It was the picture perfect family event. Grandparents visiting, doting over the baby they hadn’t seen in over five months. Grandpa had a special name, distinguishing him from the other two grandfathers. His first wife had a child from a first marriage and never ever wanted to go through that experience again. There must have been a missed communication somewhere along the line. He thought that they could adopt and she agreed. But after marriage, it was a matter of him taking the reins and initiating all the proper procedures to get a child. It was a daunting task. The complicating factor was that he knew adopting would be the worst thing for his wife. Perhaps he was also worried about the irreversibility of such a commitment. At any rate, he didn’t go through with it.
He eventually believed the canard that everyone with children told him. “Congratulations, you really dodged the bullet,” they said, referring to the never-ending heartache that begins with a child. The lucky ones say they have about 12 wonderful, topsy-turvy years, until the self assertion and rebellion, that comes with the teenage years. After a gap of a decade or so, if the parents are still lucky, the child comes full circle to appreciate all the sacrifices made on their behalf and forgive any outstanding hurts. The unlucky parents are faced with unfortunate children who need a lifetime of care because they cannot care for themselves – ever.
It was perfect. He was sitting in the living room, looking out the window at the darkness. The Halloween lights the parents strung up, the smells of food cooking, family members going about their business reminded him, in a way, of his own family from many years before. For a moment, he was back in his isolated childhood, with his parents puttering about, aromas of dinner cooking, and feeling safe.
He couldn’t put his finger on exactly why he felt rudderless, unmoored. Perhaps it was a pleat in time. The feelings from childhood poking through from the past, as if time had not elapsed, with the knowledge that time most definitely had elapsed. He had the feeling that all the intervening life and experience was irrelevant. He was back at the beginning, only transported to the role of grandfather instead of child. A pleat in time coupled with an immediate change in perspective.
It was almost too much for him.