One of the Reasons for My Loving Grandchildren
Jack and Owen, along with their parents, spent Thanksgiving with us in our Crown Point home with the rest of the extended family. It was an absolute hoot to have all Ann's and my family together. We laughed, had fun, talked, and played with the youngest members: Jack who is nearly 2½ and Owen who is 4-months old. After spending a couple days with us, Jason and Lindsay packed up their car to drive back home Thanksgiving evening after dinner.
Jack and Owen are absolutely fun for me. I have a granddaughter, Ayanna, who is 17 years old. I love her also. She is smart, funny, and has grown into a beautiful young woman. She will be soon off to college to expand her world. Nevertheless, it isn't the same situation, in part, because I'm not the same. I am not in my early 50s as I was when Ayanna was born. In addition, I have danced successfully with death several times in the past handful of years. At my age, most people have retired. However, I will never quit teaching, writing, and interviewing people for my website. In fact, I won't be satisfied until I interview at least Aung San Suu Kyi, President Obama, David Axelrod, Sean Connery, and Bill Withers to mention just a handful of a few from my list of must interviewees. My agenda is full between teaching, writing, and interviewing.
Dancing with death has helped me value life and its brevity. I truly know something that I thought I knew when I was in my early 50s but really didn't know at the gut level. I knew that I had a limited amount of time in this world back then. In fact, I knew that at one level even when I was just a little kid. However, what I knew at a theoretical level years ago was not really known or felt at the gut level as it is today.
Therefore, events like Thanksgiving or anytime of getting together with family are greatly cherished by me. Yet, it was time for them to go home to their world. Jason carried Owen to the car while I took Jack. It was dark, windy, and cloudy as they packed up their car. The clouds journeyed across the sky hiding the moon and 15 seconds later reappearing from behind the clouds. As I was holding Jack, the moon started to reappear. He noticed seeing the moon reappear and got excited. Then the moon darted behind another cloud.
Jason and Jack started playing a game which we have all played with Jack about blowing out his bedroom light as he goes to bed for the night. This time, he was blowing the clouds away from the moon. I held Jack for 10-minutes as he jumped with joy within my arms each time the moon would reappear from behind a cloud. The feeling of his body jump with excitement each time the moon came out and lit the heavens with its bright light will be a memory that I won't soon forget. It was for him an experience of sheer joy and delight.
I finally gave Jack to Jason who put him in his car seat and closed the car door. As Jason got ready to get into the car himself, I told him the same thing that I have said to him for nearly 2½ years about what Jack means to Ann and me. Each time, I have said the same thing. He won't know how I feel until Jack has a child of his own thus making Jason a grandfather. Jason has heard that comment so often from me that he truly works at approximating what my message means to him. He truly attempts to relate to it and understand my message about how I feel about Jack and now Owen. At one level, Jason knows it; he obviously loves Jack and Owen also. He is their father. They are the greatest gifts that he possesses.
Nonetheless, he will have to wait until Jack or Owen have a child. It will be then that he will experience the difference in holding his child and holding his grandchild. Jason says that he is trying fully to understand my feelings about his children. He is doing precisely what I would do if I were in his shoes. However, I know there is a disconnect between knowing and really KNOWING. There are two levels of knowing. The first level of knowing is at an intellectual level. However, the second level is the coupling of the intellectual knowing with the knowing at one's gut level. That second level of learning is several decades away for Jason as it will be for any new father.
As I was explaining to Jason about sharing my love for his boys and that because he was a young father and not an old grandfather, I suddenly understood at least a part of my feelings for Jack and Owen. I started to understand why I love and am so emotionally invested in Jack and Owen. I have not only limited time left in this world...10-20 years realistically. Many of my dreams won't materialize, and I know that I won't live forever. I won't be all that I had hoped to be. With that realization, I want to do my level best to make it possible for Jack and Owen to realize as many of their own dreams as possible in their lives.
I will love them unconditionally. They are special kids. When they are with Ann and I, we will spend time listening to where they are. Answer and ask questions. Jack is already learning about famous painters of the past. We have started with Claude Monet, the French impressionist and Marc Chagall, the Russian modernist. The reason for Monet was that Jason had taken an art history class on Monet while in college. I teach art history and have loved Chagall since I was in college a half century ago. What was interesting about giving Jack several pictures to look at that I had printed by Monet and Chagall was that he was absolutely mesmerized by Chagall's I and the Village.
Turner's painting is also my favorite of all paintings whether in Great Britain or the world. Interestingly, Constable's The Hay Wain, which came in a distant second place, is another painting that I love.
One of the things that I want Jack and Owen to appreciate and to see things, which others often miss, is the relationship between things that apparently are unrelated. In the recent James Bond film, Skyfall, James Bond is talking to Q at the National Gallery in London while sitting in front of The Fighting Téméraire.
Both the Téméraire and the secret agent are in their twilight years having been great defenders of the British nation in the naval wars of the 19th century and the spy wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. Jack and Owen need to know that a broad educational-base will enable them to put many of the pieces together of life thus making life meaningful and understandable to them. If they can grasp this morphing of seemingly unrelated facts together, it will make life not only understood but far more enjoyable and wondrous.
Now, being able to identify a painting by Monet, Chagall, or even the great Turner is important, but it is far more important for both Jack and Owen to clearly know that they are loved and will be supported in every way by Ann and me as they begin their first few strides on the very long journey of life. Helping them begin that journey is about all the time allotted me. I won't be around to see their completion of their journey, but I will have done what I can to help them in the beginning. They know that they can lean on me.
Jack and Owen, life is a strange thing... None of us understand it or see it clearly at first. However, if you face both the good times and the bad, life will come together into a much fuller and understandable picture. In your journey, place one foot in front of the other and start walking even when life seems unfair and difficult. However, trust me. Life has meaning even when you can't see the full picture of life.
Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.