It seems like it was only last week when I was a nervous young father-to-be standing in the hall of Good Samaritan Hospital waiting for the obstetrician to finish doing whatever they do to get Marian ready to deliver our first son, Alex. That was June 27, 1985. That one still stands out to me as the longest single night of my life. We had to do an emergency c-section because Alex was not turned around right. My parents were traveling somewhere in Mississippi doing genealogy research and I couldn’t reach them by phone. That was before everyone had cell phones. I felt very alone. Even though I was already thirty three years old, this was the last night of my childhood. When the sun came up that morning, I would be a little guy’s father. I would be a different person. I looked out through the darkened glass of the window and prayed. There was a lot that could go wrong in the next few minutes, but it didn’t.
Fast forward twenty eight brief years, and I’m standing in another hospital room with Alex as his young wife cries with labor pains. He hasn’t slept in more than a day, but there is no thought of sleeping. Another little Weedon is on the way. He talks, telling me a thousand things that I don’t really need to know about the hospital and birthing process. We talk because there is nothing else we can do. It’s all up to Caitlin at this moment. In the quiet of my own thoughts, I marvel at how much he has grown up. Then it hits me that the same transformation that changed everything for me twenty eight years ago is happening now to him. His childhood is ending; he is becoming someone’s father. He will soon receive a new reason for living, a new basis for making decisions, and a whole new understanding of his own life.
As for me, I have made it abundantly clear that I was not ready to be anyone’s grandfather, but apparently I don’t get a vote on that. I have reluctantly grown into the role of patriarch. I am the senior male of the clan now. I wish my dad was still here to officiate at the ceremonies and give the blessings, but he isn’t. That job falls to me now. I am thankful that my own life has taken a course that permits me to fill those shoes, but that mantle does not rest easily on my shoulders. There is a part of my soul that is still eighteen, and the title of “grandfather” still sounds very strange to me.
This evening, the new family came over to our house for our first dinner together. I noticed that Penny has really long fingers, like the Weedons, and she opens her hands rather than keeping them balled up in a fist. Alex did the same thing as a newborn. Penny is very much a newborn still; she opens her eyes, but she hasn’t learned to focus them yet. Caitlin handed her to me. She is still so tiny, barely able to lift her head. It scares me just a little to take her into my hands, but I did and laid her against my shoulder. Alex reviewed all of the cool baby gear he had bought while Marian put the finishing touches on supper. Caitlin seemed OK with being relieved of the baby holding detail for while, so I walked into the living room and sat down in my recliner with Penny resting on my chest. I remembered that I have a photo of my father holding Alex just that way in another recliner long ago, except that my dad and Alex were both sound asleep. Eventually Penny began to get restless, and suspecting that she was hungry, I took her back to her mother. But before I turned her over to Caitlin, I gave her the assignment to get big enough that I could take her to Graeter’s for an ice cream cone. I think I could get used to this.