That's when we got the call that my lovely daughter-in-law had gone into labor with her first (and so far only)
child. We had known for some time that it was to be a girl, and frequent checkups had determined that she and the baby seemed to be healthy. I was looking forward to this day as it would bring my first grandchild into the world.
I knew very well how I felt about having a grand baby, but was unsure about it being a grand daughter.
While I am not, and have really never been a jock, I do identify with the masculine things in life - most sports (although football has always topped the list), a good cigar, a great scotch (The McCallan), Playboy magazine (for the articles, of course),a great prize fight (did you guys see the Thrilla in Manila?), etc.
It stood to reason that I wouldn't know how to identify with this little pink bundle of girlhood. What could we possibly have in common? How in the world will I entertain this child? These questions swam through my noggin as I sat in the waiting room, awaiting her arrival.
And then she arrived. After it was determined that baby and mom were good, my son brought her out for all to see. I have never seen my son smile as big as he was smiling that day. Grandparents all gathered round to look at this little bundle and take the first "outside the womb" pictures. When she was passed to me, she opened her eyes and looked at me, then shut them again with apparent dis-interest. I handed her back off to her father, gave him a congratulatory slap on the back and took my leave. Alright! Mom and child are healthy and happy and all's right with the world ! I then went to the local electronics store and purchased a new digital camera.
After a couple days in the hospital, mom and baby came home. It was determined by her parents that this child should have a name, a ritual that most parents go through. It was determined that this child shall be called Fiona, after the legendary singer Fiona Apple (a favorite of my son). So now the child had a handle.
It was perhaps the third day at home when she was handed to me again. So now, instead of just looking at the new grand baby, I was looking into the eyes of Fiona. Shouldn't have made much of a difference, but somehow it did. Fiona. Little Fi. And Fiona opened her eyes again and looked at me - this time with what appeared to be a passing interest. At her age I'm not certain that she could make out much detail in my ugly mug, but she did appear to be trying. And then she turned ever so slightly in my arms so that her tiny head kinda nestled into my arm. Uh oh...what's this? She sighed? And snuggled?? Rut ro Rorge. Okay, Okay. I can do this. After all, babies are babies - boy or girl...right? So I'll just hold this little bundle of joy for awhile until she poops or pees - then hand her off to the parents. Wait! She just clasped my finger! I'll just hold her for a bit longer...
Fast forward a few months. I am severely under-employed with a wee bit of time on my hands. The kids need a babysitter during the day while they work. No problem - I'm your guy! Change a diaper? Jeez, I used to change the cloth variety - Pampers are a breeze! Feeding time? Just tell me where the bottles are.
For the next several months, day in-day out, I was the face she looked upon when she awoke from her nap. I was the ugly mug she laughed at when I made the ridiculous faces that adults make when trying to entertain a baby. When she cried, I held her, fed her, rocked her, patted her tiny back, sang a lull
Time passes - and we became legend. Early on, we watched Tom & Jerry cartoons and she became fascinated with these characters. Soon, I was Tom and she was Jerry. Squeak squeak - meow, meow.
By now she was walking, so I had to chase her around the house and, when I almost caught her she would suddenly spin around and hold up her hand in a 'stop now' position. Then she would clobber me in the kneecap and turn around and run to continue the chase (thank goodness she didn't follow some other T&J examples - knives, scissors, hammers-all fair game). We played hold the baby and dance to whatever was playing on VH1 Classic at the moment. We sang Thomas the Tank Engine tunes. We worked on the car and truck, her wielding a tiny hammer alongside my variety of tools. We picked up pecans in her yard, filling bucket after bucket and rewarding our labor by cracking and eating more than our share. We went to the playground and would swing and slide and run and climb till we were tired enough to go down to the drugstore for an ice cream cone or a milkshake. When it was time to go home, she made me promise that I would return the next day to play again. Then, it finally dawned on me. It wasn't about having a girl or a boy for a grand kid. Just having a grand child is good enough!
Now, she's five years old and her family will be moving over 1000 miles away soon. She will suddenly become not a daily or even weekly visitor, but a special occasion visitor. I know, I know- I will still visit with her by phone, skype and email. She will visit here, we will visit there, but it will not be the same. For the last five years, this little girl has enriched my life 1000 fold. She has reminded me of the small, yet important things that life offers - like explaining to her about wasp nests and how to avoid fire ants, and why the moon gets full and why we can't ride a locomotive every day. About picking flowers for her MaLa and blowing dandelions to the wind. Or holding a kitty the proper way, or the joys of chocolate...just not too much.
She has shown me the proper procedure for turning into a prince, how to correctly pronounce the pirate term "arrggghhhh", or how to swing on a rope that dangles from our indoor balcony. And how the Barbies are really princesses and make great students in our pretend classroom. She has opened my eyes to the world of the child.
But more importantly she has given me that warm, comfortable and loving feeling that comes with rocking her to sleep, her arm thrown across my chest, her head nestled in my arm, just like when she was a little, tiny baby.
God - I'm going to miss that!