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HERB BENHAM: Enjoying every moment

He still wants to hold my hand. You never know. Never know if it's the last time you'll have that kind of sweetness. Things change.

They grow fast. One minute they're bringing home their first-grade homework and the next, they're pounding their mitt and playing second base for their high school team. No telling what the next visit will bring especially when visits are spaced six weeks apart.

Six weeks is not long. Not long if you've been around for a while. When you're under 7, and the world is exploding daily with possibilities, six weeks is like six years.

"Do you want to pick up Andrew at school?" asked Katie, Andrew's mom.

Yes.

"Wait in the school courtyard," she said. "He gets out at noon."

I showed up a half-hour early. I didn't want to be late. I wanted to see him when he saw me.

The school door opened at 11:50 a.m. and the first-graders started coming out in ones and twos. Shirts and ties for the boys, dresses for the girls. The students looked sharp. Organized. Uniforms will do that.

Would he recognize me? He's changing and I may be getting worse.

In six weeks, he could have lost some teeth. Had teeth come in. Grown taller.

I got out of my car and walked to the courtyard. He saw me and smiled shyly. The shy smile nearly broke my heart and I'm not sure why.

Not broke it in a bad way but in a good way. Good or bad, I teared up but had enough sense to turn my head, wipe my eyes. I didn't want him to think that along with a redder nose, Papa was more of a crybaby than he had been before.

Andrew walked over, looked up to me and took my hand as if to say, "Hey big fellow, it's going to be all right."

Things I will miss. This. A child's hand wrapped around my own. Warm and trusting. It is one of the most beautiful and innocent things you will ever experience.

"We're going to have fun," I said.

I think I said it and if I didn't, I thought it and thought about making good on it.

"How about some tacos?" I said.

That I said and that he answered.

"Yes."

We drove to Rigoberto's Taco Shop.

We ordered one beef taco for him, two for me and a quesadilla for his sister, Lillian, which I ate because she didn't want it. We picked her up a few minutes later and ate our lunch in the pocket park next to her school.

No question that Lillian would hug me. Hold my hand. She's almost 5 and that's what they do.

We drove to the La Jolla Recreational Center and commandeered one half of a backboard, the kind tennis players warm up on. No tennis for Andrew; he loves baseball.

I was pitching for the Dodgers, he was batting for the Padres. The Padres won the World Series over and over again. The Dodger pitcher made sure of that.

"He's got a nice swing," said a silver-haired tennis player, on his way to the courts.

I know. I also know that even if he didn't have a nice swing, I'd think he did. That's the prerogative of grandparents. Dream big enough for the whole family.

Future Hall of Famer or not. It doesn't matter. When a 7-year-old boy loves baseball, it is a love bigger than the building honoring it.

Lillian handed her way back and forth across the monkey bars. Andrew kept swinging for the fences. An hour and a half went by like it was nothing.

Fifteen minutes before their mother arrived, an ice cream truck pulled up. Dinner was on the horizon but we pretended it wasn't. Every kid has to buy a Popsicle from an ice cream truck. Ice cream truck treats taste better than store-bought.

Andrew chose watermelon, Lillian orange. The Popsicles were gone before their mother arrived. Way before.

We said goodbye. Goodbyes are not easy. No matter what you tell yourself and how much ice cream you've had.

"When are we going to see you again?" they asked.

Soon. Before anybody changes. If they do, when they do, I want a front-row seat.

Email contributing columnist Herb Benham at benham.herb@gmail.com. His column appears here on Sundays; the views expressed are his own.