Madden is Sixteen, Oh Lord!

By Joe Rector

Amy and I traveled to Hendersonville to celebrate our grandson’s birthday. He was born on May 1, 2019. On that day, the rain poured, and Nashville flooded. Fifteen years later, the boy is 16 and street legal. Yep, he has a license, so for the next couple of years, his family will be saying prayers and holding our breaths while he is driving on the roads.

Madden had a soccer game on Saturday, so both sets of his grandparents and his parents opened our folding chairs, waited through an hour-long rain delay, and cheered for him. His team didn’t win, a fact that perturbed the boy because he wanted a good outcome since we were there.Madden played defense and did a magnificent job.  His speed amazed me, and his ability to determine a cutoff angle fascinated me.

What I learned this weekend is that my grandson is a “typical boy.” That sounds strange, but he has been so quiet for so many years that I wasn’t sure if he was a loner or a genius. Madden isn’t any one kind of person. As a toddler, he loved attention and thought his grandparents were the greatest people on the planet. He stayed the week after Memorial Day with us, and we traveled around the area to find adventures that he would enjoy. Most of the time, they were fun ones. However, at one point, Amy had to go to work, so I was left in charge, something that should never happen. At some point during the week, I pulled out the riding mower, sat Madden on my lap and let him drive the machine all over our spacious yard. He smiled the entire time and never seemed to tire of the activity.

One day, we went inside to eat lunch. I sat him down and slathered a piece of bread with peanut butter and jelly. He consumed the sandwich quickly, and we went back outside to ride the mower. While we were on the first loop of the property, I noticed a rash developing on the boy’s cheeks. Then it hit me. Madden was allergic to peanuts.

In an instant, I called Amy to tell her what I had done. She told me to calm down and take Madden to the emergency room. I felt like a child abuser as the staff seemed to stare at me with disgust. Surely, Lacey and Nick never again would let Madden come for a stay at our house.

My grandson survived and my guilt overwhelmed me for some time. I’m glad Madden remained healthy and that he has found his way in high school. He does well in classes; he took band and then dropped it so he could take a math class, a move I’ll never understand. He has friends with whom he “hangs out,” and I don’t want to know what they do. No, I don’t suspect foul play or drugs, but teenagers find incredibly “stupid” activities to take up their free time, just as my friends and I did so many years ago.

Two things separate our generations: cell phones and video games. We older folks can’t figure out how to use them, and the younger folks can’t live without them. However, when the rare chance comes when Madden isn’t using either device, we have conversations. One happened this weekend. He walked into our bedroom and sat down on the bed. For the next few minutes, we just talked about him—driving, classes, soccer, and any other topic that might pop up. It was the most wonderful time I’d had with my grandson since the day I almost killed him.

I love teenagers. They are smarter than adults in so many ways. Madden is one of the smartest young people I know. He has a variety of interests and pulls the same “bone-headed” acts that I once did. He will be a success at whatever he chooses to do because his parents have instilled in him a work ethic and the need to complete tasks. Life will be good for him. Let’s all just say prayers each day for his driving safety.