Jim Dueholm | Community Voices
Wednesdays with Anna
My wife Pat and I moved from Minneapolis to the Washington, D.C., area right after I retired in January 2003. We’re often asked why we moved to D.C., an unlikely place to retire. Well, we explain, its winters are a lot warmer than Minneapolis, it’s a good place for me to indulge my interest in politics and history, and it’s where our son Mark and his family lived.
That family included 10-month-old Anna, about ready to graduate from crawler to toddler. What a delightful child she was, and we learned we would get to spend every Wednesday with her. Katie, our daughter-in-law, dropped her off in the morning, and Katie or Mark picked her up at the end of the workday. She was ours from morning to night.
Early on she gave me a title. I was to be Grandpa, but the closest Anna could come was Papa, so Papa I became, and I have cherished that title ever since.
The Wednesdays with Anna are flooded with memories. We read to her before her afternoon nap. We had train puzzle pieces with letters from A to Z that Anna used to learn the alphabet. We made trips to Borders bookstore and hung out at Starbucks over Anna’s hot chocolate and my coffee. We sledded down a nearby hill when infrequent snow made that possible. Anna frolicked at a playground near our apartment and threw bread to ducks in the stream that bordered the playground. She scribbled chicken-scratching letters to uncles Brian and Patrick, letters I “mailed” with her at a place where the postman didn’t pick up the mail. She had an “office” at the end of the hall in our apartment building.
When Anna thought of becoming a teacher we were her students. When her passion turned to medicine we developed fearsome maladies for Anna, M.D., to cure. As a doctor, she set limits. When a neighbor boy broke a leg Anna contacted his parents and said she would come over and tend to him, but the father said she couldn’t come till Saturday. Sorry, Anna said, she didn’t work on Saturdays.
Anna was close to her cousin Mick, but “Dr.” Anna’s interests didn’t jibe with Mick’s abiding interest in superheroes. When I saw Anna drape an imaginary cape around her neck I dubbed her Super Sawbones, and for a couple of years Super Sawbones played superhero with Mick’s Batman.
Anna taught me manners and more. When I spilled coffee at her second birthday party she sidled over to me and said, “Next time, Papa, be more careful.” A year later she volunteered to show me how to fasten the straps on her car seat, which were fastened with interlocking jigsaw-shaped pieces I could never fit together. The first step in the process was slipping the straps over her shoulders, and as she did that she looked at me in all innocence and said, “Even you can do this part, right Papa?” When I walked with her on what I said was a shortcut to our favorite restaurant, she said, “Papa, I think this is a long cut.” Our car odometer proved her right.
When Anna was 3 I walked into her house and a voice upstairs said, “Don’t come up, Papa.” Anna soon came down with a shirt that said Big Sister in Waiting. Jake was born a few months later. Wednesdays soon became Wednesdays with Anna and Jake.
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