sat in the basket." Outwardly, I cheered for my friend's joy. But deep inside, a bit of envy trickled in. She can take her grandson everywhere she wants. She can read to him, take him to the park, and watch all his sporting events and graduations.

The thought crossed my mind that should I become a grandmother someday, I'd never be able to achieve that kind of joy. Without eyesight, what would I have to offer my grandchildren?

I dismissed the quandary until the day we received the phone call from my son. "It's a beautiful girl. She weighs 8 pounds, 9 ounces and has lots of black hair."

I jumped to my feet, my heart beating fast at the good news. Hubby and I rushed to the hospital. He held my hand as we walked down the long corridors. Although he was guiding me, my steps went ahead of his.

Once in the room, I could hardly contain my squeal. "Can I hold her?"

I leaned toward the bed and my daughter-in-law placed the warm bundle in my hands. She didn't move, and as her tiny head rested on my arm, I brushed my fingertips across her silky hair, then down to her soft forehead.

That's when a wave of emotions crashed into me. I'll never know what she looks like. I'll never see how her smile makes her face shine. I'll never know if she's looking at me or reaching for me.

Will she know her grandma is limited? What will she expect of me?

Tears burned my eyes. I let some trickle down, and everyone thought they were from joy, but the sudden reality that my grandmother days would be filled with frustration and unfulfilled wishes crushed me.

Months flew by as she cooed and giggled—a delight to my soul. Then at almost one year old, her steps began. Hubby leaned toward me. "She's taking one or two steps toward you."

I extended my arms toward her and her little hand grabbed my index finger.

"Good job, you did it!" Weeks later, those steps multiplied, and running became her favorite thing.

"If you ever need it, I can keep her and take care of her," I said hesitantly to my son and daughter-in-law. Their immediate acceptance gave me such comfort. Then, the time came when I had her all to myself.

I felt for her blouse. "C'mon, sweet thing," I said as I put her on my lap and pinned a couple of small jingle bells to her shirt. She hopped off and my ears followed the sound, telling me where she was.

With each week, each month, she learned to handle her Nana. When navigating through the house, I held my hand out and immediately, her little hand slipped into mine. She doesn't know it, but she now leads me around.

Delighted, I let her take me any place she chooses. We often stop and sit on the floor, cross-legged. That's when all my senses are devoted to her. The books I read to her are my own inventions, my own stories that slip from my mind, exercising the words she already knows.

Sometimes we kneel and I teach her prayers, simple and with few words. I point to parts of the body, and she names them all in English. After a few repetitions, she learns each in Spanish.

Snack time comes about often. "Now the bananas," I say to her while she watches from her high chair. As I chop the pineapple and add blueberries, I talk to her. Then, all ingredients go in the blender for her favorite smoothie. Once I pour it in her cup, I find a straw in the drawer and put it inside; then I grope and find the middle of the tray. As her little fingers hold the cup, in her singsong tone she says, "Thank you, Nana."

"No, sweet baby," my heart wants to say. "Thank you for showing me the joy of being your Nana."

I sing songs to her while I change her diaper and when I get her dressed. Sometimes, I learn the clothes I put on her don't match. She doesn't seem to care, nor do I, because we concentrate on serious playing. And when I accidently bump into an object she stops, and in a high-pitched, angelic voice she asks, "You okay, Nana?"

At twenty months old, does she already know the importance of compassion?

I grope for my shoes, unable to find them. "Nana's shoes," she says as she quickly finds them and attempts to put them on my feet. Did she already learn to help those in need?

When she hands me something, she first calls my name, then places the item in my hand. Without me teaching her, did she learn to overcome her Nana's limitations?

One afternoon, thunder roared outside and we listened with awe. I pointed toward the sky and told her about the clouds. When the storm subsided, I scooped her in my arms and walked outside into a drizzling rain. "Look up, baby girl," I said. "That's rain. Feel how it tickles your face?"

I inhaled an exaggerated deep breath. "Smell that? That's the scent of a wet earth. It's good and fresh."

She mimics all I do, singing the songs I teach her and naming the shapes I hold in my hands. We go back and forth as she rides on my back, and she giggles when her Nana bucks like a horse.

Before naptime, she sits on my lap and I run my fingers across the delicate features of her small face. My mind registers her contour.

"Tickle me, Nana," she pleads. And when I do, I hear her giggle and my heart sees the beauty of her innocence.

My love for her increases as I dismiss my blindness. When she visits, I get on my knees and open my arms to her. It's not long before the pitter-patter sound of her footsteps draws closer and closer until she launches herself into my arms. I hold her tight and we're together, united by that special bond we can both see.

I plan to take her on lots of bike rides too, different than most. And while she sits in the basket of love, I'll point to another kind of scenery—lack of sight doesn't have to keep us from seeing the joy in little things, the wonder in this world, or the beauty that love can bring.

(1124 words)