To steal a line from Groucho Marx, who is dead and can’t sue me, I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member.
But I made an exception on a recent weekday afternoon when I was indicted (sorry, I mean inducted) into a prestigious, exclusive and, I can proudly say, entirely dubious organization called the Grandfather Playground Society.
The founding members were yours truly and two guys named Jeff and Steve. I was there with Chloe, who is 3; Jeff had Madison, 2; and Steve had Aliya, also 2.
The first thing Jeff said to me was: “I am going to have a heart attack.”
That’s because he had already been chasing Madison around for an hour.
“I think I’ll join you,” I responded, because I had just raced with Chloe from slides to swings and back again and was feeling a bit short of breath.
Unfortunately, Chloe doesn’t yet know CPR, which stands for Collapsed Poppie Resuscitation.
Steve, meanwhile, was following Aliya on a tricycle (she was riding it and he was walking in circles behind her because there wasn’t enough room on the seat for both of them) and was grateful he was getting a breather.
“This beats running,” he noted.
“When you have grandchildren,” I said, “you don’t have to join a health club.”
“It saves a lot of money,” Jeff said.
“And you can use the savings to buy beer,” I pointed out.
“I could go for one right now,” Steve chimed in.
Then all three of us went back to the slides with our granddaughters, who wanted us to accompany them. This required us to put the kids on our laps and swoosh down at breakneck speed, absorbing jolts to our tailbones before coming to a screeching halt on the hard plastic surface about two feet from the end, the result being that we were almost catapulted skyward with toddlers who thought it was fun but didn’t realize that their grandfathers nearly suffered grievous injuries that could have transformed us into falsettos.
“Let’s go again, Poppie!” Chloe exclaimed. Her new friends agreed.
“What do you do for joint trouble?” Jeff asked after the third trip.
“Move to a new joint,” I answered.
Instead, we moved back to the swings, where Madison, Aliya and Chloe were secured in their seats while Jeff, Steve and I pushed them and officially convened the meeting.
“Being a grandfather is the best thing in the world,” I said.
“Yes,” agreed Steve. “And after you’re done playing with your grandkids, you can give them back.”
“Speaking of backs,” Jeff said with a wince, “mine is sore as hell.”
“But it’s worth all the aches and pains,” I said. “In fact, it makes you young again.”
And I proved it, after the girls were done on the swings, by chasing Chloe up and down a nearby hill, then going to another set of slides, where I didn’t have to accompany her but did have to catch her at the bottom and run back around to watch her as she climbed the steps.
Meanwhile, Jeff and Steve were running after their granddaughters, who don’t move as fast as Chloe because they are a year younger but who nonetheless can take the wind out of any geezers who happen to be their grandfathers.
A little later, we met up again at the park entrance.
“It’s time for a nap,” Steve said as he looked down at his tired granddaughter.
“You look like you could use one, too,” Jeff said.
“We all could,” I added with a yawn.
On that note, the first meeting of the Grandfather Playground Society ended. The three of us, granddaughters in tow, limped back to our cars and wished each other happy healing.
“The next time we get together,” I suggested, “let’s go to a spa. If it’s good enough for their grandmothers, it’s good enough for us.”