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Why Is This Man Smiling?

August 19, 2012
Mike Myer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

There's nothing as wonderful as being a grandparent, I've been told. Often, after I ask why that is so, friends will try to explain it, then stop, smile, and assure me, "You'll see."

Well, yes. I see, now. And now that I do, I'm smiling, too - broadly.

Our first grandchild, Jemma Nicole, is celebrating her 1-week birthday as you read this. I have every confidence she'd be able to blow the candle out on a cake if her mom and dad would allow me to give her one.

But like all new parents, they're over-protective. Some of the things that draw cringes and warnings of "be careful!" from them make Connie and me smile. Jemma is more sturdy than they know, but they'll understand that eventually.

What is it about a grandchild that makes the experience more special, in a way, than having children?

Part of the answer is easy: My little girl has become a mother. Wow. It seems like only yesterday that a nurse handed me a tiny bundle and told me to say hello to my daughter.

Now, someone's going to be calling her "Mom." I guess we did all right bringing her up. Much more than "all right," actually.

That feels good in a way I don't think you can understand unless you've been there, done that. Perhaps it's why so many friends who are grandparents just smile instead of trying to explain.

Then there's the difficulty of understanding how it's possible the woman some people are calling "Grandma" is, in fact, the person you still view as your bride. How in the heck can it be that these two are the same woman?

And what about granddad, or whatever they decide to call me? None of the names - grandfather, gramps, pappy, pops, and the list goes on and on - seem to fit. I'm a grandfather? How did that happen?

More important, what does it mean to Jemma?

Well, kid, here's what it means:

First and foremost, it means you and I are going to be really good friends. And if Mommy objects to a little spoiling, maybe I'll have to put her in her place by asking if you'd like to hear a story about your mother when she was your age.

Second - and I feel certain your paternal granddad thinks this way, too - we're going to work hard to stay out of your parents' way. If they say I can't take you hiking when you're 6 months old, that's the way it'll be. Perhaps we'll try again at 7 months.

Just kidding.

Eight months, maybe?

Third, it means that in the unlikely event mom, dad, grandma, your other granddad and your many fiercely protective aunts, uncles and cousins need help keeping you safe, there's a backup available. I'll show you the Civil War cavalry saber I used to discourage some of your mother's suitors. I dusted it off the other day.

I can't think of a baby who's come into the world with a more wonderful extended family. It's something of a miracle, really.

Years ago I wrote about how hard it was to avoid being one of those insufferably proud fathers. Ask me how much tougher it is stop bragging about Jemma.

Maybe I'll just smile a lot ...

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