Sunday, April 22, 2018
Opinion

Column: Grandchild rekindles fatherhood memories

As Father's Day approaches, I want to share my introduction to my 6-month-old granddaughter. Recently, I held her for the first time. She is the baby of my baby girl, whom I held for the first time 30 years ago. Suddenly, magically, I was young again.

My wife and I were in our late 30s then. Our son was 10, and we had resigned ourselves to the fact he was going to be an only child, even though it had always been our plan to have a second offspring, hopefully a girl.

After arriving, our daughter had a different temperament than our son. When I had blown on his tummy, he laughed. When I blew on her tummy, she looked at me like I was a lunatic. When he received his first vaccination, he screamed in agony. She looked at her arm and said, "Well, that hurt."

For her third birthday party we invited two sisters from our church. As she opened presents, she came across one that was a stack of coloring books. Without a word, she turned to divide them equally with her guests.

I was the stay-at-home parent and my wife worked. So over the years my daughter and I had our little adventures. We walked through the neighborhood and picked up trash in empty lots. The first day of school was not traumatic as it had been with our son. His eyes filled with tears and he stretched out his arms like he would never see us again. Our daughter, on the other hand, said a quick "Bye" and ran off to make friends.

Boys took notice of her very early, and she took advantage of it. And when she tired of one, she had another waiting in line to have his heart broken, too. She was a bit taken aback when I would casually mention that I had an idea she was interested in another victim, I mean, boyfriend. But what else was I to do? By this time she didn't have time for walks with daddy anymore, so I had to settle for witnessing a joyful life in motion.

When she graduated from high school, she looked at me sadly and said, "Does it make you feel bad to see me grow up? It means you're getting old."

"Why, no," I replied. "You gave me more years of being a father to a child. Without you, I'd just be the father of a 28-year-old man."

I read somewhere once that children raised by their fathers tend to be more adventuresome, less afraid of taking a spill and more independent. Whether that's a good thing or not is debatable, but she certainly was independent. She flew to New York to college on the first anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now I'm actually old, but there's nothing wrong with that. I no longer have to listen to people tell me I look like Mr. Bean. With a few more pounds and gray hair I'm the adorable old man who tells stories.

Last year, I knew something was afoot when our daughter called and told my wife she wanted to talk to me first. When my wife handed me the phone I asked, "So, you're having a baby, right?"

"How did you know?"

Observing my daughter, even from afar, is one of my better natural talents. My wife and I couldn't schedule a trip to New York sooner than April of this year. When we arrived at her home, we were greeted by our daughter's husband holding a bald little girl with big eyes who was just a little bit weepy at the moment.

I took her in my arms, making silly faces and sounds, and she looked at me and started laughing, just like another little girl 30 years ago. Suddenly, magically, my granddaughter made me feel young again.

Like mother, like daughter.

Jerry Cowling lives in Brooksville.

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