Two dragons, named Toothless and Crackle, live with me since I moved to Washington two months ago to be closer to my family. My grandchildren have kindly entrusted their care to me. I had no idea what I was getting into. I find them everywhere, in the most unexpected places: lurking in my food pantry, hiding in the refrigerator, resting on my shrine next to the Tara statue, sleeping in garden pots, sitting on the toilet, and sleeping in my bed under the covers.
I also have to contend with daily Dragon School. There are constant art projects to do and many lessons to learn – like proper behavior for living inside buildings, phone etiquette, and how to tell time and do simple mathematics. They apparently have to exercise and keep in shape by flying around the house dodging missiles, and eating foods from the “two main, dragon food groups – protein and calcium”, according to my grandson. And when they have done their “chores”, they sometimes get to snuggle and watch movies with us during sleepovers.
They also look on while we play board games, have picnics on the porch, or sometimes enjoy candle light dinners. They listen in on our serious “conversations” about life, and often join us for bedtime stories. If they’ve been “good”, they get to come on our evening constitutionals when we walk around, “spying” on the neighborhood, looking for rascals who might be up to no good.
No question. I am happily immersed in the imaginative and wild world of children who live each day full tilt – a significant change from a life focused on death and dying as a hospice nurse these last three and a half years.
Five months ago, when one of my dearest friends passed away, ten days after being diagnosed with cancer, the unflinching certainty of impermanence gave me pause. It was a sobering moment, and I took stock of what still felt undone in my life. If I knew I was to die next week, how and where would I want to spend my remaining days? It wasn’t that difficult a decision. I felt a longing to return to my deepest roots – to live close to my daughter and son-in-law, and be a hands-on-grandmother. Not just someone who visits from time to time, on their turf, with their rhythms, in their scene – but a grandmother who lives down the street in my own space, and who is involved in their life on a daily basis. I have not led a boring life, and I want them to know who I am, and to feel without a doubt my unshakeable love for them. I believe I fill an indispensible and unique role in their lives, as they do in mine. It’s a special relationship, and I want to help keep this lineage rich and intact.
I do not know what else will unfold for me in the Pacific Northwest; I am open to all possibilities, and will continue to go through doors as they open, and follow the crumbs as I have done throughout my life. But at the moment I am content. My grandchildren appear to be over the moon that I now live down the street taking care of their dragons. That works for me.