the long view

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Recently I walked into a room in a flat in Hackney and in very short order found myself holding in my hands a tiny naked person less than an hour old who was barely covered by a skimpy green towel and in urgent need of a number of things, including warmth, food, safety, and a bit of a cleanup in the arse region. In spite of the fact that it was precisely in order to help provide these things that I was present, (not to mention my supposed fitness for the job on the grounds of having produced and raised two such tiny beings of my own),I couldn’t quite believe that anyone would trust me to do something so momentous without strict supervision. There was a period of, oh, about 15 seconds there where I just stood with this scrap of life in both hands looking around stupidly for a suitable surface to put her down on while I located the cleaning materials. Shortly afterwards there was the overwhelming sensation of wrongness about defiling the beauty of such a perfect work of nature by enclosing her tail end in a newborn Pampers. I can tell you it was with a sense of some relief that I located a suitable blanket, wrapped her up warmly, and tiptoed cautiously back downstairs to hand her back to her mum and dad. Like having successfully passed on the baton in a very short relay race. But then, meeting my grandchildren for the first time has always felt a bit like that.

People tell you how great it is to be a grandparent but exactly as with parenthood, you don’t get it until it happens to you. I will just say that one of the many very excellent things about having children is the arrival of the grandchildren. Not least of the joys grandchildren bring is the chance to ponder anew, up close and personal and with much less fear and trepidation (remember, you’ve passed the baton) the mystery of it all, as you meet that thousand-yard stare that seems to see beyond you and all the way back to wherever it is they’ve just come from.

Sitting in the sun on a quiet afternoon while the new mum grabbed a little sleep and the newborn did the same in my arms, I thought about my own granny and did a few computations and came up with a surprising realization.

I remember my maternal granny well. She lived with us and was one of the most important people in my life until about the age of 12. She was born in the 19th century, in 1892 . I inherited from her a little book of National Savings Certificates, containing stamps valued at 2 shillings and sixpence or 5 shillings, which she bought and licked and stuck for me around the middle of the 20th century, when I was less than one year old. I have given that book to my own first granddaughter in the hope that it might yet bring in a Premium Bond win for her some day. Now, nearly ten years on, in the second decade of the 21st century, here is my second granddaughter. With my grandson, aged almost 5, I have the joy of knowing well and loving three people who, it is reasonable to hope, will see in the 22nd century. In my lifetime I will have loved five generations of my family whose lifespans, taken together, could well take in four centuries.
And you know what ? It kind of, almost, makes me feel a little bit immortal.

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~ by fightswithivy on April 17, 2012.

One Response to “the long view”

  1. wipes tears from eyes and sends thanks for putting those feelings into words. x

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