The Goddess was looking out for us when she chose three score and ten years as an optimal life span, allowing women twenty or so childless years to enjoy before the big decline. A woman any older than that has knees that lock, hips that scrape, and an attention span that does not do Thomas the Train for more than a minute.
My grandson is almost three. His every sentence begins with Why. I feel compelled to try to make sense of the world for him in the five days I spend time with him in faraway Iowa. I answer with “Because. . .,” glad that I’m a story-teller.
One morning he takes my elbow in his little boy hands as I shift to my knees to get up from the train table. “I’ll help,” he says. Then we make our way to his room to deal with the part of him that smells. He shows me where the dirty diapers go, where the wiping tissues are, and which part of the padded wrap goes in front, how to tear off the Velcro covers. All the while he is looking up at me, perhaps, I think, in fascinated love. Then his fingers rub the top of his head. “My hair is flat,” he says. “Yours sticks way up. Why?” I can’t think of an answer. I’ve often asked myself the same question.
Back home now, I have other babies to think about. My writing partner and I meet at my dining table. We each hold the other’s latest novel. Steve bares his chest. “Just plunge the knife right here,” he says.
“I won’t be mean if you don’t ask me to kill my babies,” I promise.
My critique does a little jabbing but no bloodletting and he takes notes. His critique does in a couple of my babies including the title and first line of the first chapter. I give him five sheets of comments; he has stuck Postits at the edges of my pages and my manuscript looks like it’s molting blue feathers.
When he leaves I have a glass of wine and realize that my title is pretty crummy, that I am a terrible line editor of my own work, that I’m very glad he has gone through my words so carefully even though it means a rewrite of a couple of chapters and a few babies lying along the wayside.
He emails that evening to let me know that his scars have healed.