When my daughter Summer delighted us recently with the news that she and her husband, Brandon, were going to have a baby, I hugged her in a way I never had before. And after I did a little dance, I hugged her some more.
Of all the passages in life, wasn’t this one of the more exceptional, yet ordinary? I was here for a purpose, possibly fulfilling a promise or realizing a dream. And my little girl, who’d grown to be an accomplished woman and wife, was giving life to another, was going to be a mother.
As the realization began to sink in, I was filled with a quiet comfort, a soothing reassurance that my becoming a grandfather was something both genuine and right and that my grandson (yes, we already know the gender) would extend a continuum of family that stretches from Italy and Ireland to Germany and Lebanon and places in between. And that now might even reach far into the future, perhaps into the next century!
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A Lucky Dad
My other overarching reaction was to vividly recall Summer’s own arrival in 1980, to lose myself in a cascade of memories of her birth and growth and development.
When my wife, Pam, and I decided to have children, we also agreed that it would be as much a 50-50 proposition as humanely possible. That translated into my being a “house husband/stay-at-home dad” before it was trendy or popular. I didn’t have any role models, plus I’d never been a parent, so it was going to be quite an adventure to be sure. The best part of all is that it forged a unique, unbreakable bond between Summer and me, one that most fathers and daughters never experience.
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While I didn’t always think so at the time, I’ve come to see that I was far luckier than most of my male peers who had to slough their way through the get-ahead, upwardly mobile, career rat race. Instead, my work as an at-home parent put me in touch with life’s simpler rituals — bringing about a good burp after a bottle, singing (off key) lullabies I didn’t know I knew, sensing the poetry in Goodnight Moon and enjoying the wonder of the seasons in I am a Bunny.
Summer’s recent announcement also made me recall my breaking the news about her arrival, our first child, to my parents in the fall of 1979. A long distance phone call was the best we could do to collapse the hundreds of miles between us. The connection wasn’t the best, but I could feel the lift in their voices, especially my dad’s. My mom gushed (they were already grandparents, thanks to my older brother) and inquired lovingly about Pam’s health, while my dad, for some reason, thanked me.
Making a Stake
Years later, when my dad was dying from prostate cancer, I asked him if he remembered saying that and why he did. His face softened, his words coming a little slower.
“I was thanking you for being so optimistic and hopeful,” he quietly told me. “After you got back from Vietnam and moved away, you seemed mad about everything. Your mother and I worried that you’d never settle down, never be happy. I was glad you’d decided to make a stake in the future.”
My stake in the future was reminiscent of the one my father — and millions of World War II vets like him — made by having children when they returned home to raise families and rebuild America.
Yes, that’s the tie that binds, the thread that connects the fabric that is my father and me, and Summer and me, and now Summer and her son. And him to me, his soon-to-be grandfather.
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In a way, it’s all so simple, but none the less inspiring. I can’t wait to read I Am A Bunny to my grandson. I’m eager to sing him to sleep with Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
And I’ll shed a tear for his great-grandfather Jack, no longer with us, who would’ve loved this boy. And would have thanked his granddaughter Summer for being so optimistic.
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