Wagamese: Learning a new role: how to be a 'grampa'

I became a grandfather last November.

See, when I was in my early 20s I'd fathered a son. The girl and I could not be together. I was wild, reckless, already a roaring and unpredictable drunk. She was a family person, anchored, calm and contained. When she was asked to choose her family over me, she made the right choice. I eventually left town and never saw her or my son again.

But I knew his name. I never forgot it. Never quit thinking about him all through the years. Thirty-three years later through the technology and the magic of Facebook, I found him. It took me weeks to screw up the courage to risk a connection because I didn't think I had the right. I didn't even know if he even knew who I was.

Eventually, I contacted his wife first, then his mother, and then, finally, him. My son. Jason. Those first Facebook messages were the most awkward writing I have ever done in my life. But a connection was forged despite the years and we graduated to phone calls within a month or so.

Slowly, over the course of many months, we got to know each other, or at least, as much as Facebook and email would allow. Still, it was a relationship and I began to take pride in it. I didn't hold anything back. I let him know the good and the bad. I let him have the story of my life, warts and all. When we finally got a chance to meet in person, it was magical.

We were like a pair of shy kids at first barely speaking, only making fleeting eye contact.

Then the conversations deepened and I was able to say things that I had long wanted to tell him. I was able to become a father. I was able to become a friend and an ally. My world increased exponentially.

And then I became a grandfather.

Jason had five children from previous relationships. His new wife, Jeneen, had five of her own. Before you could say instant family, I had 10 grandchildren. They range in age from two to 17. They are a rowdy, noisy, energetic, wild and glorious bundle of collective energy. It's fabulous. I met them all for the first time last Christmas and it was one of the most spectacular events of my life.

I sat in my son's living room and was reduced to silence. I could only watch. Here was
evidence of the inherent magic of living. Here was evidence of the great and grander plan of Creator doing cartwheels amongst the torn paper and ribbon. Here was a measure of my own redemption calling me "Grampa."

These days I am learning by trial and error to be Grampa. I'm learning that the imparting of wisdom lies in the smiling, laughing, joking every day example of an older someone knowing how to be.

Grampa. I've been called a lot things in my time; labels, tags, stereotypes and accolades; but this one word sets me above all of them. If I can get to the end of my days being two things, a writer and a grandfather, I will have lived successfully. I've always called writing the foundation of who I am. Now I know that the foundation is wider than that and incorporates more well placed stones.

We are asked to be many things. We are asked to become and assume greater roles.

When we accept them and become them we are made more. Take my word for it. I'm a grandfather.


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