Locked Out
John Norberg, humor columnist s

Last week my wife and I traveled out of state to visit our son, his wife and our 15-month-old grandson, Alex. We discovered he is not only learning to talk, heís learning American Sign Language.

This means at 15 months he already knows stuff I donít know. If he already knows stuff at 15 months that I donít know at 65 years, either the boy is a genius or I'm not too smart.

I'm sticking with genius.

The other thing I discovered when we got to their house was that there was absolutely nothing breakable within three feet of the floor.

And the entire house was granddad proof.

Guess who's learned to walk.

My son and his wife have a huge pantry in the kitchen. It's filled with cookies, potato chips, crackers and lots of other stuff I never eat at home.

It's not that I donít love this stuff. And it's not that there isn't any of this food in our house.

My wife just hides it so I can't find it.

But at Alex's house they donít hide the food from me. It's right there in the pantry. Not long after I arrived I headed for the pantry for some cookies.

They had a granddad lock on the door.

Technical, this lock is to keep Alex out. Itís a plastic contraption that hooks on the doors. There are buttons you have to push and gizmos you have to pull and Alex is too young to figure it all out. It keeps him out of the pantry.

Unfortunately, I'm too old to figure out how it works and it kept me out of the pantry, too.

Just like Alex is ahead of me in sign language, heíll also probably figure out how to break the locks into the pantry long before I will.

I also couldnít figure out how to open the granddad/child proof gate at the door to the TV room where the football games were on last weekend. I had to watch from the hall.

There was even a granddad proof device that kept the cover closed on the toilets. I was there three days and I never did figure it out.

Fortunately, there was a gas station only a couple miles away or I would have been in trouble.

I'm actually afraid my wife will like the device that keeps toilet covers closed and she might install them in our house.

Good thing we have friendly neighbors.

Alex is at the age where he learns new things every day.

I decided to teach him an important word that will get him anything he wants.

Me: "Say 'granddad.'"

Alex: "Patoowey."

Me: "There. He said 'granddad.' Did you hear him?"

Wife: "It sounded like 'patoowey' to me."

You might be a granddad if you think a toddler is speaking your name when heís really just spitting out strained peas.

There are other ways you can tell if you're a grandparent.

You are probably a grandparent if you applaud every time a 15-month-old eats a bite of food, as if this has never been done before.

You are probably a grandparent if you spend 45 straight minutes saying "Whereís Alex? Whereís Alex? Thereís Alex!" as he hides and then pops out from behind the curtains. And you love every minute of it. Normal people would last five minutes, tops. Grandparents arenít normal.

You probably are a grandparent if you walk into a store that sells baby toys, games, books and clothes and you buy the store.

You are probably a grandparent if you get down on the floor to play with a toddler totally forgetting your knee is shot and you have no ability to get back up.

You are probably a grandparent if you think itís funny when a child jumps in a mud puddle. You also probably don't have to wash his clothes.

You are probably a granddad if your wife looks at you and says it's time to change the baby and you pretend you canít hear her. After many years of experience with children and grandchildren I am an expert at knowing the proper way to change a baby. You hand him to someone else.

Most important of all -- you are definitely a grandparent if you realize that as wonderful as it is to have grandchildren, itís an even more wonderful to see the absolute joy these a 15-month-old boy brings to the life of your son and daughter-in-law.

Thatís why it's so special to be a grandparent.

We get double the joy.

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