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The Truth, Mainly - 02/18/2002

The irrational exuberance of grandfatherhood

Grandfatherhood always fills me with irrational exuberance. It's some kind of hormonal thing.

It happened with the birth of each of our first three grandbabies, Lovely Little Leslie Jo the Wonder Child, Mari the Marvelous, and Manly Little Maxwell James.

I think it's because I secrete sympathetic hormones when anyone in the family gets pregnant. It's not easy, but hey, as family patriarch I have responsibilities.

The first sign that the hormones have kicked in is my reaction to seeing a baby. Any baby, whether I know the parents or not.

"Hey, there," I'll say while I chuck the child under its chubby chin. "Hey."

It alarms some parents—until I explain that it's just my hormones acting up and that it probably means I'm about to become a grandfather again. They give me tight little smiles and look at their watches.

Or I'll be walking through the mall trying to remember what it was my wife sent me out to buy and I'll be suddenly overwhelmed by an urge to look at little bitty baseball uniforms.

"Do you carry little bitty baseball uniforms?" I'll ask the clerk in the sporting goods store. "The kind that come with little bitty baseball caps?"

Or I'll get an irresistible desire to watch old movies that have chubby little babies in them. Like "Raising Arizona" which has a scene where Holly Hunter sends Nicholas Cage into the house of a rich couple who have five chubby little wide-eyed quintuplets crawling around on the floor. "You go in there," she tells him, "and you get me a toddler."

"You know what we need?" I say to my wife.

"A new coffee pot?" she says. "They have them at the mall."

"A toddler," I say. "What we need is a toddler."

"Well," she says, "since you're 68 and you've had a vasectomy, getting a toddler will be complicated."

"Good thinking," I say. "Maybe one of our kids could get us a toddler."

And that's when the telephone rings and our younger son is calling long distance to tell us that his wife, our daughter-in-law, is going to have a toddler. A little baby boy toddler.

"Does he have a little bitty baseball uniform yet?" I ask.

Time passes, and the next thing we know we're on the Amtrak heading for Chicago and the home of our younger son, our daughter-in-law, and now our new grandson, not yet a month old. His name is Evan Corey Satterfield.

We call him Evan the Exultant.

We know he's exultant because we've heard him exult over the telephone.

When we get there, little Evan the Exultant is asleep. He looks quite pleased with himself. The womb was warm and swishy and cozy, but he was getting claustrophobic so he got out. He looks like he's dreaming dreams of exultation about having pulled it off.

The Truth, Mainly


"Hey," I say, chucking him under his chubby little chin. "Hey, there. You know who I am? I'm your grandpa."

Evan opens his eyes wide, then squinches them closed, opens his mouth even wider, and exults. Loudly, like he's really excited to find out how closely he's related to me.

"There, there," my wife coos. "It'll be OK. Sometimes grandma does that too." Then she picks him up and pats him on the back. He stops exulting.

"Let me do that," I say.

She hands him to me and I pat him on the back. So he spits up on my shoulder. I sit down and put him face up on my lap. He looks as though he's working out the mechanics of grinning.

"You have baby goober on your shoulder," my son observes.

I explain to everyone that it's not baby goober at all.

"It's merely a wispy little remnant of Wordsworthian clouds of glory," I say in my English teacher's voice. Then, as I always do when a new grandbaby arrives, I quote from the Immortality Ode: "And not in utter nakedness,/But trailing clouds of glory do we come/From God, who is our home."

My daughter-in-law rolls her eyes at Wordsworth's understanding of obstetrics. And at the sound of my erudition, Evan the Exultant, precocious child that he is, nods off and begins to snore like a sophomore.

Helluva kid. Makes me proud to have done my part. Makes me wonder how much longer Ill be able to do this before my hormones dry up.

And yes, as a matter of fact, I believe I do just happen to have pictures.

See? See? Is that a grandbaby or what?


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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