January 20, 2008
The other evening when I returned home from work, I entered our kitchen to greet my wife and kids. My son remained in our den, consumed by a video game. It’s a rare treat for him to use the Game Cube as we severely limit playing time. I peered at him from the open serve-through and joked, pretending that I am his grandfather and he is my grandson.
“Hey, where’s your dad? I’ve got a few things to say to him.” I said in a gravelly, old man’s tone.
He barely twitched, still engrossed by “Lego Star Wars”.
“Um Dad? You’re my dad,” he said with his characteristic aplomb. He’s used to my teasing, pretending to be an alien, speaking in a made up language, and just plain acting silly. All of that in an effort to make my kids laugh.
Not satisfied with his response, I goaded him some more. “Hey you, in the den; you meet any cute girls lately?”
That was enough to make him lose his focus. For any eight-year-old boy is still in the “girls are stupid” phase, merely talking about girls is enough to cause static in his brain, let alone asking him if they’re cute.
“Oh dad, you made me mess up.” He stopped short, set the game on “pause” and then came into the kitchen to say hello.
That little scene, that vignette of pretending to be a grandfather, gave me a chill. I thought about it that night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. With any luck, one day I would be a grandpa with a young boy or girl running around our home for a visit, I thought. But that is only a wish, not a plan. As much as we’d like to believe we could arrange the future, we really can’t.
My mind took me back to my own childhood where I, much like everyone else with dreams of growing up and starting a family, would lie in bed at night and imagine what it would be like to be married and have children. Well, it happened. I’m as far away from myself as a boy as I could be both physically and mentally, but the memory persists of the yearning I had to be a happy husband and father.
Somehow I made it. There were no clear-cut steps to becoming a family man. I sort of grew into the mold. The collective mass of scenes which shaped my life from childhood, through my teenage years, to young adulthood, amazingly resulted in me meeting the woman of my dreams and falling in love. That alone is worth celebrating; and, loving her was the easy part. For her to love me back was the surprise.
As far as a plan is concerned, there isn’t one. There is no destiny. All of the life insurance policies, wills, and healthcare proxies in the world are based on performance expectations. We’re supposed to live a long time. We should make a living, put money aside, and prepare for our survivors’ upkeep after we’re gone. The only eventuality is that we’re going to die. In fact, we’re dead already.
Look at the night sky and take in all of the stars, which burned out billions of years ago. Each one is a record of the past, as is our own sun which we view as it was roughly eight minutes ago. There is never a moment when we know what is happening to our very own star. We are always observing the world by the light of a star in the rear view mirror with nothing to guide us but our memories. In a sense, we are walking backwards through life, the eye we possess focused on what we leave behind as we pray that there is terrain where we place our feet next.
I’d like to cast a line to the child in my memories, myself as a young boy, and reel him close and tell him that he did well. He married a gorgeous woman and has two really great kids and he’ll mature into a happy man.
We are not in control of anything. We merely handle ourselves as though we have a vision, or that there is a destiny we search for. The moment I finish typing this piece I’m in store for nothing but the anticipation that I’ll draw another breath. I’ll stand up, go downstairs and eat dinner with that family I imagined over thirty years ago and was fortunate enough to have. Grandchildren? Hopefully, one day an old man will pull me aside when I not expecting it, and whisper in my ear “You did well.”
son kids husband wife family memories grandpa video game grandfather language married love