Not yet a grandparent

Joe Banks reflects on that ‘in-between time,’ the period before grown offspring try to have children, and the grandparents-in-waiting wish for it to happen.

grandfather with his granddaughter are on the roadMy wife and I have entered that era that eventually all biological parents, be they near or far, together, separated or divorced, willingly or not, sooner or later, cross. It, like most other characteristics of aging, can arrive suddenly or quietly, depending on the circumstances.

It is the era of potential or looming grand-parentage, that in-between time before the grown offspring want or try to have children, and before the grandparents-in-waiting want them to have them.

It is the flipside of the baby-making era, the next go-round of procreation that can prompt a new perspective that analysts and magazine editors use as conversation starters over cocktails with friends.

My cue arrived when we were looking over the latest ultrasound photos of our unborn grand-nephew on Facebook. Mother niece had posted them alongside a shot of a sideways profile of herself. It was the second from the same clan we’d seen in as many days, with both expecting the same week, no less.

“I’ve figured out what I want to do in my retirement,” my wife said wistfully, gazing at the photos, without a warning or prompt.

“Oh, what’s that?” I ask, right eyebrow upturned, woefully unprepared for what was to come.

“I want to be a volunteer mom for pregnant women and help them through the last weeks of their pregnancy.”

There are lots of other possibilities I would’ve guessed: annual trips to Ireland or Tuscany, few extra scrapbooking seminars, more time at the lake. 

“Oh?” I answered in as non-judgmental tone as possible. “So you want to be a birthing coach, or a doula?”

That people are actually licensed to perform such services hadn’t dawned on her, deflating the fantasy momentarily. But we both knew where it was really coming from: not only from a selfless desire to help young, perhaps even motherless, women with the burdens of birth, but the deep, irresistible and ancient desire to be a grandma.

Our daughters are taking their time, you see, being very cool and sensible about their options, as we’d advised them when they were teenagers. They’re enjoying themselves in the second half of their twenties, and their partners are still boyfriends. The four of them are in no hurry to go forth and multiply, like so many others in their cohort.

I, on the other hand, am content to wait, in the same way that I would’ve been fine to delay a little longer our decision to have kids in the first place.  Odd, isn’t it, how paternal procrastination is a repeated behaviour?  But I digress.

I do admit to the occasional twinge of anticipated gramps-hood whenever I’m prompted by my family to recall my own granddad, a man who mirrored the stereotype: spectacled, kindly, wise, funny and always generous with his time with us.

He drank raw eggs in ginger beer and delighted in watching us react when he took out his lower dentures, causing his jaw to meet his nose. And I think: I can’t take out my teeth, but I’ll sure let them draw stick figures on the top of my bald head while I fall asleep in the Lazy Boy.

All of these little itches and twitches are not at all helped by the exclamations of our contemporaries who are already into their grand years. They bring into the office photos and burble about the grand boys and girls like Hollywood celebrity gossips.

One’s son and daughter-in-law have triplets. Another has twins. We know that because their office walls are festooned with photos, in case any of us forget.

Inevitably, they all end with the same line of script, as if it was handed down in a secret ritual of grand-hood that my wife and I will someday swear allegiance to.

“And the best thing?” they all say. “You can spoil the heck out of them and then they go home with mom and dad!”