As I sat across from my father at lunch today, I had a revelation: I am now the same age that he was when I was born. My father became a father for the first time at this moment in his life.
It made me wonder if he had ever had a moment like that, sitting across from his dad, beer in hand, talking about the fact that there was a representative of the new generation on the way. I wanted to know if he had ever sat across from his own father, talking about how things would change when the baby arrived, talking about how excited the aunts and uncles were, talking about cribs and buying clothes (or how we don’t need to buy any because my absurdly excited family will likely furnish the wardrobe for the next year or so).
I don’t know that he ever did get the chance to speak to him as he and I did today. My grandfather remains a bit hazy in my mind; he died when I was 8 or 9 years old, the victim of a massive heart attack that killed him where he stood (he had a pre-existing heart condition that kept him from going overseas during the war). He was not an old man when he died.
I spent many an hour with my grandfather, building strange contraptions in the basement of his Tillsonburg house. I have numerous pictures of me as a child, standing at or on the workbench, playing with screws and nails and washers (all kept in neatly organized plastic drawers that now rest in my father’s workshop, no doubt to ultimately end up in mine). My memories of him are of home-brewed beer in the basement (I wasn’t allowed to drink any), of playing in their pool while he held their toy poodle (named Rusty) over the water to make her run like a stationary Speedy Gonzales, and of crumbling my saltines into chicken noodle soup because that’s what he always did.
He was very much a product of his age: a stoic, reserved, sometimes severe man that probably found things much easier with his grandson than it ever was dealing with his own four children. He dressed like Archie Bunker and had little patience, but for me he was larger than life, a wise old bear that I looked upon with awe and love.
In some five months or so, my father will be a grandfather for the first time. I wonder how my child will see him. I expect that my dad will teach him to build a birdhouse and how to operate a cordless drill (just the small one at first, of course). My own grandfather may not be around anymore, but that much of his spirit remains with us.