Papaw

Maybe its because I’ve just woken up from a glorious six hours sleep and maybe its because a week of racing around left me with a hoarse croaking voice last night as my fellow LDVer’s peppered me with questions at our Let Duluth Vote meeting but I feel very reflective this morning as I wait for the rest of my family to wake up.

At 6:10AM yesterday (After a fitful three and a half hour sleep) I woke to a persistent knocking on my foot and a soft insistent voice calling “Wake up Papaw”. My only grandchild was getting me out of bed. I’d been scheduled to be his babysitter for yesterday and today for a couple weeks and no matter how much LDV and personal business (of which there has been a helluva lot lately involving an entirely different set of lawyers and courts) had to be attended to I was going to devote my time to him.

The Tan Man is a couple months shy of two and already he speaks in four word sentences which puts him ahead of the class. I’d like to think his genius comes from superior genes but I know it mostly comes from having three very well educated and attentive adults around him. This is what’s missing from the Red Plan. Duluth is exchanging teachers for brick and mortar. The five million in so called annual savings is little more than the equivalent permanent layoff of fifty teachers. When we had twice as many teachers this might not have been significant but as we continue to shrink this is an alarming number.

My Dad wasn’t the first Papaw. That’s what he’d called his Mother’s grandfather and when my children were born that’s what he wanted them to call him even though that term of enderment had skipped a generation and I didn’t grow up with it. Dad died when my children were little but my daughter insisted that I be a Papaw too.

I played with Tan Man for six straight hours until I put him in his crib for a nap at 2PM. We watched a Thomas the Tank Engine because he loves trains and I took him to Canal Park as the sun warmed up the cold June morning. We tarried under the fully blooming apple trees by the Dairy Queen spending an hour picking up handfuls of white petals which had fallen copiously in the wind and through them repeatedly into the air like little blizzards. We walked into the clear where all of Duluth’s downtown looked down at us and I called the Tan Man’s grandmother from my cell phone. We waved at her window from Canal Park and asked if she’d like to have us join her for work.

We looked out through her window after lunch and saw an ore boat chugging through Lake Superior heading towards Canal Park and its rendezvous with the Ariel Lift Bridge. We’d been waiting to show the Tan Man this sight for months but the Shipping News always listed boats passing through at inconvenient times.

The Tan Man and I sped over to watch while I imitated the sound of the two whistles, the boat’s and the bridge’s, many times before I finally propped him up on the pier to watch the great ship silently pass under the lifted span. Like hundreds of other visitors to the Canal we waved at the crew. After the great horns sounded and the ship glided into the bay we strolled under the bridge as it rang out a warning and its span began its descent. We looked up through the span’s gtates and watched the sillouette of cars pass overhead on their way between the worlds longest fresh water sand island and downtown Duluth.

We walked over the bridge my holding hands tight where no railings guarded my speedy grandson from tripping into the oncoming traffic. I took off his shoes and socks and let him feel the terrible cold water soak into his toes. We skipped stones and played in the sand for an hour. It was delightful.

My Father and Mother used to visit us in Duluth several times a year and in the summer months we always took them to the canal where my Dad loved watching the boats come in and out. It always seemed a wonder to my Midwestern Dad, a WW II sailor, to have ocean traffic coursing through the center of the United States just a couple hours north of his home in Mankato, Minnesota.

Yesterday morning my Dad paid us one last call.