By Jerry Zezima
As a relic from another time (the time right now is 10:47 a.m.), I am known to my grandchildren as a dinosaur. I am also known, at least at a park where I recently brought two of the kiddies for some fun and frolic, as the Playground Grandpa.
This appropriate appellation was bestowed upon me by a guy who had broken his foot and couldn’t run around with his 6-year-old son. That job fell to me after the kid, my twin grandchildren and a bunch of other youngsters wanted me to chase them in the broiling sun, watch them go down the slide and otherwise act as silly as I do even when I’m not around munchkins six decades my junior.
“You’re the Playground Grandpa,” the fracture-footed father said as I stopped to catch my breath, which at that point must have smelled something awful.
This sentiment was echoed by the mother of three young boys who joined my crazy antics. They especially liked it when I engaged them in a game of sticks, wherein I held a small stick in my right hand, looked at the kids gathered to the left of me and said no one was going to take it away. Meanwhile, one of the brothers would sneak around to the other side and snatch the stick from my fingers. My shameless double takes and looks of wide-eyed surprise sent the elated assemblage into gales of laughter each of the approximately two dozen times I repeated the nonsense.
“Thank you very much,” the mom said when it was time to go home. “They had fun with you.”
“You’re very welcome,” I responded. “That’s because I’m less mature than any of them.”
The twins, who are about to turn 3, weren’t jealous at all.
“Follow me,” I sang as we went back to the car. “I’m the Pied Poppie.”
I’m also the prehistoric Poppie because the dynamic duo and their big brother, who’s 5, are into dinosaurs — especially, of course, me.
“Am I a dinosaur?” I asked them.
Twin girl: “Yes!”
Twin boy: “Yes!”
Big brother: “Maybe.”
All three know their prehistoric creatures, pictures of which adorn their backpacks, lunch boxes and clothing. They also watch TV shows — “Steve and Maggie” and “Blippi” are the most popular — with dinosaur themes. After hearing that the kids like T-rex the best, I said my favorite is the woolly mammoth.
Big brother sighed and said, “That’s a different era, Poppie.”
I went in one era and out the other when my grandson and I spent an afternoon at what he calls the Dinosaur Museum, where we saw fossils (something I do when I look in the bathroom mirror to shave) and lots of other neat stuff, including an exhibit on early humans. I must say that the likeness between one of the cave dwellers and a certain modern grandfather was remarkable.
Even more remarkable was my repeat performance as the Playground Grandpa when I took the twins to another park the next day.
As soon as we arrived, a 7-year-old boy came up to me and said, “Wanna see how fast I can run?”
“Sure,” I told him.
“I bet you can’t run as fast as I can,” he said.
“I bet I can,” I replied.
The slender speedster immediately took off with me in hot (because I was sweating profusely) pursuit.
When her son finally stopped, and with me on the verge of collapse, his mother smiled and said, “You have a way with kids.”
“They have a way with me,” I gasped, the words coming in short bursts as I imagined first responders giving me PGR (Playground Grandpa Resuscitation).
As the twins romped in another part of the playground under the supervision of their father, a second 7-year-old came up to me and started a rambling conversation in which he informed me that he has superpowers and comes from a family of wolves.
Then he started kicking a soccer ball around with me and finished by actually laughing at my atrocious puns, which his mother, who played soccer in high school, called “dad jokes.”
“My dad tells them, too,” the kid said.
“Do you think mine are funny?” I asked.
“Yes!” he gushed.
“Good,” I said. “Tell your dad you heard them from the Playground Grandpa.”
Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima