Annie reveals the answer

Posted on March 8, 2011
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Daddy Nathan, the dread pirate Pam, and the fairy mermaid Annie

Our grand daughter, Annie Elizabeth Cline was born on April 10, 2010.

Until now, I have not written, in any detail, how I feel about that. That is just one of the surprises her first year have brought. There were some issues to sort out but they were insignificant.

One was that everyone expects a grand father to be goofy and boring about the perfection of his grand child. How would I avoid that? Turns out the answer to that one is, no can do.

Another is a titch of proprietary confusion. Just how much does one want to reveal about the location and value of a family treasure? How much authority does a grandfather, a step-grandfather at that, have to take a grand child’s life public.

Incidentally, there was one most delightful piece of external input from a friend. She assured me that there is no such thing as a step-grandfather. She said a grand child is as much mine as anyone’s. I believe she is right. Everyone in the baby’s blood family seems closer to being my family than ever.

Yet another has been that I have spent a great deal of time taking, receiving, editing, organizing, filing and distributing hundreds of pictures of her and spending time with her. I can feed her, change her, watch her sleep, rock her, watch music videos with her and, forgive me, sing to her ‘til the cows come home. Let me rephrase that; until her parents reclaim her.

There has, however, been only one mountainous reason for my silence on the subject of Annie Elizabeth Cline. It is that I have been so overwhelmed by her and the emotions she has evoked in me and all of her family.

I have spent 11 months now searching my heart and mind for words that come close to expressing how I feel about her. She has evoked a continuing hurricane of emotions and thoughts in my heart and mind. I suppose many grandparents have found themselves in the same situation. I work hard to keep my life in balance. It is not entirely comfortable to be so completely discombobulated.

I knew it was going to be bad. Baby girls especially have made a habit, at birth, of casually wrapping me around their little fingers and enslaving me.

Incidentally, for me, an exciting element of the miracle of brand new life is the baby finger fingernail It is so tiny and its manicure so perfect it can never again be equalled.

My sister, daughter, step-daughter, nieces, and now Annie, have all made enchanting and enslaving me one of their first and most casual priorities.

I think it may be worse this time. When my daughter was born, I was scared silly. How could I possibly be all the father she needed and deserved?

Now, I am one member emeritus of an army of support. I can concentrate on enjoying the benefits and revel in the opportunity to help a little.

I know you would discount my list of all of Annie’s super qualities so I won’t bother including them here. Besides, it would be far too long and I would still forget or miss some. She is the most delightful human born to date.

To get back to trying to find words to describe how she makes me feel. I’ll use some of the words of others to give you an idea of how difficult it is.

All of the women in her life, without exception, have at one time or more said, “I just want to eat her up!”

These women are not green-complexioned hags in pointy hats. They are lovely, warm, kind and generous women who love her to the core of their beings. They all fairly shiver when they talk about eating her up. They also laugh a sardonic little laugh as they describe how easily they could eviscerate anyone who would ever be mean to her. They way they talk about it, you get the idea they wouldn’t have to think about it any more or longer than you do about whether you should blink your eyes when you sneeze.

All the while, they have that tender, misty, look in their eyes that fairy godmothers get when they are conjuring up their charge’s future all the way to happily ever after.

Burly men, and she is surrounded by them, are afraid they might hug her so hard they might hurt her. Meanwhile, they fall to their knees, turn into cuddly little puppies and laugh like enchanted children seeing their first butterflies. They hold her so tenderly they would not ruffle a humming bird’s feathers.

One feeling she evokes in me is like a combination of tide and volcano. It is a protective urge that is hot and powerful and irresistible. Another is as calm, quiet, gentle, soothing and mystic as sunrise over glassy water.

To borrow a concept from Sir Francis Bacon, a grand daughter is a “hostage to fortune”. There is a terrifying element to that.

At the same time, in her innocent, loving, confident smile, is all the promise of humankind. She makes us determine to contribute to a better world and confident that, with her in it, it can be, will be.

We can see in her great grandparents a new sparkle and purpose as they bask in the warmth of this new, magnificent treasure. We are in awe of the job her mother Pam is doing and her generosity with pictures and time and news. We are thrilled to bursting to see the nuclear fusion bond she has with her father Nathan who so obviously really needs his physical contact with her every day.

We joke with her other grandparents, Juanita and Johnnie, about jousting for time with her. We know a common bond unites us like blood. Johnnie and Juanita have dibs on taking her to Disney World. Superpop, Suppa, dreams of taking her to the French Quarter in New Orleans and to live theatre.

Her paternal grandmother, Michelle, seems like Annie’s natural twin when they are together. The two of them laugh and carry on like teenagers at a slumber party. Mermaid Michelle is aching to comb beaches with Mermaid Annie and the dread pirate, Pam.

Sometimes the realization of it all floods over me so urgently I find myself taking deep breaths to fend off dizziness.

I used to think others going about their grand children were a bit pathetic. Did they have nothing more significant to do or talk about in their lives? How could they think news of an infant crawling could be a highlight of a day?

Now I think seeing the Hallowe’en fairy, Annie, in her wings smiling and holding her wand in one hand rivals, for thrilling, seeing the Canadian men’s and women’s hockey teams winning gold at the Vancouver Olympics.

She changes so fast and so eagerly, each paragraph I write is obsolete by the time I finish it. I am overwhelmed by how eager she is to learn and how enthusiastic she is about every new experience like, for example, being out in the snow.

One of her obvious effects is that she has drastically raised the horizon for her great grandparents and grandparents. I am 67 years older than Annie. I was enjoying life before she arrived but had a vague sense of being over the peak of the curve and into a routine of peaceful recreation and declining significance.

Now I have new motivation to be fit and alert and current and fun when she gets old enough that she will remember me when she is old. I don’t want her to remember a feeble, hazy, boring old geezer. I want to impress her with lively wit and wisdom and help introduce her to my passions for literature, art, music, exotic cuisines, and music.

She has also had the effect of taking me back to when my own children were babies. My memories of the miracles they were then are newly fresh and vivid and digitally remastered in hi def and surround sound. I’ve even started referring to them by the nicknames I used when they were babies – Dodlebug and Colindebin. Don’t try to make sense of those. I can’t and I coined them.

Besides being the most alert and cheerful of children, Annie has a serious and determined side that has us all convinced she is an old soul. I swear that, for months already, I often see a depth in her eyes that makes me believe she is already wiser than I can ever be.

Before Annie, it had been over 40 years since I paid an inordinate amount of attention to other babies. Now I study each one I see watching for health and contentment, alertness and responsiveness, looking for hints of what is next for Annie, and, most important of all, looking for the baby’s confidence that he or she is unconditionally loved.

Her parents, Pam and Nathan, are in my opinion, doing a perfect job of parenting. Their balance of fun and discipline, caution and encouragement, routine and adventure, concern and calm, all seem just right. She has inherited their musical instincts and inner, as well as outer, beauty. She has also had impressive effects on them. Nathan is just the goofy, adoring, responsible, king of the world I knew he would be. Pam has developed the relaxed, glowing, confidence everyone but she always knew should be her norm. She loves being a wonderful mother. Being a wonderful mother also seems to put everything else in perspective for her. After all, what has she to fear from stepping out in front of an audience to perform when she is Annie’s wonderful mom?

There is a kaleidoscope of imaginings and dreams and mystery in my mind when I think of Annie. I know she can be anything she wants to be which makes the possibilities infinite and vivid. I miss the girl she was each month of her life so far. I am giddy with anticipation to see what she imagines, dreams and discovers for herself.

There is one thing I have learned for sure from her first year of life.

No matter what the question, love is, in fact, the answer.

On we go!                                                                                          DAC

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