Other than possibly a bicycle I got for Christmas when I was 11 or 12 years old, I cannot recall any gift I ever received as being so special that I’ve kept it, or remembered one so fondly that I’d consider it my best ever. It might just be that I did not pay enough attention. An opinion reinforced when I hear others reminisce fondly over the smallest of events from their own childhood.
Subsequently, I did not pay enough attention to my children’s childhood. My excuse is, of course, that I was busy working to support my family. But, it may instead be that I was still in whatever selfish cocoon prevented me from noticing what was going on around me as a child.
I am not generally considered the warm and fuzzy one in our family. I used to joke that when I retired, I’d work as a greeter at Wal-Mart. But the universal response to that was, “You don’t have the personality for it.” Over my first 55 plus years, while I had not completely become a grumpy old man I must admit to being more than a little jaded. Dealing with the day to day grind of being an adult, a career in law enforcement and the ill effects of being a political and news junkie had hardened me to sensitive feelings, left me unimpressed by, or not interested in, the little events of daily living and pessimistic about the future.
Then, our two children began giving us grandchildren. The first pregnancy progressed without me paying much attention. I let the women in the family go through all the rituals and anticipations of our first grandchild. My only active participation consisted of driving my wife back and forth to San Jose over the several days of a long and twice delayed labor. Finally, though, little Jack was born and when he and his mother were wheeled from the delivery room into the hallway where we had gathered to await his arrival, I was struck by lightning. Suddenly and unexpectedly I became a Grandpa. I was surprised, but the conversion was immediate, and it was complete.
Surely, never had a cuter, more handsome, smarter or more talented child ever been born. Whenever I started telling others about him, along with showing the requisite innumerable snapshots of him, my wife had to remind me that I was doing to others what I had always complained about when others showed me theirs.
Five more grandchildren followed, spaced more or less a year apart, alternating between our children, so we now have a total of six. This, of course, denies any other child, in the entire world, the ability to achieve a ranking of better than seventh in any category.
I am constantly surprised at the differences between them despite the fact that they are from the same parents and are being raised in the same environments. Jack, now nearly 12, is quickly turning into a teenager on the road to becoming a man; iliana is 10, a tall, beautiful, loving girl doing well in school; Nick, 9 is independent, wanting to do everything for himself; Olivia, 8, is a bubbly, happy child and our fashionista; Zachary, 6, is overflowing with energy and playfulness; the last, Gabriella Grace, or GG, is 2 years old and busy learning and growing too fast. They all live within a few miles of us so we get a lot of interaction.
They are a joy to be around and I am thankful for the gifts they give me. Like seeing the world anew through their eyes; for showing me how important the little things are; for their laughing at my stale jokes or corny antics, and being able to share their joy over the smallest of events like an unplanned stop for frozen yogurt. So, my best gift ever is not a gift you unwrap, but one you watch unfold, as those precious children grow, learn, teach and amuse this old man.