How can fifty years of identity disappear with one little cry? Fifty years of changing and being changed. Fifty years cheering the day of the empty nest. Fifty years learning to build dignity and character, poise and pizzazz. In a single year the four homes of my offspring nuked my shaloam.
And now I find myself on my arthritic knees blowing imaginary bubbles into the belly of nine month old Jeremiah just to hear him giggle. I find myself shaking my head like a mad cow and vibrating my lips to recreate the sounds of an old Model-T in its death throws. There isnít a dictionary in the world that could capture my invented vocabulary.
I flop like a wounded walrus onto my belly as I spot my oldest grandson. Piercing blue orbs fixate on me from across the room as eleven month old Jordan breaks off his strangle-hold on Winnie the Pooh to soak in the fun. He launches, single-shoed, stutter-stepping like a drunken kamikaze across the room just missing the laminated Walnut table with his blond curls.
Jordanís abandoned tennis shoe and sock lie inches from five month old John who is strapped securely in his stroller trying to drain the life out of his Donald Duck Soother. One hand has a death grip on a hanging Sponge Bob Square Pants. The other flails like an orchestra leader nearing the climax of Beethovenís Fifth.
Three month old Jessie is playing the sleeping cherub in my wifeís protective arms. His days for playing with the Noahís ark set, the Narnia battle figures, the yellow school bus, the two dozen teddy bears and the six other bins of MEGA BLOCS, books, trains, towns, toys, puppets and balls is yet to come.
Iím sure the woman who helped me give away our children in marriage promised there would be only one bin and one shelf of books. I havenít had to move out yet to accommodate the fantastic four but high chairs have replaced my turtle tanks; play pens have replaced my private office space; childrenís books have displaced my theological tomes; and framed pictures and photo albums have claimed any space I would have for my artifacts and trophies.
Eliminating my transition lenses when I look in the mirror may have helped me fail to notice the consequences of calendar pages that have fallen like autumn leaves. Getting in and out of the bath on my wobbly ankle has taken extra stoicism these days. But something happens when the young ones get dropped off for a day.
Iím a young stallion charging through the plains; Iím a ninja warrior invisibly traipsing through the fiercest enemy snares; Iím a walrus, a camel, a horse, a giraffe, an elephant, a moose and a mouse. Iím a patient teacher and a tender nurse; Iím a ventriloquist, a clown, a preacher, a policeman, a chef and a coach. Iím all I need to be in the only arena that matters.
The crises of the world and the ailments of my body; the stresses of my work and the disturbances in my community; the success of my favorite teams and the achievement of my special dreams; all seem a little less important now.
Jordan and Jeremiah and John and Jessie have applied the salve of life and the balm of hope to my soul. In that time honored cycle set in motion by the Creator himself my generation has given life to another generation which has given life to another which in turn is giving life to our generation all over again.
I never took myself for a picture taking, burbling, gurgling, peek-a-booing, toy grabbing puddle of mush. At the office my every wish is someone elseís command. I am competent, gifted, under self-control. Here, I just donít care a whole lot what anyone outside these walls may think when Iím with my boys.
Iím sure someone, somewhere is revising a version to read ďgrandsons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from himĒ ( Psalm 127:3 adjusted).
There was no magic mirror to warn me. No Nostradamic prophecy to get me ready. That first cry just melted me like a Cadbury in the Sahara.
The sly winks of my ďyounger, inexperienced colleaguesĒ accompany their scans for grey. The reaffirming and knowing nods of my ďolder, more mature travelersĒ let me know. Only the initiated really know what goes on behind closed doors when the grandkids get dropped off to play.
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