Monday, November 30, 2009

Rites of the First Born

I find myself staring at Finley’s picture for minutes on end. Perhaps all first-time grandparents do the same, caught up in the thrill of looking at their line extension, at the blissful beauty of an innocent face sleeping peacefully. I just turned the desktop screensaver of my computer into a Finley picture frame, first time I ever put a picture on it. But I wonder—will I do the same for the next grandchild? For my daughter’s first child when he or she arrives?

When my parents’ first grandchild, my brother’s son, showed up, they were still relatively young and vibrant. Dad was 64, Mom 58 (Gilda and I are 60—don’t worry, she has no problem revealing her age). They cradled Eric in their arms. Bounced him on their knees. Mom tried to stuff him with chicken noodle soup. When Eric was old enough to hang on, his grandfather turned into a bucking bronco. All those westerns Dad watched proved to be invaluable training.

Three years later Dan was born. He was their second grandchild, followed within the next nine months by my sister’s first child, Ari, and Eric’s sister, Karen. Mom and Dad tried to be as excited, but the novelty and age with its creeping infirmities made these family additions a little less dramatic. I can’t recall Dad ever dropping down on all fours and giving Dan a ride on his back.

It’s only natural that the first born, child or grandchild, is showered with the most attention, but the desire to “not behave like our parents” is deeply rooted. Only time will tell if I am successful. I didn’t always succeed when raising Dan and Ellie. My inner ear caught me repeating phrases my parents hurled at me when growing up, phrases I had vowed never to say to my children.

Perhaps with more diligence and awareness, and with better health, I will do better when the next grandchild, and the next one after that...arrives.