Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Penny From Heaven


Penny is Inspector Gadget's niece. Gadget always tells her to stay home when he's on the job, but she is secretly helping solve the mysterys and getting Gadget out of trouble. She lets him have all the credit, though. The neatest thing about her, though, is the computer book and watch she uses to communicate with her dog, Brain.

Two little sentences turned my world upside down.

The first was from my doctor: “You can NEVER go back to work!”

The second was from my son: “You are going to be a grandmother!”

And they happened almost concurrently.

The first sentence rocked my world so dramatically that everything inside me screamed, “NO!”. I was so adamant that he couldn’t do that to me that I sat down and made myself a whole new wardrobe to wear when I went back to work. Then I hung my beautiful new clothes in my closet, and with no where to wear them, proceed to go into a low-key depression.

The second sentence rocked my world like a cradle. A baby in the family was wonderful to look forward to, but my daughter-in-law was a very complicated woman. My low-key depression stuck around.

The baby was born. It was a boy. My daughter-in-law put the baby boy in my arms and said, “I can’t seem to bond with him.”

My world and the hole it contained were filled with the feel of that little body. My low-key depression disappeared as her words were spoken. I had been given something that needed me as much as I needed it. A grandson!

Looking through his eyes opened up a world I had put away on a shelf ... the world of discovery. Everything was new and wonderful to him. Everything was exciting and fun. Everything was filled with wonder.

When he was two years old he thought it would be wonderful if he and I had secret names. Names only he and I would recognize and respond to. His favorite TV cartoon was “Inspector Gadget”. Inspector Gadget has a yellow haired niece named Penny. After days of deep thought and many, many rejections he whispered that he had chosen our secret names. My name would be ’Penny’ as in “Inspector Gadget” and his name would be ’Jeff’ as in the TV show “Lassie“.

So our days were spent calling one another our secret names. We had a great time with the thrill of it being so secret until ... one night when his father came to take him home.

He didn’t mean to do it, but you know how hard it is to keep a secret. He just slipped for a moment, but it was enough of a slip that his father found out that there were secret things happening during the day. I heard his father tell him the name Jeff wasn’t nearly as nice as the name that he had been given when he was born. So the secret name ’Jeff’ got tarnished. It never felt as much fun after that. But ‘Penny’ stayed bright and shiny; a secret for a long, long time.

Eventually it became such a habit for him to call me ’Penny’ that it began to slip into his conversations with other people. He didn’t mean to reveal the secret. Sometimes he would feel bad that others knew about it, but it just seemed to happen. When he made a new friend, without giving it a seconds thought, he would introduce me as Penny. The magic of the name rolled along like a snowball and gathered more and more people. One morning he caught his father saying, “We’re going to Penny’s house”. He told me he laughed really hard when his father said that.

When his sister was born he introduced her to our little world by saying, “This is our Penny.”

Then one afternoon I went outside and one of the neighbors said, “Hi Penny.” My man friend from Georgia, the one that I had known for over 20 years, started calling me Penny. My parents, that had given me my very first name, started calling me Penny. Everyone everywhere was calling me Penny.

The journey that started with a doctor’s negative sentence became one of love and laughter and a little boy’s secret name for his grandmother.

My legal name is Sandra.

But my magical name is Penny.

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