Benjamin Franklin (that guy on the $100 bill), in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, (circa 1789) wrote, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, Frank (the angel of Death) doesn’t seem to be around today, so this obviously isn’t about him. In addition, for all appearances I seem to not be dead, so death isn’t certain here as of yet… (Incidentally, if I suddenly and spontaneously just die in the middle of this, I will try to finish in the afterlife). So for the moment death is uncertain, so taxes it is.

If you know me long enough, to actually get to know me you will know that you have come to know the ultimate pessimist. Preferring to view the world in the negative with an “expect the worst and assume it’s as bad as you think” perspective. Neither a glass half empty or full type person, but rather the glass has overflowed and exploded sending shards of wet glass flying everywhere type… and the floor’s wet now, too.

Negativity established, Lil Red (that’s the spouse) finds it perplexingly hilarious that the one thing that brings about an optimistic POV in myself is getting our taxes done. She finds it funny that I never say, “Let’s go get our taxes done,” but rather, “let’s go get our refund!” And why not be positive about this dreaded event? It is, after all, one of the two certain things and the only way to avoid it is to succumb to the other certainty of life, which is death, right? Well, not really, because you cannot pay enough taxes to avoid death, but if you die owing they will somehow find a way to collect those taxes you owe. It’s kinda sad and ironic that debt can bury you in life, follow you to the grave, but cannot be buried with you.

So, any-who, early Saturday morning we went to “collect our refund” and after two grueling hours of tax prep we did just that, actually the folks at H&R Block always make for a pleasant taxing experience, so grueling seems a little harsh. Especially since we gots some monies back :-O WHOOT WHOOT!!! OK, it’s not like we achieved some vast fortune or anything. But as any and everybody knows, when you don’t have to pay its cause for happiness, and when you get anything in return it’s cause for celebration. Gabriel, our grandson, had gone along with us and had patiently and quietly behaved throughout the entire the process. So as a reward for his good behavior, he was allowed to choose our celebratory post-tax destination and he choose… the mall???

Seriously… the mall???  Ancient memories of a once thriving metropolis of fun and frivolity give way as in more recent years it has become a slowly dying husk, merely a shadow of its former self. But they have motorized monkey-bikes you can ride, so the mall it is.

MOTORIZED MONKEY RIDERAnd what, pray tell, is the first thing an energetically happy 6-year old does upon saddling up on said motorized monkey-bike? Why he cranks the throttle wide-open, yells- “Look out!” and attempts to run me over; laughing like a loony the whole time. A brief pause, with a patient explanation, that despite its fluffy exterior the motorized monkey-bike is not a bumper car, nor is its purpose to ram people with its plush monkey head. Once this is understood the next half hour is spent chasing the juvenile monkey-biker, wary that other shoppers may fall prey to motorized monkey-bike plush head butts. Luckily everyone makes it out alive and we decide to keep the fun rolling.

So, we let the li’l fellow choose our dining destination. Of course it’s going to be Chuck E. Cheese, where a kid can be a kid; because he is, after-all, a kid and naturally wanted to go somewhere where he could be one. So we ventured to the cheese of Chuck.

Mistake number one was telling him he could play games while we waited for our food. This led to forcing him to stop playing long enough to eat. Impatiently rushed dining aside the food wasn’t half bad…no time to enjoy it, but not bad.

Mistake number two was not explaining how the games worked. As soon as we’d swipe his play pass, he’d immediately push a button or pull a lever. Which with most of these games you only get to do once. He was just excited to win tickets. We had to quell his excitement long enough to explain that he’d need to read the on-screen instructions first to actually score any tickets. Two mistakes later and fun was had by all as we tried our luck at different games of chance. In the end, he scored enough tickets to get a set of green plastic vampire teeth.

Being forever the pessimist, I often wonder and worry after these outings. Did he really have a good time? Was that what a fun, functional family outing was supposed to be like? Am I doing this right, this grandparent/ parenting thing? I get my answer the next day, when after a shopping trip with Grammie (a.k.a. Lil Red) he presents me with a plastic bag containing something he absolutely insisted I had to have.

Inside was a Valentine card, comparing me to Superman, in which he had inscribed “I love you!” in his beautifully crude kindergarten script. The bag also contained a stuffed red dog that lit up and sang “I want you back” my favorite Jackson 5 song. These sweet gifts give me hope that maybe, just maybe, I am doing something right here. But I will treasure the pure smile that was on his face when he handed me that bag most of all.

Next week: OMG something less heartfelt, and possibly violent…sigh. These sweet moments are making me soft.

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Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya!