Note: My first grandchild, Easton Arthur Steelman, was born Oct. 12, 2013, at 3:45 a.m. in Reno, Nev., to my daughter Carissa and her husband, Brad. Following is my “open” welcome to the latest miracle in my life.
A little more than two days ago, on Oct. 12, 2013 — an American semi-holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World (you’ll learn all about it soon enough) — you gave our family new life and new light in a powerful little bundle weighing 8.2 pounds and stretching all the way to 19 1/2 inches. I first laid eyes on you not 45 minutes after you emerged from your dark, warm and crowded-but-comfy home for the prevous 40 weeks, you still in your birthday suit, your proud papa standing at your side, decked out in surgical gown and boots. He smiled and I smiled back. So did your other grandpa Art (your middle name is after him), and your grandmas Tracee, Emelie and Trinity, the first of whom is related to you by blood, the other two by marriage. You had us at first sight. We all love you equally and beyond measure.
At that moment your beautiful mom was still asleep in another room, recovering from the unplanned surgery that helped bring you into our world, and I could tell you already knew she wasn’t right there with you. You looked around through those tiny, tired and swollen eyes, already taking in the strange new place. You looked right at us, I swear, as if to say, “All right, make way, I’m here, and I bring something brand new to the party.” Minutes old and your human curiosity and craving for contact, and your absolute uniqueness, came through. Minutes old and we could see your innate wisdom and intelligence shining through, just waiting to be revealed through the coming months and years. With good fortune and luck, we and many others neither we nor you have met will have the privilege to witness that revealing. That new life lived.
Dad stroked your face and smiled with a joy that blew away whatever hours of fatigue had preceded it. A nurse came by to give you your first bath. You cried and turned red, then calmed as she swaddled you in a diaper and blankets. Dad went to check on mom for a few moments, and you fell asleep. We kept staring, fighting tears and nearly numb with gratitude, and finally went home for some sleep of our own.
The next time we saw you, you were in your mom’s arms, still alert, still looking around at all the faces — yet changing your expression ever-so-slightly when your gaze set on her, the only person on this earth with whom you’ll have a bond the rest of us can’t even imagine.
None of this was unique or special, yet it was utterly unique and special. Millions of kids are born every day, many in the same general way you came to us. It’s as common and famliar as the blue sky. But that instant you grabbed your first gulp of air, let out your singular cry and became fully your own little being — so dependent, yet so complete — had never happened before in the history of the world. There is absolutely no one else like you, never has been and never will be. And every moment you live will have its own unique sound, sight, smell, touch, reaction and thought. This is fact, and it’s magic. It’s what makes life such a fragile miracle, and it’s why little people like you keep us older folks going, never fully letting go of the wonder, even when bad things happen to us and those we love (and yes, they will happen, and you were born to deal with them just as you were born to harness and hold onto the many joys, surprises, ideas and sensations that will come your way, in your own way).
You don’t know it yet, but your little life gives us new life and pushes up to take stock of who we are in our journeys, how we are building the road for your generation and those behind you. I’m sure every new grandpa feels like much like I do right now: Breathless with thanksgiving and humility, yet newly powerful in spirit. Amazed and blessed. Energized in a way only a relatively young (53), relatively active, not-yet-jaded grandpa can be. I have stories to tell you, jokes to bore you with, a jittery golf swing to share with you, a whole beloved mountain range to hike with you, if I’m able. We have football games to watch, and who knows, given your dad’s love for sports, perhaps he and I and your mom and whoever else is around will one day watch you out there on the gridiron or the diamond or some other field of competition. I have some thoughts on God, the mysteries of this existence we share, to discuss with you one day, if you’re willing to listen. And hopefully I have some solid advice that will keep God, or at least Good, close to your heart.
Here are two start with, oldies but goodies: If you wrong someone, apologize and mean it. If they wrong you, forgive and mean it. Simple lessons, though it took me a few decades too many to learn them.
Beyond me — who, believe it or not, you’ve already changed in ways I haven’t yet imagined — you have so many people to enrich with your one and only, first-in-history personality. Aunts and uncles and cousins and extended shirttail relations. Future siblings we’ll gaze on for the first time with the same blaze of love we felt for you. (Though you’ll always have that special place as the first!) Friends you’ll gather through your life. People you’ll meet briefly and touch for just a moment, but alter the course of their lives. And we in return have so much to give you. We are blessed beyond belief to have you with us.
Now back to that “road building” comment I made a few lines ago: Right now, we’ve done a lousy job of keeping the way straight and smooth for the very people to whom we will bequeath our little corner of the universe before we know it. We have lost our way, as have so many generations before us, and since I’m right in the middle of the current storm, it seems like we’ve gone so far off course that we’ll never find our way back. As your mom and dad walk you into your new home for the first time and build their lives around you, our country and world are in what seem like hopeless straits. We have no working national government to speak of, with the men and women at the center of that government showing far less wisdom and grace and willingness to seek out the comforting and knowing gaze of their fellow man than you did in the first few moments of your life. We are surrounded by greed and selfishness and cruelty and mistrust. Many, many of our friends and neighbors are going hungry. Others struggle with illness and addiction, and many are all but forgotten by the more fortunate folks in our midst. We are in a bad way.
But it isn’t hopeless, is it? There is injustice around every corner, or so I sometimes feel … until I step back, step into a patch of sun on our front lawn and — thank you! — take a moment to recall your little face, the glow of and promise of it, from just two days ago. That image will never leave me. Nor will the sight of your mother looking at you with a shimmering serenity, a pure and incandescent brand of love, as you slept in her arms. I will see her cast that same look upon you for the rest of my life. Your father has his own loving, wider-than-the-sky look for you, too. I’ve seen it, in those first moments in the hospital, and it will never lose its light and heat. Together your parents will nourish your soul and protect you from scary monsters real and imagined. They will pass along their best hopes and dreams for you, and fuel them with faith. Their love for you is limitless, and I know already that even when you’ve grown and gone out into the next phase of your life, on your own, they will be there for you in every way. They are truly special people, and we grandpas and grandmas can only look up and give thanks for having had a part in creating them, so they could create you.
That’s the journey ahead for you, and them, and us. So let’s go, shall we, little man?