When I grew up, I wanted to be a grandfather. But I didn’t know that until I was one.
Obviously, the thing about being a grandfather is that you have to have grandchildren. I have three of the best: Sean, Connor and Abigail.
Without going into the seamy details, along comes Sean.
Poof! I’m a grandfather.
Poof! This is really neat. I can handle this. And so I began to realize what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Then, low and behold, along comes Connor, and two years later, Abby.
Poof! Poof! I am in heaven.
Poof! I’m a grandfather really is just about how sudden the dawning was. But that sudden
dawning did not occur at the hospital, and it did not occur while leaning over the crib. It rushed upon me at the dining room table. It overwhelmed me while I sat there the first time with baby Sean cuddled up on my shoulder.
Oh! Better not screw this up.
To me, the dining room table is the center of the household, the warm spot. It is where we gather. The circle of people around it says “friends and family.” That is where I have come to know my grandchildren most deeply. The dining room table is the most intimate place, even when there are eleven of us gathered—especially when there are eleven. It is where trust is learned and trust is earned.
Friday has become dinner night for our family. Ours is a pretty casual table. In spite of my son’s attempts to have one child speak at a time, things usually degenerate into total chaos. I love it. Talk about sports, discussions of school, that goal someone scored, grandparents’ queries about “new math” all go on in a whirl. All can talk and all are heard. It is a time for the kids to express themselves without fear and to build confidence through being listened to.
Connor is the showman. When he was only Baby Connor, I quickly found that I had to hold him cradled in the crook of my arm, facing forward so he could see the audience—I mean, the family. His eyes never stopped moving as he studied the eyes and faces before him. He quickly learned to read the reactions to his antics and proceed accordingly. In time, he has come to show a strong sensitivity to people’s reactions, particularly when they are not positive.
Abigail, third in line, is a watcher also. She, too, can be an entertainer, and follows closely in Connor’s footsteps. For about a year, she would talk to us in Chinese, but now she asks us if we want a manicure. Having two older brothers to learn from, including the observation of their successes and failures, has led her to be sharp, and sometimes sly. She is definitely the ringleader.
Seany is the oldest. He is the trailblazer. Sensitive, like several of his forebearers, he anguishes over choices and decisions. But even at eleven, he generally makes good ones. Sean has ADHD. So with dinner coming at the end of what is always a long and stressful week, there is often a meltdown. I watch with both pain and pride as he deals with his emotions and slowly regains control. Then it is back to talking about algebra or why we have lake effect snow… and eating.
So our dining room table is a nice place to be.
Who knows? Poof!
Someday, we might have to make room for twelve.