The Face of God
By Jonathan R Slaten, EDD
I am a Grandfather! These four words forever changed me. I am unsure just exactly what happened, but it was a profound life moment.
Please don’t misunderstand my words. I fell in love with my best friend and married her. We raised two brilliant children. As a Christian, I experienced the awe and majesty of God.
Nothing diminishes these events. However, the first sight of that tiny bundle struck deep in the gut and weakened my knees. Tears coursed down my face, as emotions thundered inside. I turned away unable to deal with the carnage.
“Grandchildren change your life. Much like describing religious life, ideas cannot convey the depth of feeling.”
Past actions held little foreshadowing of this response. I wanted to be a grandparent, but the torrent swept my self-image down the open drain of complete love. I was smitten.
It was the same four years later with the birth of the little girl. She is the princess of my days.
It is hard making others understand the experience. Much like describing religious life, ideas cannot convey the depth of feeling. When talking to non-grandparents, frustration mounts with a jumbling of words. Words are the will-of-the-wisp and thus inadequate. When expounding to others, I see eyes glaze, and interest wane. Transparent thoughts scroll across their faces, “Just another goofy, over-indulgent grandparent.”
Of course, I was never so blatant, but now recognize the lack of comprehension. I tried listening but could only wait.
Now I grasp the enormous simplicity. Persons without grandchildren don’t understand. Frustrated, I sit and ponder.
Maybe the mystery is language cannot express the profundity of the sensation. Some ideas cannot be translated.
Grandchildren change your life. Everything becomes enhanced and magnified. Worries spring forth in dreams. With our children, I vividly remember rushing to a hospital with a child’s lips blue from asthma. I recall with clarity as a nurse took our youngest into the surgeon’s room for ear-tubes. The fear remains palpable seared inside the brain.
“Though my father’s sage advice was that two of the most satisfying words in the English language were retirement and grandchildren.”
However, the most frightening time was when our two-month-old grandson required surgery. As we drove in the middle of the night to the emergency room, uncertainties surfaced with a vengeance. My wife and I attempted to sleep in a nearby hotel. Tossing inside an anxiety-filled fever-dream, horrible possibilities manifested. Those same uncertainties still frequently visit. Irrational, yes, but there they are.
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I sometimes wonder about our grandparents and parents. My grandparents loved their offspring, but were the same reservations present? Maybe the difference is there were fifteen grandchildren, thus almost impossible to focus on individuals. My parents loved their grandchildren, but again, it became a number’s game. (Though my father’s sage advice was that two of the most satisfying words in the English language were retirement and grandchildren.)
Maybe today with the number of grandchildren being smaller, the anxiety heightens. We pour more expectations on them. They are us into the future.
All I know for sure as the years fly, the love I feel for that future man and woman grows. I cannot tell them how much they mean to me. There is one cast-iron certainty. For when the boy takes my hand and says, “Come play with me, Pop-Pop,” which means I sit on a floor watching him build fantastical railroad architectures, something indescribable occurs. When the girl lugs a book almost too large for tiny hands, and I ask, “Do you want me to read you a story?” an emphatic nod of “yes” makes me live and die on that word.
The certainty is of the divine. In those sweet moments, I glimpse but for an instant to see the face of God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JONATHAN SLATEN
Jonathan Slaten is a retired elementary school principal with more than thirty-five years in education. He and his wife retired early to take care of their now six-year-old grandson.