Reflections on becoming a grandparent

  My son and daugther-in-law say thought long and hard about the name for their daughter and knowing how much care they have put in to everything before and since I am sure they did. Elizabeth Joy!  They were veering strongly towards Elizabeth and the coincidence of Platy Jubes with the birth clinched it.  But what a joy too when that happened!

And yes, what joy does it mean to me to be holding her, at 2 days, against my chest and watching her breath.   As she moves she can hold her head a little and her eyes engage.  She is in my direct sense.  And she in my direct line of consequence.

There is of course the great joy of announcement.  The word ‘grandparent’ itself does nothing to deflate, even a little, the grandiloquence.  Grandant has been suggested by clever friends as a moniker for me and I can’t resist that.  There is even ‘grandisonant’ meaning ‘giving the impression of grandeur’.  But this level of apparent status, associated with pride, doesn’t tally with everyone’s experience or interest. People get vestiges of joy from many things in life other than this.  And recognising that tallies with a strong contrary feeling I get.  One of awe and, yes, humility. 

My son Jake told me two deep feeling of his own.   First the weird feeling at the birth of there suddenly being another human being in the room.  We can extend this to imagine if and how Elizabeth sensed at the time, or a little later (but it wouldn’t have been long, judging by her rapid developmental awareness), that SHE was not the only one in the room:  that there were parents, midwives and even grandparents and auntie.   Jake’s second feeling was the realisation that this new person, his daughter, would attend his funeral.

If Jake the father, in all the excitement and then the immediate heavy duty of parenthood can have these sensations, all the more so can I at one step removed.

Sartre talks eloquently and accurately about each one of us ‘being for itself’ and ‘being for others’.  We find it hard to go beyond these states.  But in holding Elizabeth I experienced a oneness between and beyond them.  The direct line of consequence had helped me: I was nearer to Meister Eckhart’s sense of mystical oneness: in the being, in the Universe.  There is a humility, a peace and a Joy along with that.

Any thoughts on this?   Please let me have your comments below.  Meanwhile, here is a little sketch of Elizabeth Joy called ‘I shall overcome’.

June 20th 2022

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  1. Love it! Yes it is magnificent being a grandparent. I was actually at the birth of my daughter’s 3 children and nearby with the others. I must admit that the birthing of my own children was far and beyond anything I could put into words. That to me is the love that surpasses all others, we would do anything for our children and I guess the same for grandchildren. The feeling and the intensity of that love cannot be explained, and is a “god” to me.
    So congratulations Ant you have joined another great club of us “grand” people!

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  2. The Natural Order
    A very wealthy man asked a Zen master for a text which would always remind him how happy he was with his family.
    The Zen master took some parchment and, in beautiful calligraphy, wrote:
    “The father dies. The son dies. The grandson dies.”
    “What?” said the furious rich man “I asked you for something to inspire me, some teaching which might be respectfully contemplated by future generations, and you give me something as depressing and gloomy as these words?”
    “You asked me for something which would remind you of the happiness of living together as
    a family. If your son dies first, everyone will be devastated by the pain. If your grandson dies, it would be an unbearable experience.
    However, if your family disappears in the order which I placed on the parchment, this is the natural course of life. Thus although we all endure moments of pain and joy, the generations will continue, and your legacy will be long lasting.”

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  3. And it is great that you have recorded your feelings out loud. It will preserve this memory when life throws curve balls to take you into a range of other emotional states. What a joy she is Grandant.

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  4. ‘Platy Jubes’ I actually had to think about that. I’m slightly jealous, I can’t wait to have a grandchild. I remember being a parent and how it helps us trace back our own childhood and the stages we go through, when seeing it in our own children.

    As an older and hopefully wiser person (without ovaries) now, and without the challenge of having to learning how to be a father on the fly, I think grandparenthood will offer so many insights – not only another run at seeing our own early development through the grandchild but also reliving being a parent for the first time through our own sons or daughters.

    Congratulations to all the Woodings.

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  5. Articulate and graceful as ever, Ant, provoking thought and reflection not only of the broader cycles of life – nature – but one’s own role within it.

    Wishing you all the joy being grandparent can bring.

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  6. Beautiful words, and a beautiful sketch. There is nothing like the birth of a gorgeous new little life to make us stop and reflect on our own path. Welcome to the world, baby Elizabeth.

  7. Lovely words as always Yodant. Elizabeth turns six weeks old today, congratulations to you all. What an amazing feat it is to be part of this world. Love this quote from Marcus Aurelius ‘’ What is your vocation? To be a good person’’ something to live your life by above all else Elizabeth Joy. And with the help from your parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles – you will.

  8. We’re in our little camper van travelling back from the Spanish Pyrenees.and now in the Dordogne. It really is the most relaxing kind of holiday you could experience in my view.
    We now have 2 grandchildren, Isla 4 and Freya 1. For me personally it’s a wonderful experience and an immense feeling of pride towards our daughter Anita and Tom our son in law.

    I feel it is a great privilege to be a grandparent on so many counts. The fact that Adrian and I are here together to share our joy makes it all the more special. We’re very lucky.

    I’m sorry I’m not as eloquent as you Anthony, not as deep a thinker but I wish you and Debbie many happy years of being I’m sure loving and supportive grandparents.

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