I became a grandfather just a little over three years ago. Everything I’d ever heard about how wonderful it would be pales in comparison to how wonderful it is. In that little guy I can see my daughter, my son-in-law, myself, my wife, our other kids and traits from our son-in-law’s mom, his siblings and other family members on both sides. He’s got Papi’s eyes, Mommy’s mouth, Ya-Ya’s dimples… this goes on and on.
It’s amazing how God can combine the very best traits from the entire gene pool when he builds a kid.
But watching my grandson get taller, talk more and go faster gets me thinking in the other direction, too, back to the generations that came before him. From where I sit, that’s not so long ago. On our side, my dad was the only great-grand who didn’t get to meet Ben; he died in 2013, just past his 92nd birthday. My wife’s mom passed away a couple of months after her 87th birthday, but she knew and loved this little guy when he was a toddler. My wife’s dad is due to turn 87 this year, and my mom is 92 today. They get to see their great-grandson on a regular basis, and collect his sugar and his hugs, and he gets the great blessing of knowing them.
As of today, he’s got 358 years (and counting) worth of great-grandparents on his mother’s side alone. If his lifespan is in the neighborhood of theirs, he will see the dawn of the 22nd Century.
I must admit, that freaks me out a little.
I just took a photo off the wall-in-the-hall that shows all four of my grandparents sitting on a couch. The occasion was my first birthday (I must have been kind of a big deal). My dad, ever the labeler, put the birth-and-death dates of each of them at the bottom of the photo when he had it framed. It seemed a little weird at the time, but I’m glad he did it now. It’s an amazing reference point.
Three of my grandparents were born in the 19th Century — the 1800s. And I knew them, sat on their laps, made them laugh, banged in and out of their screen doors. It doesn’t seem that much of a stretch from them to the kid who runs all over my house, roaring like a tiger, climbing and hiding and dragging out toys. And it’s not so far-fetched to think of his grandchildren, or even his great-grandchildren — running all over his house, in a year where the calendar starts with 21-something.
What will that world be like? Could my grandparents, sitting on that couch in 1957, have imagined this one? It was a technological miracle that they could get in a car and drive nearly 2,000 miles on paved highways for a birthday celebration. What will be high-tech for my grandson’s grandkids?
As children, my grandparents pre-date automobiles and airplanes. They walked or rode horses or horse-drawn wagons if they wanted to go anywhere. Electricity and telephones were science-fiction. It was a huge deal that the railroad had just gone coast-to-coast.
My grandson knows only a world where everyone is connected by the internet, through a device they can hold in their hand. In his world, jets fly us anywhere we want to go and television live-streams the security cameras in our house when we’re away. What will his grandkids take for granted?
If this kind of thinking gives you tired-head, join the club. (It’s a big club.) But there’s a nugget of profound comfort in this generational thinking, too.
It’s a smile. I can still see my Grandpa’s, my Nonnie’s and my Boppa’s. They smiled at me because they thought I was funny, and just because they loved me. The smiles came down a generation, too: my dad’s, my mom’s, my mother and father-in-law’s — they never smiled quite so big as when we gave them grandchildren to smile at. We, and they, passed those smiles to our children, smiles of love, laughter at their endearing ways. Now we, and they, pass them on and get them back from the bright-eyed boy at play.
As sure as I am of anything, I’m sure he will smile on his children, and on his grandchildren. No matter where technology takes the world, that will not change.
After all, it’s our Father’s smile.
The dimples? Like I said, those came from Ya-Ya.