Gramma Pat

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There’s someone been on my mind lately, someone I miss, someone who did me a great service.

When I had my first child, I was able to stay home and be a full-time mom for only six weeks, out of economic necessity. I still resent to this day the fact that I couldn’t stay home longer, but it is what it is, and regret is pretty useless. I do envy people who have the luxury of extended maternity leaves. I’m not trying to belittle people who choose to stay home in any way. I know that they make sacrifices too, but it’s pretty hard to leave a six week old baby with someone else and go back to a very demanding job, then come home and do all the household work as well.

So – with whom do you leave that baby?

I think daycare centres have their place, and are wonderful in their own way, and provide social opportunities and intellectual stimuli to older children, but I still think that a baby just needs closer attention than that. I found out that if I went through an agency that employed home daycare workers, that I could get the best of several worlds. I was eligible for subsidized care, the homes had to adhere to the Day Nurseries Act, and I got my low child-to-caregiver ratio.

And that’s when I found Gramma Pat.

Gramma Pat did daycare because she loved little kids. Period. Nobody’s getting rich doing daycare. She joined the agency only because she had a parent whose child she loved who couldn’t afford her private rate, so that parent would be eligible for a subsidy.

All the kids she cared for called her Gramma Pat, and some of the parents, too, including me. She loved those kids beyond words. It’s a little disconcerting when they’re older, and they come home and call you “Gramma” by mistake, tears at your heart, just a little. But it’s really a good thing. She was instrumental in teaching my kids to walk and to talk. She toilet trained them. She was a straight shooter. I think the agency’s home visitor was a little intimidated by her. “Do you want me to look after these little ones, or do you want me to fill out your d*mn forms?”

Those kids were busy all day. Regardless of the agency’s crazy rules, if the weather was crappy, they stayed in and did arts and crafts, but if the weather was good, they were out and at ‘er all day. They went to the park. They grew gardens. Gramma Pat’s triple stroller was well known in the neighbourhood, they even made the front page of the local newspaper once. They had wonderful times, which my older son still remembers fondly.

He was her darling boy, her “Sweet Thang”, and could do no wrong. One night at dinner, I was trying to feed Elliot in the highchair, but he was having none of it, for some reason. “Come on, Ellyooper,” I’d say. “Open wide.” I was carrying on a conversation with Connor at the same time. “That’s what Gramma Pat calls him, isn’t it Connor? And what does Gramma Pat call you?”

I was pretty sure the answer was “Sweet Thang”, after an old country song. I was pretty sure she always called him Sweet Thang. Apparently not always, though.

“Little bugger?” he said. Which at the time, could be quite true, but I didn’t think Gramma realized it.

After I wiped myself off the floor from laughing, I had to call Pat. “I’m glad you think it’s funny, Mother,” she said. “I’m not sure the agency would though!”

She called a spade a spade. Many a coffee I had in her bright little kitchen. Often I’d drop by at lunch to see the kids, and she’d always have a lunch for me, too, and we’d share our joys and our troubles. Best toasted western ever. Connor still remembers peanut butter toast, cut in triangles instead of squares. He still thinks they taste better that way.

She died a long time ago, after my kids had left her nest, from a blood vessel which burst in her brain. I miss her still.

Namaste, Gramma Pat

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