Thanksgiving Day Eve, 2012: The mandated “Media Blackout Period” has finally expired.
I am now cleared to report that on Friday, November 9, 2012, around 10:00 PM, I began my transition into yet another bonus phase of my life. Sitting at the kitchen table after sharing a box of take-out Buffalo wings and potato skins from The Caddy Shack, our son Chris and his fiancée Lindsey presented us with a gift bag.
As Leigh opened the bag and examined the contents, her placid, calm demeanor suddenly turned into quiet confusion and barely controllable euphoria. Her hands shaking, her voice trembling, she passed the white cloth to me, saying, “Does this mean….?”
As I read the words my heart raced, my eyes welled, and I started to shake. The depth and breadth of the implications of this customized baby bib were paralyzing, yet tickling every cell in my body; I was vibrating with joy.
For Leigh, she found herself on the cusp of her dream of being a Grandmother. For me, 10,000 years of human evolutionary instinct took control of my being: Standing up from the kitchen table, shooting my arms toward the ceiling like a football fanatic signaling a touchdown, I yelled, “I’m sleeping with a Grandmother!”
I suspect most men don’t react this way. While the ‘Blackout’ (read: “Don’t post this on Facebook until Thanksgiving!”) has been in effect, my enthusiasm and excitement have continued to build. The fact that I am even around to hear Chris and Lindsey announce their impending parenthood is in itself a momentous occasion. I am literally brought to my knees in gratitude.
In 1995, nine months into my dance with cancer, I was given a 15% chance of living beyond two years. At that point, I didn’t even know if I would see Chris and his sister Caity get through middle school, much less graduate high school, college, and grow to find love and start families of their own. Simply being “Dad” has, without reservation, been the single greatest gift ‘surviving cancer’ has given me. Watching my children grow into the delightful young adults has been icing on the cake. Becoming a Grandpa will be the cherry.
I will be the first to admit Chris’s journey has not been an easy one.
Abducted by aliens on his first day of ninth grade, Chris, as we knew him, disappeared from our lives and was replaced by a look-alike. Our sweet, adorable, smiling adolescent boy had somehow transformed into something we could visually recognize, but weren’t sure we could communicate with. The body was the same, the face (less the smile) was the same, and the amount of food he consumed was the same; but the little boy within was, simply….. gone! We just didn’t know what to make of it. Quite frankly, we thought we may never see the ‘real’ Chris again.
And so it would be. Throughout his high school and college years, and early twenties, we could only dream of the eighth grader we once knew who loved to play and laugh.
In May of 2010, Chris had moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL in search of sunshine and soothing scenery. Leigh and I made plans to spend the Christmas holiday with him. Shortly before our trip Chris asked, “Would it be alright to have a girl join us for dinner one night?”
We were flabbergasted. As a cardinal rule, Chris has never (intentionally) commingled his family with any other part of his life. In spite of his apparent nonchalance, we were buzzing with curious anticipation to meet this young woman!
The first night we met Lindsey, we fell in love with her. As lovely and pleasant as she is, it wasn’t what she said or did that blew us away; it was what she had done to our son. She had to be responsible for the remarkable transformation of our lost little-boy-turned-alien into the courteous, smiling, pleasant young man now sitting in front of us. A consummate gentleman, he introduced her, he held her chair as she sat, and he kissed her ‘hello’ (On the Lips! He kissed her on the lips!!!) He was smitten.
What followed, however, was both disappointing and shocking. We were disappointed to learn Lindsey would be flying out the next day to spend the Christmas holiday with her own family (What if her spell on him breaks if she leaves town?). The shocker that followed? Her family lives in York, Pennsylvania – about 25 miles south of where we live!
Yes – Chris moved 1,141 miles from Mechanicsburg to Ft Lauderdale to fall in love with a girl from York. You just can’t make this stuff up. And the rest, as they say, is life and love just happening.
I don’t know what I’ll be called as a Grandfather. My kids have a Bepop and a Granddad. Son-in-law Pete is somehow already enamored with calling me “Gramps”. The Irish word for Grandpa is “Daideo”, which has alternate pronunciations of ‘Da-do’ and ‘Da-jo’. At first glance, it reminds me of Daddy-O!
Quite frankly, I don’t really care what I’m called; I just want to hear their laughter.
As for what kind of Grandpa I’ll be, I have no idea. My Grandfathers both passed before my recollection, and I have no firsthand experience to model what the relationship should be. Interestingly though, I have already come up with a Top Ten List of Things A Grandfather Must Pass On:
1. Sugar-coated Sugar Cubes (just before bedtime).
2. Making up your own lyrics while singing with the radio.
3. Dancing Gangnam Style.
4. Keep your parents confused!
5. More sugary stuff.
6. Samoan Slap Dances.
7. “Will you pull my finger?”
8. Wildly untrue tales about Grandma.
9. Even more sugary stuff!
10. Laughing. A lot of laughing.
Leigh and I are over-the-moon thrilled for Chris and Lindsey, and I am pretty excited about reaching yet another unexpected stage of life: Really freaking excited!
“Honey, it’s time to put your Granny Panties on!”
Happy to be alive and Happy Thanksgiving to you!
For more on Chris check out Cutting the Cord