When our oldest granddaughter, Hailey, told my wife and me she was pregnant, my reaction was mixed. Mixed as in shock, concern and horror.
Shock because the news itself was shocking. We tend to delude ourselves into thinking that grown children and grandchildren are just that - children. We remember the innocent young things they were a blink or two ago and have difficulty accepting that they've become part of the grownup world, with all of its consequences.
Concern because she was so young, only 20, and plans for her education would be put on hold. College is tough enough for anyone, let alone a single parent with the round-the-clock demands of a new baby.
Horror because of our impending and premature (to me, at least) status as great grandparents.
A great-grandfather? Me? No way. Great-grandfathers are old men, doddering relics with, as my mother used to say, one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. My great-grandfathers died decades before I was born. I don't even know their names.
Besides, I wasn't ready to be a great-grandfather. I'm still young. OK, maybe not young, but nowhere near ancient enough to be a great-grandfather. I don't even drool yet.
For our daughter Jennifer, who would soon become a grandmother, the transition was even more jarring. She's 37 and can pass for younger. It was a stretch for her to wrap her head around the prospect of becoming a grandmother.
Once the shock wore off, however, it was replaced by something quite different.
Jennifer was even younger, still in high school, when she told us she was pregnant. It's news no parent wants to hear. What we didn't realize, or remotely suspect, was that it would turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to her. Overnight she went from being a rebellious teenager to being a responsible adult. She finished high school and went on to have a 4.0 average in nursing school and become a charge nurse at a regional medical center.
Now, Hailey appears to be on the same path. She made her share of mistakes as a teenager. Today's kids face perils my generation couldn't have imagined. She's still paying for some of those mistakes. But what a difference pregnancy made. And no, I'm not recommending it as a cure-all for young girls who get in trouble (once a euphemism for becoming pregnant). But in her case, as in her mother's, it appears to have turned a life around.
She stopped smoking, which, as anyone who has done it will tell you, is no small feat. She stopped seeing the former friends who were partially responsible for her troubled past. She began choosing more nutritious foods, read books on parenting, dedicated herself to becoming a good mom.
Then, the miracle. On Feb. 4, Grayson Timothy became the newest of the family.
I've had some honors, but my granddaughter's choosing my name to be part of her son's touched me more deeply than any of them. She wanted me to be in the delivery room when he was born and asked me to cut the umbilical cord. My hands were shaking. And not all of the tears in the room that afternoon were the new mother's.
Grayson is five months old now, and a joy to all. To say that he's a happy baby is like saying Rembrandt was a pretty good artist. The kid never stops smiling. He's so easygoing that at first I worried that he didn't know how to cry. He's since dispelled that fantasy. But about the only time he's out of sorts is when he's tired or hungry, and who isn't? Give him a nap or a bottle and he's back to reducing us all to baby-talking buffoons with his thousand-watt smile.
No one is more captivated than his mother. The kid who made the bad choices now makes all the right ones. She's enrolled at BSU for the fall semester. She works hard at her job and is devoted to being the best mother she can possibly be.
Grayson's diaper is wet? She has it changed faster than I change my glasses.
Grayson is hungry? No worries. Mom will handle it.
Grayson has a medical problem? She researches it and by the time he gets to his appointment knows almost as much about it as the doctor does.
When she's with him, which is every second she can be, the two of them are in their own world. She's constantly bouncing him, hugging him, telling him how crazy she is about him. When you say something to her, she may or may not hear you. All her attention is focused on him. The two of them communicate in a way only mothers and babies can.
I've decided that maybe it's not so bad being a great- grandfather. I've managed to resist the temptation to buy a cane and grow a long white beard, and I have a new buddy who never fails to cheer me up. Even at my grumpiest, I can't resist that smile.
Horror? What was I thinking?
Tim Woodward's column appears every other Sunday and is posted on www.woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at email@example.com.