Meeting our grandson

My wife and I generally look forward to road trips. There’s nothing like a bright, new morning with an open road stretching out before us, a steaming mug of coffee in the cupholder, an order of French toast sticks balancing on the armrest.

Our recent journey to Kansas City seemed a bit weird — and not just because I didn’t spill syrup on my lap for once.

Pandemic or no, life goes on. Arrivals and departures continue to take place.

Our most recent trip to KC was to meet our new grandson. This was a complicated feat to pull off in the midst of a raging COVID-19 pandemic.

We mostly stay in the safe bubble of our farmhouse. Traveling in our car was like taking our bubble with us. But try as we might, my wife and I cannot drive for six hours without experiencing the urge to offload some coffee.

We made quick work of it when we stopped. We masked up and hustled into and out of the facilities as swiftly as possible. Upon reaching the safety of our car’s bubble, we splashed rubbing alcohol onto our hands.

Our youngest son and his wife have been self-quarantining for six months. Nobody ever planned on giving birth during a global pandemic, but that’s what they were forced to do.

After our son and his wife had worked so hard to maintain their bubble of safety, it was natural that they would be apprehensive about letting outsiders into their home. My wife and I were overjoyed when we were invited to meet our grandbaby in person. We had to wear masks, but that was a small price to pay to get acquainted with our newest family member.

Videos and photos are nice, but they are murky shadows cast upon a dusky wall compared to actually being with someone.

My wife’s eyes instantly overflowed when the baby was placed in her arms. “Now I know why we’re wearing masks,” she said. “We need them to hide our tears!”

The little guy was eventually put on my lap. You forget how warm babies are, how they seem to constantly squirm and stretch, their uniquely milky aroma.

The baby stared, unblinking, up at me. I saw my father’s and my grandfather’s eyes reflected in his cerulean gaze. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of the vast and promising future that stretches out before him.

I was suddenly glad that I was wearing a mask.

It’s amazing how quickly we lapsed into having “baby talk” conversations with the tyke. It’s been decades since I’d held an infant, but muscle memory kicked in as soon as the little guy settled into the crook of my arm.

We had all but forgotten what a pleasure it is to have a baby fall asleep as you hold him. The random twitches and odd sounds that a sleeping baby makes, the teeny hand that grips your finger with astonishing strength.

My wife and I strive to be considerate houseguests; we make it a policy to never arrive emptyhanded. In this instance, we brought along some of our homegrown Jersey beef.

An item that was of great interest to our son and me was the brisket that was in our cooler. Lengthy, philosophical discussions took place regarding the best way to make the highest use of this well-marbled slab of deliciousness.

You may have heard of the slow food movement. I probably have everyone beat regarding this fad.

For more than a year, the steer who contributed the brisket was fattened on grain that was raised on our farm. Acquiring a brisket in that manner was but the final leg of an extremely lengthy process.

Not that we planned any of this, but 35 years ago, my wife gave birth to our youngest son. He grew up, went to college, and earned a degree in construction management. A series of unpredictable events steered his career to Kansas City, the epicenter of barbecued meat.

It was like having a spy in the headquarters of the Secrets Of Barbecue Society.

Tapping into the vast barbecue experiences he had had, we set a course for the brisket that involved hardwood charcoal and cherry woodchips. By the end of the day, the brisket had acquired a deep mahogany hue. We should have taken a photo of it and submitted it to Slow Food Fanatic magazine.

All too soon, our visit came to an end. When we arrived back at home, I noticed that something had spilled onto my lap.

For the first time in a long time, it wasn’t syrup. And my wife said that it’s OK if I keep that baby drool stain.


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