Due Diligence


Here we are in our early fifties. And—I kid you not—we’re expecting. The news came without warning at a Thai restaurant one Friday in April. I was halfway through a mouthful of #34 (Lemon Grass Chicken—easy on the spice) when she grinned and handed me a gift bag and a congratulations. Inside was a coffee mug. On the side it read: “Don’t mess with me, I’m the Grandpa!”

          My wife Ramona held up a daintier mug (“Promoted to Grandmother”) and let go a muted scream. That’s when I realized they didn’t buy the mug because it was on sale. Were it not for the lemon grass chicken, I would have screamed too.

          “Raelyn, you shouldn’t have,” was all I managed. My son Jeff sat beside his wife looking like he’d just scored an overtime winner at the World Cup. There was hugging and congratulations and more hugging. Jeff and I high-fived and I said, “Waytago. That talk back in third grade paid off.”

          So there you have it. Lord willing, we’re going to be grandparents. (Yes, that's Jeff and Raelyn's feet below.)

          Everyone exudes superlatives while telling me how wonderful it will be. I listen to grandfathers my age, many of whom still have their original teeth, and they say, “You just wait it’s the bestest thing ever, you will not believe how awesome they are you just feed them chocolate and send them home and let their parents deal with it and I hope you have twenty-five the more the merrier I have two dozen myself did I mention they’re the bestest?” And then they faint because they haven’t taken a breath in a minute and a half.

          When this happens, I think three thoughts: 1. Over-enthusiasm often indicates that someone is hiding something. 2. What does a grandparent do? My own grandfather lived at the airport. We picked him up there each Christmas which gave him time to stock up on chocolate and presents. 3. I really should help resuscitate this poor fellow.

          Off the record, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s less here than meets the ear. I have spent years around little kids. Yes, they’re cute. But they make messes and noises and trouble. For the first three to nine years, they are borderline disgusting. Of course they bring joy, but they also bring frogs, insomnia, and poverty. Will having more of them around help this?

          My wife just laughs when I talk like this. “You’re such a big softy,” she says. “You just wait. They’ll melt your heart.” But this is coming from one who cannot be trusted to think rationally when grandchildren are in the picture. One day I was sipping from Ramona’s mug when Raelyn called. I think she said, “I’m taking a water break.” When I passed this along, Ramona lunged to her feet and wrestled the phone from me. Admittedly, we men could improve at relaying pertinent information about children. Two weeks after my niece gave birth, my wife confronted me: “You KNEW about Patricia’s birth? They TOLD you about the baby? The name and the WEIGHT? You didn’t TELL me?”

          “I’m sorry. I forgot,” I said, as she brought a blanket and pillow and pointed to the sofa. “You sleep here.”

          I love this girl dearly, but already, the prospect of becoming a grandmother has her making blankets and rearranging furniture and talking complete nonsense. As proof, I submit this actual transcript of a breakfast table conversation:

          ME: “They want me to speak at a conference in November.”

          RAMONA: “November? You know what November is!”

          ME: “Yes. It’s a conference.”

          RAMONA: “No it’s not. It’s when The Baby is due.”

          ME: “Due?”

          RAMONA: “Yes, due! To be born.”

          ME: “Oh, that’s right. November.”

          RAMONA: “You’re right that’s right.”

          ME: “Well, what am I supposed to do in November? Sit around in a snowdrift and wait for the baby?”

          RAMONA: “Some pastors take six-month sabbaticals.”

          Along about noon, Raelyn emailed us a video. I clicked on it and my heart completely stopped. I was watching a grainy image of a tiny little person moving about. My grandchild. I turned up the sound and listened to its heartbeat. I couldn’t stop grinning. And every single morning now I pray for this baby. Then at lunch. Then at bedtime. And sometimes at night I read Psalm 139 to Ramona, about how God is forming this child, body and soul. It’s awesome, breath-taking work.

          I visited my friend James who doesn’t know much about grandchildren. I’m not convinced he thinks they’re that great. I told him I was pretty sure this one was a boy and that the heartbeat sounded a lot like mine and that there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who can count and those who can’t and those who don’t care because being a grandparent beats them both.

          Next thing I knew, he was trying to resuscitate me.

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