Changing Sides

I looked down at the message indicator on my phone.  This text didn’t have words, it was actually a short video.  I knew what was coming, but I was still nervous.  Things would be different after I pushed play.

After a few moments I played the video.  My oldest son Parker and his wife were in a doctor’s office.  I could hear happy chatter as Parker placed his phone near a small speaker.  There was static then a gentle, rhythmic whooshing sound.  I listened.  Then listened again.  I felt old, excited, helpless and joyful all at the same time.  That quick, soft whooshing sound was my grandchild’s heartbeat.

I am going to be a grandfather.

In and of itself that isn’t remarkable.  It happens to men my age every day.  The frequency, however, doesn’t dilute the experience when it happens to you.  Waves of emotion washed over me.  My son is going to be a father.

We actually knew about this for a little while before we got the video from Parker.  He told me when we were both at a wedding in Louisiana.  That same weekend he and his wife sent my wife and his mother-in-law packages that contained little outfits that had “Will You Be My Grandma?” printed on them.  I was happy but I was waiting until the little person gave us a sign.  That tiny heartbeat was the sign I needed.

So our family is going through some changes.  I am not sure how many of you were tuned in when I started this blog, but in the first entry Let’s Get This Thing Started I explained how I came up with the name ‘This Side of the Diaper’.  Briefly, Parker and I were changing one of Charlie’s more stinky diapers several years ago.  I was expounding on how gross it was when Parker said he was very happy to be on “this side of the diaper.”  I got to thinking about that and it seems to me that we spend our lives on one side of the diaper or the other.  For our childhood and early adulthood, we are on the smiling happy side.  Then we have kids and we move to the other side.  It is only right and proper that the young man who inspired the title of this blog is now moving to the other side.

It’s hard not to go all nostalgic.  Of course I have replayed the “Parker Story” over and over in my head.  I thought about the first time I saw him.  I hit all the highlights over the years.  I am lucky.  There have been few, if any real low points.  We were having a discussion when he was about 17 and we were discussing various topics.  He looked at me and said, “I can’t wait to be a father.”  I, of course, immediately went all dramatic and assumed that he meant within the next seven or eight months.  He looked at me with an half amused, half irritated smile. “Jeeeeez Dad,” he said.  “Nobody that I know is pregnant.  I’m just saying that I see how you are with Charlie and how you are with me and someday I want to be in that position.”  I got up off the floor and stopped groping for my nitroglycerin and accepted the compliment.

Parenthood is a funny thing.  You can think you are ready for it . . .  you can prepare for it . . . you can read books and watch videos or you can just wait for it.  It doesn’t really matter.  Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing world champion once said “Everybody has a plan until they get hit.”  Parenthood is like that.  Go ahead and plan and then wait for the doctor to put the baby in your arms.  We’ll see how long your plan lasts.

When he was about 15 Parker and I were having a  . . . disagreement.  Actually he was disagreeing with something I had laid down.  I wasn’t disagreeing with anything . . . I didn’t have to disagree . . . I just made the decisions.  Actually that might have been what Parker was disagreeing with.  Anyway at one point he looked at me and said “You just have all the answers, don’t you?”

I looked at him.  “You think that I think I have all the answers?” I asked.  “You think I I have a plan?”  I sat down in our family room.  “I don’t have a plan . . . I am making this up as I go.”  I stopped having a plan years before that.  I just did my best within the moment and prayed things would work out.  He looked at me for a long time before he went to his room.  We didn’t have many disagreements after that.

Of course Parker and his wife have a plan and strategies, but mostly they seem pretty relaxed and circumspect.  They are excited obviously, but appropriately confident.  Both have considerable experience with small children.  His wife has three younger brothers and Parker was in his teens when we adopted his brothers.  They know the basics.  Things will get real when they can’t hand off the cranky infant to Mom or Dad, but they are ready.

As for me, I am confused.  I am still trying to get my mind around the fact that Parker isn’t a teenager anymore.  Now he has blown right through teenager and become an independent, strong young man . . . with a family of his own.  It’s up to me to find out where I fit in all of this.  This is not about me . . . it’s about the kids and their new family.  I will do what I have always done . . . I’ll fill the role needed at the moment.  Being a grandfather is going to be a great adventure.  I am lucky enough to get to be a grandfather and a father to young children simultaneously.  I will keep you posted on how the familial multitasking goes.

I looked down at the phone in my hand.  I was right . . .  I pushed play and the world changed for me.  I sat back in my office chair.  The moment was profound and right.   I thought about how we all got to this point.  I am sure I had all the emotions any man has when he finds out that his child is going to be a parent.  For a long time I just sat there and savored the happiness.  Then I called my son.  I was going to say something profoundly witty and wise because . . .  well . .  that’s what I do.  He answered the phone and all I could get out was “I love you”.  I am sure he knows what I meant.

Thanks for reading and sharing.  Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads . . . and Dads to be.  Life is good on This Side of the Diaper.  We’ll talk again soon.

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