Today my grandchild, Harper, turns four months old. People who spend much time around me–members of my extended family, members of my church–are, I suspect, already getting tired of hearing about her.
I imagine that even the more casual acquaintances who skim my Facebook page could do with a break from Harper. My status updates include entries such as: “Paul and Harper watched the old b & w original ‘All the King’s Men’ last night. Harper says she likes it way better than Sean Penn’s remake.”
Am I wearing other people out? Probably. Do I care? Not really.
I believe every child needs at least one person who thinks she’s the greatest kid on earth. Every child needs one totally unabashed, unapologetic cheerleader. I’ve set myself the mission of being that person in Harper’s life.
Both her parents love her immensely, of course. So do her other grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. She’s surrounded by love.
But I can’t answer for any of those other folks. I can only answer for myself.
I count myself inordinately blessed just to hold her. It hasn’t been long since my health was so precarious I didn’t think I’d live to see my grandchildren. And my son, John, and daughter-in-law, Cassie, weren’t sure they’d be able to have kids in any case, because of the extent of Cassie’s endometriosis. My wife died in 2005 at age 44. She missed all this wonder and joy.
But somehow, here Harper is. And here I am.
Having been granted this mercy, I intend to take full advantage of it. I babysit her at least one afternoon a week, for five or six hours. And every Friday night, she spends the night with me. It’s been a challenge learning how to take care of an infant by myself. I’ve discovered I don’t recover from sleep deprivation as quickly as I used to.
It’s worth it. Harper sits on my lap and we watch movies, although I am sane enough to recognize that she probably doesn’t see anything but flickering shapes, and that she doesn’t really understand the dialogue.
I read to her. I sing to her. I carry her around the house pressed against my shoulder, and I say, “You know, sweetie, you’re the smartest baby ever. And the prettiest. And the sweetest.” I act like a tee-total idiot. We stare in the hall mirror. She goos at my image–and I goo right back at her. She grins. I melt.
I’ve witnessed enough tragedies and heartaches to recognize that none of us has any guarantees. I may still be here when she gets married and has kids of her own. I may be gone this time next month. Who can say?
In whatever time we have together, I want her to know her grandfather loved her wildly, extravagantly. I want her to know that this one geezer thought she could do no wrong. If other people think I’m foolish, so be it.
Sure, were the Lord to call me home next week, Harper wouldn’t remember me. But I have a feeling that down the line, when she’s a bit older, somebody will say, “You know what, honey? Your old Papa Prather may have been a whack job but he thought you hung the moon and stars.”