My parents returned the other day from a three week trip to Poland--the second part of their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, which began with their party in January. "Are you still married?" I asked, as Jonathan and I greeted them when they finally emerged from customs at JFK. They laughed, giving away that it was no more a honeymoon than being at home with each other and all their quirks.
The four of us talked easily all the way home, which took longer than normal because of the traffic--my parents in the back seat, Jonathan at the wheel, I riding shotgun. (Yes, I did say Jonathan at the wheel.) They told us about their visits with relatives and sightseeing excursions; Jonathan and I filled them in on the goings-on at home, with family here, and weather, and the condition of my mother's gardens.
As my dad told his tales (and my mother fought the fatigue of a long flight and an even longer day) Jonathan adjusted the AC in the car and we asked, "is the temperature OK back there?," and "are you guys comfortable?" to which my father starting giving average Celsius temperatures and the Fahrenheit equivalents during their trip. Jonathan and I started laughing (playfully of course), of course, as my sisters would have as well, and once we cleared up the confusion my father blamed us, as he could have blamed any of my sisters. That is, it was not that he misunderstood; we were at fault for being unclear.
At that moment, as our chuckles faded, I think I really understood that although three generations of us rode in that car telling stories, having fun, to my parents there were two sets of people: them, and two of their children. It occurred to me that Jonathan and I are both their children. The distinction between child and grandchild is not that marked to them; they approach their relationships with us with the same seriousness and responsibility. Fifty years later there are more of us to love and look after, but they love us all just the same.