A Heritage of Steps

I have been given the privilege of spending huge quantities of time with my grandson Colt, who is now 19 months old, and learning at an astonishing rate. He is a sponge, absorbing like a sponge and wanting to interact with his environment. We—his aunt (the baby is her brother’s), my wife, and myself—are practically rearing him. That is quite a handful for the 3 of us—my wife and I are in our early 60’s, and our daughter is 34, is unmarried and has no children of her own (yet).

Truth be told, Colt is really my “step-grandson,” or actually the son of my stepson, and his aunt is my stepdaughter. They “married into” our family when I married their mom over 13 years ago. But at this point, I’ve probably had more interaction with them than with my own son and daughter—I was often so busy with work and other things while they were growing up that I missed a lot of interaction with them. Yes, I loved them, and I was a good father, by most standards—not the best, but considering the fathering I had, not bad. I had to learn fathering through on-the-job training, so to speak.

What is interesting to me, though, is that looking back into my more immediate ancestry, I find at least 3 instances of step-fathers entering into the picture in ways that significantly impacted who I am and how I handle life. The first was my own step-father, who had issues with alcoholism and abuse toward his family in ways that created an image of how I did NOT want to be as a father or husband. Indeed, one of the most valuable lessons of wisdom is in learning who we are not, so we can become fully who we are meant to be. So, though I wish the relationship had been better, still I grew from it, and I am thankful for that.

The second “step” was my biological father’s step-father. I knew him as “Paw-Paw.” His name was DB, and he was always distant when my younger sister and I were small, but he changed through an event we were responsible for. Since we stayed on weekends, we asked my grandmother to take us to church, and they eventually took us to a small Baptist church near their home in Belmont NC. Somehow, he got radically saved, and from that moment on, he was a changed man. Before, when my mom had come over, he would literally leave the house until she was gone, and he had little to do with us while we stayed; after this experience, he wanted to interact with us. He wanted to share with us what he was learning—how many verses and chapters there were in the Bible, what the middle verse was, and all the trivia and other things that were impacting him. He died when I was in my early teens, so I never got to know him from an adult perspective, but I still remember the passion he had for his new-found faith.

The third “step” was my great-grandmother’s husband, on the maternal side (my mother’s maternal grandmother). All I know of my great-grandfather was that he seemed to have been a rough man, but the man my GGM married the 2nd go-round was a preacher. She was a member of a small Methodist church in the mountains of Tennessee, in a little town called Maryville, near Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and Knoxville. I used to sleep with my GGM when I was a young boy of 4 or 5—she lived in a garage behind her son’s house that had been converted into a one-room home for her. The place was piled high with all sorts of things, the way mountain people store up to help through hard times. I slept in a feather-bed where you would sink into the middle, and I think I remember her praying and sharing her faith with me—but at the very least she lived it out. She was so deeply committed to her faith that she would not even drink root-beer, even though it was non-alcoholic. One other thing I still remember—she brushed her teeth with a twig off a certain type tree that would splinter to make bristles like a toothbrush.

Both husbands were gone by this time, so I never really knew him, but the fact that he was a preacher meant something to me, even then. And I’m sure that his faith was reflected into and added onto her faith. So, in that sense, I shared in his heritage.

I say all this to say that I have come to realize that I have a “step” heritage. Colt to me is the grandson I have not had the opportunity to have. I have 3 granddaughters, the oldest graduating this year [2013] from high school—but I don’t get to spend much time with any of them. But I have not had a grandson—until now. The past few days, I have started taking him down to put him to bed by rocking him while he takes a “bob” (bottle) and twirls the tassels of his “blankie.” He is usually out within a few minutes, and I sit there in amazement and joy, worshiping or praying, and sometimes even teary-eyed. He is such a joy to me, and I am amazed at how I feel toward him. I feel like I’m one of the most blessed men in the world, and I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.

Scripture says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3) and “Grandchildren are the crown of old men” (Proverbs 17:6). Our heritage doesn’t always come in ways we expect. I’m glad to have recognized this one in time to enjoy it.

Do you have a heritage that you haven’t recognized yet?

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