Copyright © 2014
by Ralph F. Couey
Someone once described being a Grandparent as "all the joys of parenting with (almost) none of the responsibility." That statement generally draws smiles, both from parents and grandparents alike. Kidding aside, there is an indescribable joy about the relationship that grows and develops between grampas and grammas and those wonderful children.
My wife and I now can count 10 grandkids, a total which include one given up for adoption, and another, beset with multiple serious genetic problems, whom God decided was better off with Him. Like many who share our situation, our adult children (why does that sound like such a oxymoron?) are scattered across the landscape, from Maryland to Colorado and California. Still, we're better off than my parents were when I was in the Navy and my sister was teaching in Australia. At least ours are all on the same continent.
Our son and his family are closest to us by distance, so by default we see more of his kids than the others. And yes, we do feel badly about those whose distance means we only get to see them on Skype. Still, retirement is almost upon us, and we intend to become road warriors. Still it is a great joy to be able to have these three around quite often. Diana, whom I've written of before, is, at age 8 growing into a lovely young lady. She is smart (yeah, I know; nobody has a dumb grandchild) and lovely (all right, already!) and blessed with a heart full of sharing and love. She makes friends easily and charms the socks off of everyone she meets. Sophie, at 6 months,the newest model, is beginning to show off a delightful personality. Ian is in the middle, three years old. He is very much his father's son, his behaviors echoing that earlier edition to a degree that is kinda spooky. He is lively and full of energy, not terribly unusual for a boy, but the thing that amazes and at times, stuns us is the remarkable things that come out of his mouth.
At an early age, he began communicating in long, complex sentences. His ability to notice and absorb things is thrilling to watch. Today, he toddled over, crawled into my lap, and began going on in great detail about how sharks eat, and how scary they must be to the other fish. Then, almost without a pause, he launched into a detailed discussion of his current passion, Transformers. He spoke in great detail about each of the mechanical characters, which ones were good and bad, and what their special powers were. This is not unusual for him and we've gotten to the point of just sitting, amazed, and listening to his monologues
He has a great sense of humor and impeccable timing, backed by a smile that positively lights up the room. Yesterday, he located Gramma's Ipad (which he insists on calling "ah-pad"), walked up to me and with eyes narrowed conspiratorially, muttered, "Grampa, I know Gramma's password!" Which he does, having figured out the four-digit code by watching Gramma enter it. Ah-pads are another of his passions, having taught himself how to navigate that Apple product with the ease and facility of someone much older.
He still possesses the self-interest inherent in a toddler. One day, Daddy was using Mommy's ah-pad, which Ian wanted so he could watch cartoons. After a few polite requests, which Daddy denied, continuing to work, he climbed up on the couch, stood with his little face right next to Daddy's and said, "Daddy, YOU need to learn to share!"
One evening, we told him that Daddy loved Transformers too when he was a little boy. Ian considered this for a moment, then turned to our son and asked, "Daddy, how old were you when you were my age?"
These are the priceless moments we will remember forever, and will likely use to embarrass him at Thanksgiving and Christmas for years to come. It's fun to watch him grow up. But not so much fun to acknowledge that we are getting older as well. Both of my grandfathers had already passed when I came into the world, so I never had the treasure of that relationship. And at times, it makes me sad. I don't know if I'll be around to watch Ian graduate from high school, or cross any of the other milestones of life. I can only hope that when my time comes, that enough of me will have touched his life that I will live on, even if only among his treasured memories.
Someday, far into the future, Ian, too will become a father, then a grandfather. And it will be his turn to open up a space in a child's heart. This is the essence of life, after all, passing the love of family down the generations. It is inevitable that people will die. But Love, and the memories upon which it was built, will always survive.
It is, perhaps, our only gift of immortality.