GrandParentS (the real GPS)

Benjamin Allmon daddy-o

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If you’ve ever travelled a long way, you’ll know that afterwards there is a feeling of accomplishment; you have seen a lot, learned a lot, and know a bit more about the world and yourself. But you don’t have to board a plane, drive interstate, or saddle up a llama and do the Andes to learn a lot about life. Every day you travel 1.5 million miles, at about 67,000 mph; that’s how far and fast the earth is travelling through space. Is it any wonder you are tired by bedtime?

One-and-a-half (1.5) million miles. Sixty-two trips around the world, six round trips to the moon, or the average distance it takes me to drive from Point A to Point B, my interior navigator being a cobwebbed skeleton grinning at my directional incompetence (despite this, I refuse to get one of those GPS doodads that tell you, “at the next intersection, turn right,” to my passengers’ eternal regret.)

When you think about it, we’re all pretty well travelled, and some more than others. “Watch where you’re going,” I say to Coop as he scampers about the playground, his sturdy 2-year-old legs pumping. Naturally he ignores me. I’m sure his grandmother told me the same thing when I was his age, and I’m sure I ignored her too. The scampering ceases with Coop crashing into a seesaw, and tears ensue. After checking his chassis for structural damage, the three of us make the long trip back to our car—me holding one hand, Grannie the other.  

The woman holding my son’s right hand has travelled about 40 billion miles (strangely, she doesn’t thank me when I point this out) and that doesn’t include all the travel she has done under her own power. No wonder she occasionally nods off during the second half of movies (even ones she likes); after all that high-speed travelling, she deserves a rest.  

As we prepare to cross the road I listen to her telling Coop to look both ways and then once more for good measure. But his mind is on the banana he knows awaits him in the car, and he ignores her advice. I want him to pay attention to her, want him to know how far she has travelled, and how much she has seen, learned and done over such tremendous distance.  

Not that distance is the only measure of wisdom. There’s knowing the way, too.

Most of us go the same way to work, or school, or the supermarket every day. We soon know the potholes in the road, the places where we have to slow down for the corners, where the traffic jams are likely to be, and what to expect when the weather turns ugly. Life is no different; every day we travel the same 1.5 million miles around the sun…and those who have been around for 50, 60, 70 years know the route, the dangers and dilemmas that will crop up along the way.

As we set off for home Coop settles into his car seat and gobbles the banana, his Grannie in the passenger seat pointing out things along the way. Although I am the one driving, with my son I often feel like the passenger in someone’s car where I know the way and they ignore all the directions I give them… ”Yeah yeah old man, pothole shmothole…whoa! Hey, I got a flat!” Seesaw, shmeesaw. I wonder if Mom felt the same way with me. Probably.  

Mom tells me to take the next exit to avoid the school traffic, which I do. “You probably knew that anyway,” she says apologetically. I didn’t, and tell her so, as well as thanking her for saving us the hassle of a traffic jam. Being told when and where to go doesn’t bother me like it used to. I’ve hit my fair share of potholes,enough to know that listening is the smartest way to travel.

I want Coop to know that Grannie isn’t telling me (or him) the best way to go because she’s in it for the power trip. She just doesn’t want us to have a hard trip, or a hazardous one. She’s been this way before, clocked up millions of miles on this road…or crossing it, looking both ways and once more for good measure. I want to tell him these things, but he’s two. Two is not about the 1.5 million miles; it’s about the 67,000 mph. Full steam ahead and damn the seesaws.

As we stop at the lights, Mom notices the car beside us has a GPS screen mounted on the dashboard and gives me a meaningful look, which I choose to ignore. She points it out to Coop, who is usually fascinated by all things screeny. He doesn’t respond—the banana, the scampering and the gentle hum of the engine have conspired to send him to sleep. When he wakes we will be at Grannie’s, and he will have no memory of the journey. That’s okay, though; I know the way. So does Grannie. It’s what we’re for.

One-and-a-half (1.5) million miles is a long way. No wonder we sometimes get lost. The thing is, there’s no GPS for life, other than the ones we take for granted; GrandParentS.  


About the Author

Benjamin Allmon

Ben is , author and musician, and squeezes these professions around raising his two year old son. He fondly remembers sleeping and going to the toilet without an audience.

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January 2015 – live & learn
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