Naming the Grampa

The birth of the grandchild triggers the automatic question:  “What will be the name?”  A less-thought-about question, but one important for the grandparent’s future, is:  “What is the little bundle of joy going to call you?”

In the screwball comedy Mr. Hobbes Takes a Vacation, Mr. Hobbes (Jimmy Stewart) is not thrilled that his grandson has decided to call him Boom-Pa.  I have a feeling that Mr. Hobbes was not the first or the last victim of regrettable grandparent-naming.  After all, if even adults can make sub-ideal naming decisions and send their sons to the Darwinian jungle of the playground with names like Hippolytus, how much more can we expect social entropy to surge in like a flood in when the reins are handed over to a toddler?

At one point, I was wondering if I should propose Grand-Keith.  I am normally a fan of the creative approach, but here I paused.  Couldn’t Grand-Keith be ground down pretty quickly to Granky, which rhymes with cranky, and there we are:  the fulfillment of every grandfather’s nightmare.  My grandson and I scarcely know each other and already he is trained to view me as the family ogre.

I think I’d rather dial back on innovation and be Grampa Something.

Oh, and speaking of crankiness, this brings up one of my linguistic crotchets:  the proper pronunciation of grampa.  Now this word actually rhymes with jaw.  I would prefer to escape that other pronunciation, the one that rhymes with Tampa.  See, if you rob that last syllable of its full dignity, now you’re a short step away from gramps.  And aren’t most book and video uses of that word a bit lacking in respect?  (The senior who accelerates slowly at the green light is Gramps, right?)  Well, in a word, before you know it, decency is hanging by a thread and American culture is sliding toward Tampa in a handbasket.

It seems that what the adults in my grandson’s world are going to support is for him to call me Grampa Keith.  Now back when I was the grandson, it was “Title + Surname,” Grampa McCune and Grampa Michalko, analogous with Pastor Spurgeon or Dr. Abernathy.  But the world has flattened, and many of the results of that change are delightful. So away we go, casting off and sailing into the new world with Grampa Keith.

Leo Handshake, Cropped

Proper title and name are essential for social moments like these!  (Male models: L. Martin & F. McCune)

Just imagine the wonderful little man calling me by that chosen title!  Fantasy newsreel:  “May I introduce the man handing me the glistening chew-toy and grinning like he’s overmedicated?  His name is Grampa Keith.”  

So the clan has made its choice, and the grandson’s parents will be gentle but firm.  However, the problem with even such well-laid plans is this:  The Beloved Object is so utterly charming, and you (the victim) are so euphoric to be addressed by him at all, that your guard is down at that crucial moment when he grins adorably and says, “Boom-Pa!”


Your turn:  Want to build a musical bridge?

Recipe for “Hello, Leo

What about your Leo?

Concerned citizens have informed me of two significant oversights in the posting of the song “Hello, Leo.”

First, I failed to share the history of the idea.  Like many good things in my life, it came through my children.  And it came to them from Leo‘s other grandparents, who are also missionaries and have worked in four very challenging overseas locations.  And they in turn got it from yet other missionaries, who in olden times built the musical bridge.  This last couple may have received the idea from Stevie Wonder.

Second, I presented the thumbnail song itself with its Tweet-sized intro, but I
failed to add that lovely gift of the blogosphere:  empowerment to try this in your own kitchen.  Or canoe.

So here it is, America.  The recipe for “Hello, Leo

  •  Identify your Distant Beloved Object. It would normally be someone from whom you are separated more than you’d like. (In our case, it was a transoceanic grandson named Leo.)
  • Find a song that fits your relationship with the DBO. If you’re in West Virginia, it could be the chorus of “Country Road, Take Me Home.”  If you’re in Beverly HIlls, maybe the theme song from Beverly Hillbillies. Or you could write one. (We went ahead and wrote one.)
  • If you have time before you leave, sing it to the DBO face to face, to help lodge it in his mind and heart.
  • Sing your song every time you skype the DBO. Make it a signature song for your relationship.
  • Pray that the DBO will come to recognize and like the Song. (It has been reported that Leo showed some pleasure when the newly-posted song was played for him.)
  • Sing it when you first see the DBO in the airport. This will help him understand that you are the same people from the skype calls.
  • Top with whipped cream or fresh fruit in season.


The “Hello, Leo” Song

Dear Friend,

Having been royally spoiled, spending most of four months just seven minutes away from our bright-eyed grandson, we then got on a jet plane and flew to the exact opposite side of the planet.

One of the ways our heavenly Father helps us stay in touch is by songs.  We sometimes forget that at one time all 150 of the Psalms were sung.  The good Shepherd entrusted Psalm 23 to his people with the thought, “This will remind you who I am.”

Grace and I have tried to imitate that musical bridge.

Please enjoy the song “Hello, Leo.”  Obviously, in a full-fledged professional video not made in our toasty hobbit-hole in Cainta, Rizal, Grace and I would sing the song while zipping up our bright red cardigan sweaters.[1]

Yours in Christ,


[1] This is a reference to a long-running TV show that launched in 1963.  Triple credit to people under 25 who can name it.