Here we are in our early fifties and, I kid you not, we’re expecting.
The news came without warning at a Thai restaurant one Friday in April. I was halfway through a mouthful of #34 (lemongrass chicken—easy on the spice) when she grinned and handed me a gift bag and a congratulations. Inside was a coffee mug. On the side it read, “Don’t mess with me, I’m the Grandpa!”
My wife Ramona held up a daintier mug (“Promoted to Grandmother”) and let go a muted scream. Were it not for the lemongrass chicken in my mouth, I might have screamed too.
“Raelyn, you shouldn’t have,” was all I managed. My son Jeff sat beside his wife looking like he’d just scored an overtime winner at the World Cup. There was hugging and congratulations and more hugging. Jeff and I high-fived and I said, “Waytago!”
So there you have it. Lord willing, this will be our first Christmas as grandparents.
Everyone is telling me how wonderful it will be. I listen to grandfathers my age, many of whom still have their original teeth, and they say, “You just wait it’s the bestest thing ever you will not believe how awesome they are you just feed ‘em chocolate and licorice and send them home and let their parents deal with it and I hope you have 25 the more the merrier I have two dozen myself did I mention they’re the bestest?” And then they faint because they haven’t taken a breath in a minute and a half.
When this happens, I think three thoughts. 1. Over-enthusiasm often indicates someone is hiding something. 2. What does a grandparent do? My own grandfather lived at the airport. We picked him up there each Christmas, which gave him time to stock up on chocolate and presents. 3. I really should help resuscitate this poor fellow.
Off the record, I can’t shake the feeling there’s less here than meets the eye. I have spent years around little kids. They’re cute. But they make messes and noises and trouble. Of course they bring joy, but they also bring frogs, insomnia, and poverty. Will having more of them around help this?
My wife just laughs when I talk like this. “You’re such a big softy,” she says. “You just wait. They’ll melt your heart.” But this is coming from one who cannot be trusted to think rationally now that grandchildren are in the picture. One day I was sipping from Ramona’s mug when Raelyn called. I think she said, “I’m taking a water break.” When I passed this along, Ramona lunged to her feet and wrestled the phone from me. Admittedly, we men could improve at relaying pertinent information about children. Two weeks after my niece gave birth, my wife confronted me. “You KNEW about Patricia’s birth? The name and the WEIGHT? You didn’t TELL me?”
“I’m sorry. I forgot,” I said, as she brought a blanket and pillow and pointed to the sofa. “Sleep here.”
I love this girl dearly, but the prospect of becoming a grandmother has her making blankets and rearranging furniture and talking complete nonsense.
Here is an actual transcript of a breakfast table conversation.
Me: “They want me to speak at a conference in November.”
Ramona: “November? You know what November is.”
Me: “Yes. It’s a conference.”
Ramona: “No. It’s when The Baby is due.”
Ramona: “Yes, due! To be born.”
Me: “Oh, that’s right. November. Well, what am I supposed to do in November? Sit around in a snowdrift and wait for the baby?”
Ramona: “Some pastors take six-month sabbaticals.”
Along about noon, Raelyn emailed us a video. I clicked on it and my heart completely stopped. I was watching a grainy image of a tiny little person moving about. My grandchild. I turned up the sound and listened to its heartbeat. I couldn’t stop grinning. And every single morning now I pray for this baby. Sometimes at lunch. Often at bedtime. Last night I read Psalm 139 to Ramona, about how God is forming this child, body and soul. It’s awesome, breathtaking work. There’s nothing in the world that surpasses the wonder of having a child around at Christmastime.
I told my friend James this. He doesn’t know much about grandchildren. In fact, I’m not really convinced he thinks they’re that great. I told him I was pretty sure this one was a boy and that the heartbeat sounded a lot like mine and that I can’t wait for Christmas because the kids are coming and that I’ve bought the little guy a cool little hockey jersey and if she’s a girl I doubt she’ll mind because sometimes girls like to wear them too.
Next thing I knew, James was trying to resuscitate me.