It had been a long time since I’d bought baby clothes.
A huge amount of mental effort was required to navigate this unfamiliar territory, so it took a while to make my selection. Feeling as awkward and out of place as a penguin amidst a herd of elephants, I placed the merchandise on the counter. The guy behind the counter — the parts man at a farm implement dealership — regarded me with a raised eyebrow.
A big grin splitting my face, I gushed, “My wife and I have a little secret. Everyone is going to know about it pretty soon, so there’s no point in trying to hide it anymore!”
“I see,” replied the parts guy warily.
“I just want to make sure that the little guy gets started on the right foot,” I went on. “These onesies should make him look pretty jaunty. Plus, John Deere green and yellow go with almost anything.”
“I agree,” said the parts guy as he rang up the sale. “Wouldn’t want to see the little shaver go around wearing the wrong colors.”
What you are thinking is true. My wife and I are about to become grandparents!
That last sentence is going to take a lot of getting used to. I never planned on much of anything in life, much less becoming a grandpa. But somehow, improbably, here we are.
I was fortunate to have both sets of grandparents nearby to help me along when I was growing up.
My earliest and most lasting impression of grandfathers is that they are old. They had lived so long that their age was beyond reckoning, like a colossal, moss-covered tree that’s hidden deep in the middle of a primordial forest.
I came to believe that grandfathers smelled like wintergreen smokeless tobacco and always gave you a round pink mint that they retrieved from the chest pockets of their bib overalls. A grandpa would slip you a quarter so that you could go on the Gut Wringer ride at a traveling carnival, even though you had just wolfed down a couple of footlong hotdogs and an electric-blue cloud of cotton candy.
Grandpa was the kind of guy who would sit with you on the porch on a warm, sunny spring day and patiently show you how to whittle a stick with his pocketknife.
Grandmothers constantly made a fuss over their grandchildren. They seemed obsessed about ensuring that their grandkids had plenty to eat. Grandma’s kitchen always smelled of freshly baked cookies and cakes and homemade candies. My wife has spent much of her life practicing for being a grandma.
Grandparents move slow and drive even slower. Their cars are hopelessly uncool and have probably never gone faster than 35 mph. Grandparents don’t ever turn on their car’s radio because, as they explained, “We have to save on the battery.”
Based on my childhood experiences with grandparents, I feel woefully unqualified to be a grandpa.
For starters, our car is only a year old and has been known to occasionally go faster than the posted speed limit. We always have the car’s radio on. The radio even speaks directly to us when we use its map app.
I am not about to begin using smokeless tobacco at this late date. I’ll have to check the supermarket’s candy aisle to see if they still stock those round pink mints. There’s an old pocketknife somewhere in the depths of our junk drawer; I should be able to find it with only a small amount of excavating.
Our grandson’s parents are anxious. Of course they are; so were my wife and I when we first started down the path of parenthood. We freaked out over every little hiccup and emission until we finally realized that a baby’s main job is to hiccup and emit. A lot.
It’s a contemporary fad for expectant couples to say, “We’re pregnant.” That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s also a load of hooey. The woman is pregnant; she’s the one who has to gestate the miniature person and push it out into the world. The father mostly plays the role of Concerned Bystander.
We are advising the expectant parents to relax and enjoy themselves. Nothing — and I’m including getting a new 65″ OLED smart TV here — will change your life more profoundly than having a baby.
Above all, we’re telling them to not sweat the small stuff. And to bear in mind that there’s going to be a lot of small stuff.
The big day is growing closer and we are making final preparations. Which reminds me: I need to go shopping for a pair of bib overalls.