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On Being An OLD Young Grandpa

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Take these wrinkles and shove it!

Honestly, there’s a rising bowl-full of yeasty dough swelling with things about getting older of which I’m not a fan.

Good God, I have wrinkles spreading from my forehead to my hair-sprouting ears. I’ll just try to think of myself as sexy like Leonard Cohen (without the great voice!)

I’m definitely not a fan of elder sports such as watching my generational cohorts and family members become ill and begin to drop off, especially when I know that this slow rise up the graph will pick up logarithmic pace with each passing year.

Woody Allen … “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

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But, you know, as with just about everything, there is a possible positive for us in aging too.

It’s called grandparenting.

And because I know that many today don’t or won’t have grandkids, let’s add in grand’aunting and grand’uncling, even grand’friending and grand’neighbouring! Cast the circle wide and enjoy the fruits.

Grandparenting caught me by surprise… not the fact that it actually happened, but I’m shocked in discovering how MUCH I adore these little people.

This discovery reminds me of my experience of backpacking in Europe in 1979; I had no expectation of finding it thrilling or life-changing… HA! Turned my world upside down for decades following… and now it’s grandparenting that has me gobsmacked.

It’s an Ode to Joy, seeing a new face welcomed to our world, knowing that this mini-person will likely be walking our ground-space, breathing our expired air, drinking our excreted water… seeing, hearing, smelling us inside their head for decades, maybe even a hundred years or more. It’s an eternal and exciting Circle-of-Life miracle.

I’m a relatively new grandparent… I have 3 grandkids all under the age of 5.

So, 3 of my own children and 3 grandchildren.. could this be what they call “replacement theory”?… *oh no Larry, watch where you go man, that’s a different kettle of fish*

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I love the title of a recently published book I’ve run across in another’s blog… “The Mindful Grandparent: The Art of Loving Our Children’s Children

Mindfulness is everywhere these days. Mindfulness entered the zeitgeist during the 1990s when Jon Kabat-Zinn chose the term to express a central idea of Buddhism. Mindfulness means “sustained, focused nonjudgmental attentiveness to the here-and-now.”

These words caught me up in thinking about my role as a granddad and my unexpected enjoyment of this new experience and all of its learning moments. To be a cheerleader and non-judgmental. I do love my children’s children.

Playing grandparent for a full day each week has brought me full-force into the world of mindfulness… there is no ignoring a 1 yr old or a 4 yr old who wants your attention… NOW.

And even if they aren’t asking for attention, the opportunities provided to a little one by a non-mindful grandparent can lead to crazy, even occasionally dangerous consequences.

This week my toddler granddaughter and her 4 yr old brother were left alone for a few moments. Within a minute or two, his underwear was off and she was wearing them on her head as a hat! Not dangerous… but crazy?? Absolutely!

One of the big things I really love about grandparenting is reading children’s books to the kids.

To see the look in their eyes, and watch from outside the thoughts and dreams… the swirl of imagination, is as startling as it is powerfully compelling. As a young parent I was likely too tired or overwhelmed by a busy life to notice such big small stuff.

So, if you have a small child in your world, here are a tiny few of my favourite books that I’m reading with my 4 year old and 1.5 year old; our newborn grandson will join this thrilling fraternity in the coming months.

It shouldn’t be surprising, but my very favourites, for the 0-5 age crowd, and mainly because I have a little boy’s scatological mind inside myself, are the absurdly silly Robert Munsch books:

I HAVE TO GO [pee]

MOIRA’S BIRTHDAY

GOOD FAMILIES DON’T [fart]

THOMAS’S SNOWSUIT

or the poignant LOVE YOU FOREVER

BIRDFEEDER BANQUET (author Michael Martchenko)

THE MAGIC HOCKEY SKATES (author Allen Morgan)

Today, you can tell by the furrows across my face that I’ve been around for awhile, but I’m working harder, as a grandparent, to make all of the new crinkles and creases across this mug… SMILE LINES...

Holding Back The Death Of A GrandMinstrel…

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By a number of measures, I should be dead.

I drove my 1967 Rambler American more than a dozen times while numbingly inebriated before I turned 19. The lights of Main Street were lit, and so was I.

Terrible choice, absolutely, but also – poor excuse aside – common in that era.

On more than one occasion I recall thinking to myself after arriving safely back home late at night…

… shit, I don’t remember that drive.

I wouldn’t describe it as a blackout but more a trance-like state, as if someone else had taken control of the steering wheel and magically transported me home while I hazily observed. Gage Park wobbled back and forth in my heavy eyes as I passed by…

I could have killed myself, or even more tragically, some innocent pedestrian or decent steelworker making his journey home to his family upon finishing an afternoon shift at Dofasco (my boyhood hometown Hamilton, Ontario is a well-known steel-making city).

At other times, I’ve foolishly wandered down dark alleys in seedy areas of cities (eg. Hamburg, Germany, or Granada, Nicaragua) where you could reasonably expect a grisly murder to occur… or gone home with total strangers that I know I shouldn’t have but was too polite to say “NO THANKS” (it’s that damned Canadian politeness factor)!

I’ve scuba-dived down deep… jumped from an airplane at 10,000 feet (yes, WITH a parachute attached, I’m not a TOTAL idiot!).

Minor and major life-threatening events occur to each of us throughout our days and come at us from different angles… some we anxiously avoid and some we dive into wholeheartedly.

BUT… still…

I fear death… do you?

I fear it more intensely now than when I was younger and even more witless.

Why? The fear isn’t so much about a lack of courage (although I would easily win the part of the Lion in The Wizard of Oz!) I’ve decided that it comes down to a big three for me… CURIOSITYFOMO (Fear of Missing Out) … and AMBITION.

I begrudge you death…

CURIOSITY?

Despite all the daily worries and problems out there in the big world, and certainly not for everyone, but… to me, the time in which we live is a Golden Age.

And the mountain of gold is growing bigger still.

In my murky crystal ball I foresee huge peaks of future excitement.

Technology has increasingly enlivened my days with each passing year, and the wonders of new ways of doing things, communicating, travelling, learning, and relating to the world around me.

I’m flabbergasted and invigorated with enthusiasm for what is still to come. It makes me giddy… and I don’t want to miss a thing even if I don’t understand it all. Humanity’s creativity has generated some crazy and amazing stuff.

Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood.”   Robert Greene, author

Which brings me to…

FOMO?

Add to this curiosity my relatively new (3 years) experiment as a grandfather, and again, I don’t want to miss out on seeing all the potential and wonder of who and what becomes of my young successors.

There’s a heightened level of pride that seems to skip a generation where it comes to grandchildren: perhaps there’s less intense pressure as a grandparent to micro-manage the little ones’ day-to-day direction that frees us to see the beauty and marvel of a developing new life.

What a loss it would, and will be, to miss these million milestones …

AMBITION?

This is tied part and parcel into this compulsion I have for goal-setting that I’ve mentioned here on numerous occasions.

Guitar skills, songwriting, new cooking artistry, language learning, running targets… goals towards anything that gets my heart racing for all the positive reasons related to the marvels of endorphins.

I’m a minstrel at heart who pines to become a better minstrel… and becoming better at anything – as Malcolm Gladwell will happily tell you- requires time and HOURS of practice.

I need time because… Death has a way of cutting short practice time…

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”   E.E. Kenyon, 1953

The thing is, life is short and precarious. Much of our success in living another day is as much luck as anything else.

To attain old age is akin to the way the late Bob Ross painted his quiet little masterpieces, all… “happy little accidents“…

In a breath this grandminstrel (ie. me) will be dust in the wind, a universal nomad… no matter my curiosity, FOMO or ambition… it’s preordained…

The bottom line just has to be Carpe Diem... wash your hands, eat your vegetables, live your life in high-definition, bravely, fully and well…

Let me know if you have a fear of dying, and if so, why.

PS You can put your mind at ease… I haven’t driven under the influence in many…. decades!

PPS Just one more reason to live a long time… I want to wear these clothes that are smarter than me!

Mischief Eyes – The Song

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boy with moon

To once more see the world…

… the beauty of the moon and stars … the unexplainable draw of planes and trucks… through toddler eyes is a reawakening.

To the child it’s all fascinating and new and calling out to be understood … to be held, twisted, tasted, and savoured. Danger can be a stranger while the senses tingle and excite… and sometimes they perceive fright where no danger exists.

As a young parent you miss so much. But why?

Simple. It’s because you’re just way too busy hanging on by the fingertips of sanity – the minutes and days are seen through hazy glasses of responsibility and exhaustion and the monetary stretch of daycare and diapers and clothes that grow too small each week (hopefully the child’s and not the parents’!).

But, as a grandparent… my young eyes have seen years slip by, and now these same eyes and hands that have lived through the world of weariness and depletion, find new vivacity and energy in this short-term cocoon of toddlerdom.

This is the world that my wife and I find ourselves in these days within this realm of relatively new grandparenthood.

It’s become our delight and wonder relived through Mischief’s Eyes.

So, today I write down some lyrics to capture a fleeting moment… a moment almost like a still photo, a snapshot in time, of a little boy in his own expanding world of wonder. (See if you can spot the Shakespeare!)

boy with stars

MISCHIEF EYES

by Larry Green

The boy inside this balloon that’s blue
and shifts black at night
ceiling stars dance and sing
everything is truck and moons
fingers float those
little boats
young maestro of wind and sound
with music scores that never kiss the ground

Rolling with the climb and spin
oaty ripples cross your chin
rightside up or upsidedown
a tiny joker with a tiny grin
toss and throw
help calls in slippy snow
is this sock left or right
and is this shoe red or white

CHORUS

Our tattered eyes ask
How did we miss eternity’s hole
your disguise fooled us all
when your arms surround
your finger’s got us twisted round
those mischief eyes that slowly drown
sail away little rogue

Big brown bears on pages
Wild things escaping cages
books whirlwind strewn
some quiet words, some filled with tunes
scramble and clamber
shimmy and scamper
with Sparkle climbing hills
up and up till clock ticks noon

BRIDGE:

This body contains a soul
a kingdom is too small to hold

CHORUS

Our tattered eyes ask
How did we miss eternity’s hole
your disguise fooled us all
when your arms surround
your finger’s got us twisted round
those mischief eyes that slowly drown
sail away little rogue

sail away

A Masterpiece… Am I Ready?

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Okanagan Lake.jpg

Ommmmmmmmmmm…..

When we take a deep yoga breath and open our eyes and senses to the world around us we can see the universe as a beautiful painting. The breezes flow like fairy sprites across the canvas blending colour and texture.

To truly appreciate an exquisite piece of art, we first have to stand back and absorb the totality before we hone in on the minuscule fine points that, brought together, produce a masterpiece.

Masterpieces are created one step, one brush stroke at a time, in the same way that a war is looked back upon as a series of battles that produced a final outcome. OK, maybe that’s not a pretty comparison, but you get the point.

Bob Ross painting.jpg

Life is made from science but is best appreciated as art…

In a few weeks I’ll become a granddad for the first time.

My baby is having a baby. I’m not sure I’m ready.

Am I ready?

I always ask myself, “Am I ready?

I’ll tell you my answer at the end of this.

Soon, a small genetic piece of me will usher himself into the world and hopefully live for 100 or more years as a fractional portion of my proof of existence.

He’ll grow and laugh and cry, living his life one heartbeat, one day at a time just like I have, just like my mother, my grandfathers and great-grandmothers did.

This isn’t light stuff. This comes down to the meaning of life and weighty philosophical thoughts.

Granddad. It’s a title that I can’t quite grasp.

grandfather painting

In reality, for my entire life, I’ve struggled with titles of all kinds … paperboy, burger flipper, laboratory technologist, husband, father, brother, gardener, hockey player, writer, triathlete, musician, tutor, cook, bartender, the list goes on and on.

Every time a new title presents itself I’ve sat and asked myself, “Am I ready?

I’ve shivered and trembled and worried. My first niece was born when I was 11. I shivered. I married when I was  24 years old. I trembled. My first child was born when I was 26. I worried.

My first grandchild will be born when I’m 60. I shiver and tremble and worry. The beautiful masterpiece, the fine details and curlicues of a perfect life might turn into tangles and knots. But that’s short-lived worry that is really a mirage.

I know it’s insecurity that makes me think this way. I know it has to do with self-esteem and confidence. Am I ready?

It’s silly really because we all find ourselves “titled” every day by the roles we play, the things we do.

Not one of these titles has sat well on me because they’ve all been challenges that defined me and encased me in shoes of concrete. I am this. Or I am that. To be or not to be… and most importantly… can I do it?

These titles in some way – and in my interpretation – suggest that I must have some sort of expertise that I feel uncomfortable claiming.

Yes, I am a musician… well actually I play a bit of guitar and sing but Sir Paul is truly a musician, not me.”

Sure, technically I’m your father, but I don’t bring all the wisdom and wonder to the role the way Atticus Finch did in To Kill A Mockingbird, or Charles Ingalls on Little House On The Prairie. Now those men were Dad’s.”

atticus finch.jpg

For many years I struggled with the sense of inferiority that often held me back through fear of failure. If I aim for this “title” and don’t quite make it, well, people will look down on me as a total failure.

The good news is that while in my 50’s, the fear of failure and insecurities that held hands with that fear slowly melted away like the globally-warmed ice glaciers in Alaska…

Titles don’t have the power to shape my view of myself the way they once did.

I don’t like failure any more than I ever have, but I accept that bastard failure as part of the process that carries me forward and gives me great satisfaction when I do overcome an obstacle.

And truthfully, I haven’t cleared every obstacle.

I took violin lessons for 4 years. I practiced and practiced. My family suffered the earfuls of pain. I never could coax a beautiful sound from that fiddle. Honestly, I sucked. OK, so violinist isn’t a title I hold; I’m good with that because I made a valiant attempt at learning. I grew in the process of sounding bad.

Today, although they still sound a bit foreign in my head, I’ve come to view titles as honours, accolades, recognition of what I’ve accomplished. Titles don’t define me, but they reflect the journey I’ve taken, the rivers I’ve crossed: some quiet babbling streams, some raging torrents.

Or in the case of the title Grandpa, a recognition of how far my children have come, an indirect reflection of the painting I began years ago when I was an intern in life (I’m still an intern).

Which brings me back around to the question I posed earlier… Am I ready?

I regret that I was never able to make a connection to any of my own grandparents as they were already gone or nearing their end when I arrived – the curse of being born to elder parents.

Now here I have an opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to carve out a connection as a grandparent.

It’s a title that requires nothing more of me than a loving presence.

There is excitement and newness in the beginning of a life, the anticipation of what-will-be. The joys and the worries.

OK…

My paintbrushes are cleaned and set to dab on the unvarnished canvas that awaits a brand new masterpiece.

Put me in Coach! I am ready.

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And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon…