On the occasion of the twins
On the occasion of the twins' 19th birthday I sent them a text message claiming that one of the best gifts ever for Pa and Grandma was the presence in our home of a couple of little boys. Now almost grown men. That message and a couple of pizza parties celebrated the occasion on January 10, 1992 at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan when Henry and Robert's grandparents first held tiny twins in their arms.
The intervening years, a lifetime to Henry and Robert, seem to senior minds but an instant, a slight hiccup in the march of time. Stanching tears of nostalgia for the swiftness of life's passing is the consideration of the alternative, time weighing heavily. Also helping the stanching comes the response, the unanticipated response, of those being celebrated. The text message in my inbox read (more or less): if it weren't for you and grammy I wouldn't be here... meaning college and all of the attendant smaller achievements leading to it.
Now that does merit a tear... and a smile of satisfaction.
As did our table talk post-spaghetti the other night when a twin gently tweaked our political inclinations and announced that he was inclining toward a Republican view of taxation. By which he meant that the doctor he would eventually become had a right to keep what he earned without being required to pay for the indolence of others. Whereas that might have sounded like insurrection to the ears of his great-grandpa, who fought and won the battles for the New Deal, it fell on our ears, not for its substance, but for its suggestion of serious reflection, as a hint of maturity. And we shall hold him to his conviction that hard work pays.
We have been immersed and warmed during this frigid January with the company of grandchildren. Two just mentioned and three more down in Baltimore, where we drove a second time this season, to tend house, cook meals, and chauffeur while our daughter, their mother, visited in Taiwan with the oldest of our grandchildren, presently teaching English to Chinese children in Kaohsiung. The oldest grandson, Craig, delighted us with piano serenades, without having to be asked, a sign of a gracious, self-assured maturity. His brother Jack, born the same month and year as the twins, looking even in his girl friend's eyes like a facsimile of his grandpa in his late teens, politely and gladly (I think) gave us a tour of Richmond University and introduced us to his roommate, with whom he shares quarters and a refrigerator reeking of food left over from the previous semester. Jack is the charmer I never learned to be. Last but not least comes Ben, a repository of sports trivia to rival the great sports raconteur Bill Mazer. Where this obsession will lead him, I'm not sure; but I wouldn't be surprised if in five or six years he invited himself to stay with us in West Hartford for a spell as he begins work in Bristol CT.
Somewhere I read that grandparents have an advantage over parents in parenting: they are not so keenly invested in outcome. Which means that being a generation removed grandparents can, even if they often don't, have a more objective take on their children's offspring. Because they are spared the blame for the grand's failures even as they are often credited for their successes... unlike mom and dad who get all the blame all the time. I think I've been a better father as a grandfather; and not simply from learning from past mistakes, but from being at ease and wanting, really wanting, for them what is best for them without thought as to how it will reflect on me.
Jessica, Craig, Henry, Robert, Jack, Ben, Alanna, and Sohani may, of course, come to a different conclusion.
Last night I was reminded of another ingredient in the education of Pa. I phoned Long Island to check on Verizon.net's reliability (Verizon failed the test) and spoke with a young woman of forty-five who once, thirty years ago, enlivened my Sunday afternoons with her giggles and irrepressible hint of mischief. Talk about charmers (!) Gracie remembered with me those years at Grace Church when the youth fellowship numbered thirty or more junior highs at every gathering, weekly and weekends away. She flattered me, as in days of yore, even as she teased, eliciting from me a thought I've not previously voiced, that, for all the shenanigans of that group, they did teach me about the coming generation and how to cope and sometimes get on the bandwagon with them. Which surely helped me to be a better father as a grandfather.
And immensely enlarged my field of familial vision, to include those children who through the years passed through my confirmation classes and Sunday afternoon romps in the "all purpose" room across the street from the sanctuary in Valley Stream. Like Gracie observed, "Pastor, you still know all about us."