I recently learned I will be a grandfather in six months, whereupon I immediately started planning how to win the coveted “World’s Greatest Grandpa” coffee mug. I want it badly, so I set to work compiling “the list,” those wise and quotable nuggets to be shared over the next several decades with the little legacy-to-be.
Because being a grandfather means being wise, right? We’re supposed to impart wisdom, courage, and ethics to our progeny, in part because we’ve lived long enough to learn a few things, but also because their parents are just too tired. So my list began right there at the dinner table where the beans were spilled and the congratulatory hugs commenced. There was so much to tell this little one, and the ideas flowed.
The pregnancy news caught me off guard and unprepared, so my first quotable quote was: “Don’t eat leaves.” I was off and running. Ideas such as “look both ways,” “there is no such thing as too much butter,” and “don’t let your best friend paint you” gushed forth like an oil spout on the Beverly Hillbillies.
Margie, our son’s wife, had remained back in Texas while he traveled to give us the news in person. That evening Melissa and I spoke via Face Time with our daughter-in-law and her mother, a wonderful woman for whom English is a third language. I wanted to share the moment with our in-laws and to bridge the distance with a high-tech embrace. I also very much wanted to express my joy in Spanish as an homage to them. They answered, both knowing our son had just given us the news and both smiling with anticipation at my words of family blessings and a shared future raising the most beautiful, intelligent, and talented child on earth.
At which point I said, “You’re pregnant! I’m very excited.” Only, as I mentioned earlier, I said it in Spanish—out of respect and love, mind you—and so came the words, “Estas embarazada! Estoy muy exitado!”
I remember a gasp, and a moment later Margie’s younger sister laughed hysterically in the background. “You said a bad word,” she said, at which point I began looking back and forth between our son, his wife, her mother, my wife, and our dogs, hoping one of them would clue me in. I reviewed the words in my head, certain I’d gotten them right. Perhaps they’d misheard, I thought…and this could be where I made my biggest mistake…I tried it again. “Estas embarazada! Estoy muy exitado!”
At which point Margie quietly, sweetly informed me that “exitado” in Spanish means “horny.” It took me a moment, but then I realized I’d just told my amazing daughter-in-law, mother to my grandchild, love of my sons’ life, “You’re pregnant, I’m very horny.”
In front of her mother.
Let the uninterrupted flow of wisdom begin, because clearly I’m ready.
As to the list, it’s growing. There are a few things I know I’m going to tell him/her when the time is right, perhaps as we balance on rocks crossing a creek or while ambling on horseback looking for moments to capture on film. Maybe some of those words of wisdom will tumble out when I’m teaching her how to drive a stick shift, or after he’s just struck out to end the game. Things like:
“Pay life forward whenever you can, from the moment you have a toy to share to your last day when all you have is a smile to show your loved ones you ain’t scared of what comes next.” Or, “If it ever comes down to choosing between a kidney or your sense of humor, schedule the surgery.”
I bet I’ll say something like, “There’s book smarts, and there’s street smarts, and nowadays it’s okay to have both.” I’m certain to mention, “Be wary of some people, especially if your inner voice is screaming ‘stranger-danger;’ just don’t ever lose faith in humanity.” And I know I’ll declare, “On those days when you think the whole world is against you, rest assured your granddaddy knows you’re amazing.”
It’s a good life, little one, peppered here and there with skinned knees, a broken heart or two, and fortunes lost and won, but you’re already the most adored person on the planet with a family and group of friends who value adventure, humor, a story well-told, and love above all else. It’s gonna be great, and I cannot wait to see your face.
That coffee mug is mine!