August 30, 2009

Reflections on becoming a grandfather

Last Saturday I became a grandfather.  I’d known about him for a quite a while, but the reality of my grandson completely overwhelmed the intellectual concept that I had of him a mere few hours before.  Seeing my son holding his son in his arms was one of the most incredible and beautiful things I’d ever seen, and when they placed him in my arms, less than two hours old, I was struck by the immense power, strength, and grandeur of life– of his life.  I’ve already plotted which books I’ll buy, and I’m scoping out anything and everything that is eco and safe for my grandson.

It’s funny how fast my thoughts changed.  In just a moment’s flash, I went from an excited but “Hey, I’m too young to be a grandfather!” way of thinking to a “Oh wow.. this is my GRANDSON!  This is incredible!  This is amazing!”  I kept itching to hold him, to touch him, to make him even more real to me.  As I held him for the first time, I was finally able to witness his fragility, his utter vulnerability.  He was totally open to new experiences because everything was and is a new experience.

My son, now a father himself, and I were able to release some of our overwhelming emotions through laughter, through recalling comedian Steven Wright’s routine about his diary as a newborn (When I was a baby, I kept a diary. Recently, I was rereading it. It said, “Day 1 — Still tired from the move. Day 2 — Everybody talks to me like I’m an idiot”). I vowed never to talk with him like he was an idiot, regardless of his age.  There may be many things he does not know, but there are just as many things that I do not know or do not remember, and so it falls to each of us to be mindful  that each of us has just as much to offer the other, no matter what distinctions or labels we place on one another.

On Sunday I gave him his first book (The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne), and even though he was sleeping, I still read him his first story. As he lay cuddled in my arms, I spoke to him the adventures of Pooh and the honeybees, of how the wrong sort of bees produce the wrong sort of honey, and how even rain clouds must sometimes return to earth.

I’ve spent time thinking about the world into which he has been born.  By the time I was born, John F. Kennedy had been dead for two years, but Martin Luther King would be alive for another three. The Beatles were still five years from splitting up, and home computers were the stuff of science fiction.  He’s been born into a world where communication with someone a half a world away takes less than half a second.  He’s been born into a world where a woman can be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, and a black man can be president. What will the world be like when he’s old enough to vote?  What will the world be like when he is my age?

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Todd Mayville  |  Contribution: 25,920