by Emmett R Smith
(THESE Upcoming five or so pieces, about being a grandparent, are under the History & History-Making category because nowhere more than in the relation between the very old and the very young does the past and future meet more surely, truly–and, forever. ERS)
I Think that Mr Al Batt has said that being a grandparent makes you realize that–babies rule! Most of all, I find, being Grandfather means that I am–loved.
This is a more rare experience for a so-called “baby-boomer” than you might guess. We grew like weeds in the 1950’s, the1960’s, and in the main we were well-cared-for as to stuff and things and polio-vaccine and the Mickey Mouse Club, on TeeVee. But, the majority of our folks, that so-called “greatest generation,” were tired-out from all their teen-aged years and young adulthoods given over to the Great Depression and “The War.” Especially as a result of the want of the 1930’s, and all the pent-up craving for nice things, our folks were glad to shut up and go to work and buy for us all that they could. “So that you can have it better than we did.”
What was remarkably lacking was anything like an ongoing life and conversation with our parents. And, very little of doing tasks together around the home with our fathers and mothers. With all the work away from home at anonymous and mysterious places, on the part of our fathers, and given the fact that our mothers, at home with all the labor-saving gizmoes no child could safely operate, were feeling mainly what my mother called “stir-crazy,” it is no surprise that even such activities as Cub Scouts and Brownies were social-opportunities primarily forparents.
BE That as it may, and in my own case for the first time in my life, I am actively loved and besought and actually needed.
For now I am an actually living and breathing, sometimes provoked and swearing, Grandfather. This is simply and solely because I am loved, and I am loved by these little two-year-old and seven-months-old beings, my Grandsons Nation and Hugo:
They know nothing of deceit, and they have no guile in their hearts—and, they shall not until that time that they speak only in our words. To be sure, my two-year-old best friend Nation has been saying clearly and distinctly since last summer such things as oh-oh and “there you are.” So that I feel sad, at intervals, over what soon shall be lost–as well as proud of his every new-learned word!
I Live with The Buddies in their parents’ home in Lincoln Park, here at home, in old Mankato.
On nights when my stepdaughter and son-in-law are out late, or overnight, with friends—my daughter is twenty-three, my son (“-in-law”) twenty-seven, so there is a fair amount of this socializing!—I most definitely am a grandfather:
Sometimes, at four or five in the morning, in the dark winter now, I am awakened by the anxious (and, to me, heart-breaking!) crying of my two-year-old best buddy Nation. A bad dream, perhaps…. So that when his parents are home, he tucks in snug and safe with them, and all is well again with the world.
And so it is, when Grandpa is babysitting, that prostatic and ill-sleeping old man is on the alert for the slightest sound from down the long and dark, mysterious, upstairs hallway, ready instantly to rescue his lost small friend from all the Garks and Hoos and Jumpy Bugs.
AS To the redoubtable seven-months-old Hardly Huge Hugo—he is, in fact, a large baby!–when he howls irration at the night, it is all pragmatics; and, the fact that his night-bottle does so often, wretchedly, insist on hiding out somewhere in the foot of the crib, all wadded and disappeared amid the wound-up bedding. Hugo is supremely a kicking sort of baby, and so there you have it—or at least one does finally, when once one has re-made the crib, retrieved the bottle into the Smally Large Hugo’s passionate two-fisted grip, and done, perhaps, a necessary nappy-change.
About all of this, I should make it clear where we stand in the matter of the sibling order, for things, really, are quite simple and clear to all:
Nation is Grandpa’s Number One Man, and his biggish little brother Hugo is Second To None.
ON Those late nights when Grandpa retrieves Nation in the passage, that little boy seizes the old man’s finger in a hard small hand and positively runs ahead to Grandpa’s room. Then, if his Grandfather has not switched on the bed-lamp, there ensue more tears. Only these are more in the nature of whining, now, all of which inspires Grandpa in such utterances as “nothing doing” and Like Hell!
For Grandpa positively insists that there will be no such thing as a session of “Grandpa Radio.” This is an activity reserved for after the evening bath-time, and it consists in punching all of the buttons on the digital-receiver to hear what delightful noises we can make. Usually, at four or five AM anyway, Grandpa has the last word and aging patriarchy prevails:
Unless some fool (Grandpa again!) has left on the lamp in the downstairs parlor, a beacon to his late-night grown-up children. They, of course, will insist every time on leaving the damn thing lighted when they do get home, clutching at the odd pieces of pumpkin leftover from the late festivities of the night. Nation knows forthrightly and for a fact that there are doings downstairs which must be investigated. The light after all is burning, an indisputable fact, and so Grandpa necessarily has to carry his small friend all though the house, making sure all is as it should be.
And so, finally, Grandpa finds himself lying abed with twenty-some pounds of wriggling two-year-old little boy. Nation is, as a rule, not too diapery these days, and soon there is (for Grandpa) a last dozy hour, whilst Nation Just kick-sleeps with brio and enthusiasm to rival that of his big little brother Hugo.
AND So there you have it:
I am a Grandfather, and I became that through the neat expedient of adoption. Having missed small children of my own, I may be forgiven for laying claim so ardently to what is a doubly-special and delightful, joyous, gift. That gift, in so many words, is to know, for once and for all, that there is nothing on earth or in heaven that is important but for the sake of these, our smallest creatures.
(AND, Now, nearly three years’ on, I am going to state what is simply, categorically and absolutely true, in all cases and in all places in the political life of our troubled country. And, what I am going to state as an eternal law–and it is good for all time!–is this:
(FROM Now and henceforward, no one but no one anywhere in the land ever must be elected to any office who is not a grandparent. And, perhaps, it should incur criminal penalties to even presume to file in any election, otherwise.
(Well, until one is actually a grandparent, one simply doesn’t know enough about it and simply has nothing to say–ERS)
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 4 January 2004]