My wife, Judy, and I were blessed with our first grandchild last month. Of course, the more pertinent fact is that our son and daughter-in-law were blessed with their first child.
It’s heartwarming to see one’s child become a parent. How clearly I remember when our son was an infant, and Judy and I were just figuring out what to do with him.
Now he has made it to adulthood and we get to watch him and our daughter-in-law fall in love with their little one, even as they endure all the sleepless nights and messy chores that a newborn brings along.
It’s also already clear to us, as our friends have long told us, that grandparenthood will be even more of a blessing than parenthood, as it comes with the ability to return the child after a visit (and eventually to spoil him, at least now and then).
In the meantime, while our grandson is busy eating, sleeping and growing, I find myself reflecting on the many things I would like to share with him when he is older. You know, family lore, how to play “chopsticks” on the piano, embarrassing stories about his father, those sorts of things.
But seriously, I am making a mental list of thoughts that reflect the hopes and dreams I have for him and his generation. I’ll share a few, as I imagine saying them to him.
You affect me in much the same way your father did after his birth: You remind me how miraculous it is that we have the power to generate another living being, separate from ourselves. At the same time, each new person is intimately connected to their parents, sharing parts of them in every one of their cells.
What a wondrous thing life is — from the single-celled paramecium to humankind!
(Aside to readers: Just take a look at the Wikipedia entry for paramecium, as I just did, and let me know if you don’t find it almost literally incredible — unbelievable — that such a tiny, blind and brainless thing can propel itself, find and process its food, defend itself from predators, reproduce and even exchange DNA with a fellow paramecium to rejuvenate itself.)
A paramecium makes a newborn infant like you look positively primitive. And yet, the potential within human life is incomparably greater, as you will come to realize over time.
In addition to those basic abilities we share with all living beings, we have minds that can think, question, understand and explore.
And though humankind has come a long way in exploring and understanding our universe, in some ways, the more we learn, the more questions arise. So don’t fret: There will be plenty of figuring out left for you to do!
We also have a soul that moves us to create completely new phenomena: music, fine art, works of literature and theatre, architecture and much more. You will soon start to enjoy these, and no doubt be moved to create works of art yourself.
In addition, we have abilities to draw elements out of the planet we live on to manufacture or craft completely new products: new fruits and vegetables, technology that works like magic to produce energy from the environment or connect us instantly to any other person in the world, as well as weapons that can both defend us from enemies and destroy every last human being on the planet.
What powers we have! What opportunities await you!
At the same time, you will find that other people you meet throughout life can be of very different types. Some will be loving and warm. Some will be cold and indifferent. Some will risk their life to help you, while others might threaten to take your life from you on a whim.
Considering how defenseless we all start out, you’ll need to learn that people can do good and bad things (yes, the very same people), so we need to be careful and self-protective at the same time as we remain open and loving. It’s not easy!
Indeed, perhaps the most complicated type of knowledge you will need to develop is emotional intelligence — how to understand yourself as well as other people, and how to relate to them through, and with, empathy.
I am excited to be able to watch you develop as a person, learning more and more about our amazing planet and universe and their many mysteries.
I imagine you will one day make your own contributions to the ever-growing knowledge base we are acquiring about life and space and time — and each other. Indeed, I expect that I and others will learn many things from you one day.
But whatever you accomplish in the future, you have already brought indescribable, unbounded happiness to your parents and grandparents.
Thank you for coming into our lives.