Phil Hugo: Delay the task but savor the memories

I’ve just finished feeding the fish in the water garden and am heading to the back door of our home. The smell of food exiting the kitchen vent tells me my wife, Karen, is cooking dinner.

I stop near the door and look at a chair on the patio. Resting on the plastic webbing are a Whiffle Ball, a black plastic bat and an empty root beer bottle. Next to the chair stands a water-filled fire extinguisher — the kind that is only used on wood, paper and trash fires.

Those items are not part of the everyday look of our patio, and I remind myself they need to go back to their places in the garage and the recycling container. After all, Grandpa, the little guy has been gone for a month. Playtime is over.

The little guy I’m speaking of is our 6-year-old grandson Tallis, a newly-minted first-grader who lives in Logan, Utah, with his parents, Chilali and Chris. The threesome were on a month-long cross-country road trip in June and July with multiple stops to visit friends and family, including a couple of music conferences.

Karen and I visited them in Utah in August 2021, but they hadn’t been to Ohio since May 2019, some months before the coronavirus put the kibosh on things. That’s quite a spell, but it gave us plenty of time to come up with a plan of action — to reinvent the bag of tricks.

Here’s the thing with that bag. I know we grandparents get excited, but we have to pace ourselves or that bag will be emptied early on. “Now what do we do Grandpa Phil?”

The fire extinguisher was charged and put in place with the intended target of empty soda cans stacked on a pedestal downrange. Tallis pulled the trigger and with a couple of practice shots, we were ready to go. “To the right!” “Lower!” Down they went. Sensing more of a challenge, the marksman stacked four cans in a column. Success. Out of pressure, the extinguisher was retired for the night.

Because the Utah crew was burning a lot of rubber on the road, we chose to spend most of our time in Lima. We did take in a baseball game where the Fort Wayne Tincaps broke a ninth-inning tie to beat the Lansing Lugnuts in a win for the home team. What’s a baseball game without hotdogs, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream … Wait! Where were the Cracker Jacks?

Our small but shady backyard satisfied everyone’s needs. Auntie Dyani and Grandma Karen put together a scavenger hunt for Tallis. I broke out a couple of burlap bags and asked if he knew what a sack race was. He did. So we sacked up and took off. On the return leg I played the role of a good sport, took a fall and heard the call, “I won!”

The bags went home to Utah. I have others, so maybe I can try to up my game before we visit them next year.

Have you ever made ice cream with a grandchild? Tallis flipped the switch, I poured the base into the machine and before long, we were in the quality control tasting mode. The plan was to share a spoon. “I want my own spoon Grandpa Phil!” “Hey, I don’t have germs! You don’t have germs!” Tallis got his spoon. Over two weeks we made and enjoyed vanilla and strawberry ice cream.

Chris and Chilali enjoy preparing home-cooked meals and encourage Tallis’ presence in their kitchen, but he has his own kitchen outside where he makes what he calls Yucky Stew. Simple ingredients: dirt, water, leaves, sticks, the bounty of nature. Grandma was his sous-chef last summer in Utah.

In Lima, the chef took over an area under the treehouse and went to work on his signature dish. A garden trowel, two small pails, a stir stick and water, and he was off and cooking. Voila! Yucky Stew! He even made mud cookies. A 6-year-old with a creative mind is a wonderful thing to watch.

The Whiffle Ball and bat hadn’t been used in years, so I dusted them off and let Tallis and the adults have at it. A small yard does not make for a traditional ball diamond. L-shaped is more like it. Mom, Grandpa and Tallis were having a go at it one evening before dinner. I took a turn at home plate and intentionally held the bat the wrong way. “No Grandpa, you hold it by the other end!”

Sometimes it’s good to let a child think he knows more than an adult.

It seems two weeks should allow plenty of hours to spend quality time together but before you know it the clock has run out. In the meantime, I’ll get around to putting those aforementioned items away.

As I toss the brown bottle into the recycle container, I’ll remember Tallis enjoying a special treat of root beer with dinner while the adults sipped a Rosé wine. There’s no hurry, especially when you want to savor the memories.

“Hey Tallis, you wanna help me feed the fish?”

Phil Hugo lives in Lima. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.