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On being a grandfather

Last Christmas, I received an email from my former high school teacher. He wrote, “The coming of your first grandchild is really something to look forward to. What your friends tell you about the thrills on being a grandfather is really true. For me it’s beyond words.  When you reach that stage I hope you will write an article about it because so far I have not yet come across any account of what it feels to be a grandparent.”

               I hesitate to admit that this article was written in response to my former teacher’s request. Truthfully, I am not yet a grandfather.  My daughter will have her baby in about a month. But I decided to write this article just the same because I am beginning to be thrilled by the prospect of being a grandfather.

               What does it mean to be a grandfather? I really don’t know yet. What I know is that the thought of my daughter giving birth takes on a very special significance, not only for my daughter and her husband, but also for me, my wife, my other daughter and my many relatives.

               There is something to celebrate when my grandson is born despite the many problems and tribulations that that he will face.

               Becoming a grandfather is a unique moment, as my countless friends have told me, that I am already oozing with excitement at the prospect of becoming one.

               That life continues is perhaps the ultimate realization that I will experience when I first see and hold my grandson.  Life carries on no matter what the circumstances are. And this alone calls for a celebration.

               I’ve lived in this world long enough to know that when my grandson grows up he will face so many challenges.  It’s not going to be easy for him. He has to be strong. He has to be prepared for what the world has to offer.

               And the world, as I know it, is not perfect. My grandson will face the evils of racism that continues to plague American society in very subtle ways. My grandson may have a fair complexion but this will not shield him from institutional biases and prejudices that I have seen and experienced.

 He will realize, sooner rather than later, that the world is divided along ideological lines that oftentimes manifests itself through violence.  His world is full of risks. It is a world where reason is sometimes ignored to give way to opportunism. But I don’t want him to feel guilty about this because it is not his own making.

               There will always be people from both extremes of the political spectrum who will see him as a threat and a rubble-rouser, especially if he disagrees in principle with certain traditional beliefs and practices. I want him to be realistic to lessen the pain that he may feel.

I don’t want my grandson to think that I did not do anything to warn him of the world he is getting into. The best that I can offer is to share with him the lessons that I have learned from my own experiences and give him the chance to discern what are useful for him.

I don’t want him to feel like a hapless creature, a victim of circumstances beyond his control. Rather, I want to give him the opportunity to grow up free of fear and strong  enough to stand on his own two feet, armed with the conviction that there is merit in fighting for what is right.

On the other hand, I want him to also see the many blessings and beauty that this same world offers. This should teach him to be thankful, humble and appreciative.

Lastly, I want him to learn to respect and love people, and show his probity in everything he does.

It is a tough order for a first-time grandfather to do, but it can be rejuvenating. Who knows, my grandson might make me feel young again.