Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zadie's Zeide

In the complex plot of the human drama, I’ve played just about all the roles. Son, brother, grandson, cousin. Husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, father-in-law. Friend, neighbor, colleague, teacher, student. And somewhere in there, a second cousin and cousin-once-removed and other obscure relationships that make my brain hurt trying to figure them out.

But the one that moved me head and shoulders over them all was the moment I became a father. And close on its heels, the moment I became a grandfather. It happened (as you faithful Blog readers know), four weeks ago, but became real yesterday at Carousel No. 4 of the Delta baggage claim in Dulles Airport. There I met my little Zadie.

She was perfect. She was beautiful. She was calm and cool and collected.

She was asleep.

She woke up just as the last bag came out and it wasn’t mine. She went through a series of distorted faces, mirroring my own disgust that the airlines might have lost my bag. She gave a little whimper —my thoughts exactly— and we took her out of the bassinet and I got to hold her while talking to the baggage claim guy. My bag weirdly was on the next Carousel, Zadie was getting hungry and for all I longed to be everything a grandfather can be to this little miracle, here is where I couldn’t be of any help. And so that pleasurable feeling of grandparenthood began—the option to hand off the baby. You get all the good parts and when things get hard, it’s “Here, Mom and Dad, I’m off to my book group/ Pilates class/ Jazz Festival concert!”

With exactly one meeting under my belt with my four-week old granddaughter, I’m not exactly qualified to expound on the pleasures of being Zadie’s Zeide (the Yiddish word for Grandpa). And when I am, what am I going to say that hasn’t been said a hundred million times before? But that’s the way it is with everything. We’ve heard it all before, but when it’s our turn to experience it, we feel as if we’ve discovered something for the first time.

Sitting in the car returning from the airport with Zadie’s hand in mine, I couldn’t help but feel the parallel with sitting with my Mom these days. One hand old and rough, the other so young and smooth, but both speaking the language of no talk, just the eloquence of skin to skin connection. Out of the car, on to snuggles, kisses, hugs. And just why do we reserve this only for babies and elders? Why not have a little snuggling and kissing in-between items on the staff meeting agenda? With the check-out people at the grocery store? With our car mechanics? Well, they kind of do in Spain and Latin American countries and I always find it extraordinary to kiss someone you’re first meeting. It makes a difference.

So off on a crisp Sunday afternoon to see Zadie again, begin singing my repertoire of songs, teach her the Funga Alafia motions and Table Rhythms and samba moves and all the wonderful pointless things I’ve spent my life learning. Yippee!!

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