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Essay

A grandfather shares the joys of Disney

A LEGO lover is enthralled by a Downtown Disney display. A LEGO lover is enthralled by a Downtown Disney display. (Richard P. Carpenter for The Boston Globe)
By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / February 7, 2010

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Time is a funny thing. Years fly but months can crawl, especially if you are waiting for something magical.

In a couple of blinks of an eye, my children had grown and I had become a grandfather. And ever since that sunny October morning in 2003 when Maxwell Richard Gadon was born, I had been longing to take him to Walt Disney World, a place I enjoy so much because of my childhood love of all things Disney that, frankly, I am a little loopy on the subject. I am even loopier on the subject of Max, who, with some justification, I consider to be the world’s greatest grandson. Put the two together and you have a grandfather thirsting for the day he can plunk his only grandchild down in the middle of Disney’s world.

Yet I knew to wait until Max was old enough to fully appreciate the megalopolis in central Florida. As a frequent visitor, I have noticed that the children I hear screaming their little lungs out are 4 years old or younger. They are tired and overexcited and might have enjoyed a leisurely visit to the place with the golden arches just as much.

But now Max was 5, and one day in May I spotted a Disney deal offering free dining for the length of a stay. That cinched it. For about $600 a person, my wife and I were able to treat Max and his parents to a four-day visit in October, just a couple of weeks before the boy’s sixth birthday. That price included flights, theme park tickets, airport transportation, and accommodations at a Disney “value resort,’’ in this case the perfectly pleasant All-Star Music Resort.

Time played its tricks. The months until October seemed to move slower than a tortoise on a leisurely stroll, but finally the day came, and with a nonstop flight from Logan Airport, we were on Disney property before noon. Maxwell put on a pair of ultra-cool sunglasses while I donned a Donald Duck cap, shirt, and watch. We were ready to roam.

Now a trip to Disney World means a lot of walking and, sometimes, waiting in line. Max never walks when he can run, and burns great gobs of energy with his high level of enthusiasm for things he enjoys. So some energy conservation was in order. We persuaded him he wasn’t too old to ride in a stroller now and then, and even more important, we would leave the park for a few hours each day, something I recommend for all visitors, even those without children. Doing so meant that we missed seeing all of the Animal Kingdom (my second-favorite park, after the Magic Kingdom), but it was worth it to see Max relax while swimming with his grandmother and father.

Those days have become a marvelous melange of images: Max on the Walt Disney World Railroad, in a nostalgic nod to his “younger’’ days when he loved trains more than anything; at the Tomorrowland Speedway, repeatedly riding the race cars that are the current object of his affection. There he was acting as grumpy as a certain Disney dwarf as we tried to persuade him that he should temporarily forsake another speedway ride because he would enjoy the audio-animatronic birds in the Enchanted Tiki Room (he didn’t).

There was Max, nodding and sporting a simpering smile in perfect imitation of the sappy statues in the “It’s a Small World’’ ride and laughing uproariously at the wacky antics in the “Mickey’s Philharmagic’’ 3-D attraction. There he was, embracing his other grandfather, who lives in Florida and came to spend an afternoon at Epcot with him. There he was in Downtown Disney, the entertainment-dining-shopping complex, dithering over which monstrous LEGO blocks set to pick out as a birthday present. And there I was, concluding that being a grandparent is 300 times more fun than being a parent.

Time is fooling with me again. Those four days now seem like four hours. Yet in a sense the trip goes on as Max gleefully rehashes the experience in elaborate detail. But he is 6 and I am 69. So many new and exciting things await him that one day the joyful memory of his introduction to Disney World will be pushed to the back of his mind. For me, though, it will never stray too far from front and center.

Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at r.carpenter@comcast.net.