Posts Tagged ‘grandson’


May 20, 2018

(Originally written 9/30/14. The grandson mentioned here is almost 7 now.)

Why is being consciously concerned about leaving a legacy important? Why does it even matter?

The only answer that even works is love.

A hundred years from now, who will remember me personally? No one, most likely. A century later, if any of us exist at all in anyone’s consciousness, it is as a name on a building plaque or tombstone or in a genealogy. Nothing remains. Anonymous dust. (Since I plan to be cremated, there won’t even be the tombstone in my case.)

So why bother caring? For the same reason that, in that unthinking heartbeat, without batting an eyelash, we would lay down our lives for the grandson we are taking to the museum. He matters that much.

True, he probably won’t be around in that same hundred years, but leaving him something significant, consciously, may make it easier for those he transmits his legacy to. Someone has transmitted their legacy, even if only genetically, to get me here, and others have transmitted culture, knowledge, and sustainability to get us all here. So somehow, it matters.

We have to love enough to leave a legacy. The only legitimacy legacy can claim is caring enough to make it happen. Deep inside, in our core, we care, enough to want it to matter. So we strive to leave something behind.

I can remember crying in my early school days, asking my dad—in my own mind— why he had had to leave me. (He committed suicide when I was 3.) But sometimes a clarity would come in, that perhaps he had left me more by leaving me—I had social security and veteran benefits for school that I would not have had otherwise. And who knows what negative memories I was spared? Maybe in leaving me, he loved me more than even he knew. I still pray for him—that is part of his legacy in leaving.

We have to love our past adequately in order to value the future. The continuity needs to be established. It took me until I was age 60 to track back past my father’s father’s name, age, and residence listed on my dad’s birth certificate. I found a brokenness in the life of his father—my great-grandfather—that explained it. He had killed his mother accidentally at age 17, and died when his son was 12. That son, my grandfather, never married my grandmother, leaving more brokenness. (My father’s birth certificate says they were married, but I’m almost certain that was a cover-up, based on other genealogical clues.)

But out of all those brokennesses, and a multitude of others, the mosaic of my life is pieced together. I have to try to step back enough to discern the picture. And even then, I only catch glimpses of glory.

But I care enough to try to leave it for my son and daughter, for their daughters, and for this grandson who is not even my flesh and blood. He may never read this, but it matters to me. I love that much.

The Sword and the Diaper

June 24, 2014

“Wah-SHAWWWW!” He cries, waving the plastic sword at me menacingly, a gleam in his eyes and his sagging diaper threatening to fall at any minute. He attacks with full, fierce force. I jump back, the blade barely missing slicing me in half.

Having driven me off, he slides the sword into its invisible scabbard, the tight space between his diaper and his hips. His belly bulges forward as he struggles to find the narrow opening, but he’s gotten efficient at it in the past 3 days. He narrowly escapes slicing the tab in two (much more difficult with plastic, but still doable!), and turns his focus on adjusting his knight’s helmet.

“LUKE, I AM NOT YOUR FAHD-DUH!”  I intone in my deepest Darth Vader voice. Ignoring me, he races off to run the gauntlet around the kitchen island. But before he gets there, he turns to face me, wiggles his hips back and forth, and sings out his challenge: “You can’t get me, nanny-nanny-yellow!” Waiting for me to respond, he tries to evaluate whether I’ll come at once or whether he’ll have to dare me again. I stalk toward him like the monster he envisions, and he waits till the absolute last second, then turns to flee as I snatch him off the floor and start devouring his back, snorting and snuffling, all the time him squealing with glee.

Later, I’ll be Big Bear, threatening to eat up Little Bear, or protecting him by covering him and warding off wolves and mountain lions, or smearing him with magic water to make him invisible, leaving only a sword and a diaper hanging in thin air.

The joys of a 3-year-old and grandparenting! Such is life with my grandson, every day a new adventure—except when it’s not. When there’s a continuing fever and coughing and hacking. When there’s nothing obvious but he’s so cranky he’s unbearable. Still, I wouldn’t trade it.

I get to see the world through his eyes, and I realize I must have seen it before over a half-century ago. How did I lose it? How did I forget? It’s like being a child all over again!

And I get to be a father all over again too. The things I missed out on with my own kids, the times I was too busy or distracted, or just plain too wrapped up in myself—I get to do an extreme makeover, a do-over.

Not to forget grandfathering with fresh eyes. I have a granddaughter who’s about to turn 19, so I’ve been here before. How did I miss so much then? I can remember holding her in the hospital, newly born and so small and fragile, and understanding why grandparents were crazy and acted so loony over their grandkids.

But somehow in the long journey from these foreign lands to here, I’d forgotten these things. Life got too frantic, pressed in too hard, demanded too much. And I gave it willingly, unknowingly, cluelessly unaware that I was losing my soul.

Maybe I never had it to begin with. Maybe it was taken captive by some monster when I was a child, and here’s my chance to reclaim the treasure.

A Heritage of Steps

February 17, 2013

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?

A Man Called Marshall

July 23, 2012

Yesterday, Sunday, my wife and I were driving down to have lunch with her son, Allen, who is my step-son (though he has become as much a son as my own flesh-and-blood son), and his son, Colt, our 1-year-old grandson. He is in the middle of family and custody issues that rival a soap-opera, and we, of course, get caught in the middle, trying to navigate the treacherous waters that will bring the most benefit for the little tyke, whom we want to have the best family and spiritual heritage possible in the midst of a not-so-pleasant situation. It IS resolving itself some, but it is painful, and we were going to lunch to try to resolve some of most recent eruptions of the issue.

On the drive down, we are talking about a man who paid tribute to his just-deceased father at the start of a long teaching I had been listening to. We have a lot of respect for this particular teacher, having heard him in person a number of times, but this particular video is on YouTube, and has become relatively well-viewed. Out of the blue, my wife says, “I don’t know what I would say at my father’s funeral. I guess if I don’t have anything to say, the best thing would be to simply keep quiet.”

I was appalled. My wife’s father, Marshall, is in his upper 80’s. He has lived all his life in flat farming country in the Midwest. He was a successful farmer, a major officer in a land bank, and still married—they just celebrated 65 years in May. But that is not where I think his greatest success lies. The last 6 years have been probably the most painful of his whole life, watching his wife be slowly stolen from him by the ravages of Alzheimers. Whether out of stubbornness or perseverance (flip-sides of the same coin to me), he resists putting her in a nursing home. In-home care is costing him into 5 figures each year, and is slowly eating away the inheritance he longed to—and was giving some of—to his 3 daughters. He has had to make necessary adjustments—keeping the stove power off because his wife tried to boil water in plastic, having to restrain her in ways that tear his heart out, watching her weep when she gets up on a Thursday morning and dresses for church and cries because she can’t go (it’s not Sunday), seeing her personality disappear out of a body that is like a walking death endured in a thousand indescribable ways. (The blessings of our medical prowess have brought us curses as well, like the Cumaean sibyl of Ovid, able to live forever, but having failed to ask for eternal youth, withering away till we’re trapped in a jar with only a voice left.)

So I said to my wife, “Your dad is a monument. I wish the world could be full of Marshalls.” I went on to describe some of the ways I admire him—a man who at 88 still lives in the same house for half a century, who still makes his own ammo and shoots prairie dogs, who is still able to drive to visit his daughter a thousand miles away, who is proud of how little he has to recycle, who still eats a simple breakfast—the list goes on and on. I said, “If the world had a lot more men like your dad, we wouldn’t be having all the situations like we are going to try to take care of today. I wish there were thousands of men like Marshall.”

She got teary-eyed and said, “Thank you. I appreciate you helping me see that about my dad.” But it’s true: I would gladly be like a man called Marshall, and I wish far more men had models and monuments like that to look up to.