The incident happened in a big box store. My daughter and her two boys were on a shopping trip while I was visiting in Huntsville — where I’m forbidden by the family unit from telling any Alabama jokes — and yours truly was tagging along but not actually “shopping.” I plopped Reece the Older, 2, into a shopping cart so he was facing me, and Amy braced Abel the Younger, six months, on her hip.

Immediately Pop (that be me) found a source of amusement — several stickers used to label items in the store were stuck in a haphazard fashion on the handlebar of the shopping cart. Peeling off a really small round red sticker I placed it on Reece’s nose. He grinned, I laughed, Mom smiled and Abel stared, as in, “Why does he get to have all the fun?” Getting creative, I put the sticker on the end of Reece’s finger and let him marvel at its redness and roundness.

As she stopped to shop I began to scan the aisle sections. Noticing we were in an area of personal grooming items, I too marveled ... that manufacturers could think to make little bottles of shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. — just for little people. Aha, I thought ingeniously, suppose these were marketed to travelers so they wouldn’t have to carry full bottles of the day-to-day said items along life’s journey. Why, they should even be able to fit under the 3-ounce standards for airline travel. Gloriously, I thought of how I might market this serendipitous revelation and make millions ...

Suddenly, a sharply worded interrogatory interrupted my up-to-now profitable reverie.

“Where’d that sticker go?”

“What sticker?”

It didn’t work.

“The one you gave Reece!”

Watching cautiously as my daughter did a perfunctory body scan of the lad — and I mean it only lasted a couple of heartbeats — she announced, “Dad, it’s in his nose!”

Aghast, I felt the blood drain from my face as she used the fingernail on her pinky finger to go on an expedition for the sticker. With his little head held back Reece looked at me like “What did I do?” Passing shoppers wondered why and how that mother with a baby on her hip was performing a sinus operation on his older brother. I tried to help by holding my hands palms up to the growing crowd as in, “Hey, you never know what these overwrought moms are up to.”

It didn’t work. It was obvious from their maternally indignant stares directed at the granddad that he had neglected his duty and allowed the poor boy to stick a sticker up his nose.

Another time I got my wife, Teresa, into trouble with me. She’d bought this neat-looking stroller made by Jeep for our other grandson. No, really, it’s even got their logo on it. But it isn’t one of those plush, space capsule cockpit looking things. It’s utilitarian, for going on trails like the real thing. All that to say, we took 1-year-old Elijah to Edwards Park on a Sunday afternoon for a little hike in his new ride and immediately he fell asleep. But unnoticed to us, when he conked out he laid his face against one of the smooth metal rails that led up to the handles. He looked so comfy! My loving wife suggested we bundle him up more since it was cool, but the wise Pop just said, “Let me throw this blanket over him, he’ll be fine.” However, when he awoke 30 minutes later he had a long red mark on his face where he’d laid on that rail — and we had to meet his parents for supper within the hour!

Unfortunately, the mark wouldn’t go away despite my gentle (I promise) rubbing, and of course, the first thing the first-time Mom and Dad, Elizabeth and Andrew, said was “What happened to his face?” Sheepishly, I told them and promised it wouldn’t cause permanent scarring. It didn’t ... Whew!

I’ve found the safest place to be with my grandsons and stay out of trouble is in the floor or out in the yard — playing with toy cars and trucks and teaching them the appropriate mouth sounds for the different vehicles, reading children’s books or kicking a ball around. The real hiking will come later, and one day I’ll teach them all the pitfalls of the big box stores.

Allow me to switch gears here a moment and reveal something many of you know already. I haven’t researched any studies about what seems to me, and many other observers around my age, to be obvious now — the older we get, the faster time seems to go by.

But I know this for a fact. When I’m with my grandsons I’m not thinking ahead to the next thing I’ve got to do that day or the upcoming project that has to be planned, implemented and completed. Time slows appreciably when I get down in the floor with them, and right then it’s the most important place I can be on life’s journey.

That’s because it’s not my time anymore … it’s their time.

Mark Millican is a staff writer for The Daily Citizen.

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