Blessedly Out of Control

Grandparenting can be culturally subversive.

Almost exactly a year ago, in this blog, I shared a brief piece called “Great Joy, No Control.”  The title came from an observation in Jerry and Judy Schreur’s book Creative Grandparenting, that there are three turning-point moments in our lives over which we have no control:  birth, death and becoming a grandparent.

And that lack of control can set us free.

Let me explain.  Our culture stands at a crossroads.  Will we choose the path of embracing our role as dependent creatures, not sovereign creators, and enter into the great dance of giving and receiving?[1]  Or will we choose the other path, where we play God, claim the rights of Creator, and live a life not of giving and receiving but of taking and keeping?  The one is a path of grace, the other is a pretense to total control.  We must choose between two views of the world.  Either we will see it as God’s good gift given with God’s good purpose and God’s good limits, or we will see it as rootless, random gobs of Play-Doh with no insides and no inherent design, just waiting to be re-sliced and diced in our drive to control, use and manipulate.(2)

At least as far back as Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1627), we have deeply believed that happiness, flourishing and the good life lay in maximizing our individual freedom and control over our world.[3]   But here and there, like glimmers in a dark forest, popular culture realizes that our greatest joy and growth can come to us when control is vanishing.  In the movie You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks’s character has an epiphany while trapped in an elevator.

If we allow it, this truth can set us free.  If we allow it, grandparenting—that sweet hostage-taking of the heart—can ferry us from the life of total control to the life of rest.  If we allow it, grandparenting—where like Scrooge we realize that we have no desire to exploit but a great desire to laugh—can remind us that the right response to this amazing world is gratitude, humility and wonder.

As I think about being a grandfather, I realize that part of the preciousness of this gift is that I did nothing—well, very little—to bring it about.  Like Adam waking up in the Garden, all I can do is say, “It’s wonderful.  Thank you.”

&&&

 

[1] Here I am greatly indebted to Eugene Peterson and his book Tell It Slant, and to Jonathan Wilson, author of God’s Good World and his discussion of the life of the Trinity.

(2) In one influential essay, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” Lynn White, Jr. blames the abuse of creation on the biblical doctrine of man’s creation—as uniquely bearing God’s image. As Francis Schaeffer observed, White’s alternative cannot avoid the sad conclusion that “man is no more than the grass.”

[3] Bacon says it this way:  “The end [purpose] of our foundation is… the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.”  Notice that when it comes to such contemporary issues as bioethics, this final phrase of Bacon’s suggests that the car has no brakes.

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.

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A Pill for Narcissism

narcissus-caravaggio-300x363

If you have any experience in the grandparenting game, you won’t be surprised to learn that many comments on the subject from the initiated sound like this:  “Oh, it’s the best stage of life.”  Occasionally, the speaker elaborates with reasons and illustrations.

Well, I would like to add a new item to the list of the benefits of grandparenting.

Grandparenting partially cures self-absorption.

Let me explain.  Imagine that you are seeing, for the first time, a group photo that includes you.  What face do you look at first?

Your own?  If so, you may congratulate yourself that you are thoroughly normal.

However, once that little man or little woman comes into your life, your response to group photos is changed forever.  The grandchild’s face becomes a magnet with a power like being in love.  After a moment of adoring contemplation, or after chuckling right out loud, only then will your gaze shift to that other guy, who has been dethroned like a former boyfriend:  namely, you.

 

 

Grampas I Have Known: Grampa Michalko

 

It was not supposed to be this way.  I was supposed to grow up in San Antonio, Texas, where my dad was stationed at Fort Sam Houston.  But when my mom was hospitalized in critical condition, emergency measures kicked in.  The steps in that journey are an adventure story for another telling, but when the dust had settled, my dad had come back from Korea and helped us resettle in the house my mom grew up in, in McCandless Township, Pennsylvania.[1]

And so I spent one of my Wonder Years on what was then a country road in Pennsylvania, and my brother learned the fight song of “North Allegheny Joint Schools,” a name which does not have quite the same ring as “Granby High.”

Memories, and especially early childhood memories, can be chaotic, random things.  Why do we remember this, and not that?  Why is the smell of the dirt under that one house preserved dark and deep in memory, while the face of that one teacher has evaporated?  One of my quirkily-saved memories of Grampa Michalko is the biceps game.  He would “make a muscle,” and my job was to try to squish it.  I always failed.  I also remember the movements of his Adam’s apple and the feel of his whiskers.  It was fascinating: in a place where my skin was smooth, his was like sandpaper.

His story, decades before I came along, is a story of two worlds and hard work. Sometime around 1909, his father, Jan Michalko, a shepherd in what is now Slovakia, came to the States to earn some money.  Later he returned and paid back everyone who had lent him money for the journey.  (In 1973, when my family visited the ancestral village of Liptovsky Mikulas,[2] people still spoke highly of this unexpected act of integrity.)  A few years later, he undertook a second sea-voyage to the States with his wife and four sons, the eldest of whom was my Grampa Michalko.

Grampa’s dad settled in Coraopolis, a town west of Pittsburgh.  Many of my fond childhood memories are of visits with them and the extended family there in Coraopolis.  There were not only aunts and uncles and cousins, but Grampa’s four siblings and their kids.  And over the years, especially at large picnics, even more distant relatives were added to the circle. And mountains of food would appear, including potato dumplings called halušky, filled sweet buns (buchty), round rolls with filling (kolače), stuffed dumplings (knedle), Slovak crepes (palacinky), and one of my favorites, rhubarb pie. As my dad soon discovered, it was dangerous to eat freely at one house, because you would be invited to another house, and then another house—and wonderful delicacies would be pressed on you at each one.

Many strong memories of my grandfather are related to his home.  At one time I felt guilty about how much of my connection with the man was shaped by my connection to the place.  But as I think about it, this was an important way that my grandfather blessed me.  For all of us grandparents, our grandblessing includes this act of opening up to the grandchild a different world.  We enrich the grandchild by being the portal to a place that is (hopefully) safe, yet distinct from the home they spend most of their time in.  We are the stepping stone to the broader world where they will encounter even more outlandish things, such as (in my childhood) one friend chatting with a sibling in a private baby-language, another being comfortable with the smell of garlic, and a third eating pancakes at night.

So in my memory, I tour my grandfather’s house.  Just as I remember his biceps, I remember his sledgehammers.  I accompanied him once on a trip to his shed.  I have never been in another building in my life that smelled quite like it, a smell of moisture, mildew, wood and oil.  And right outside the door, the smell of spruce needles.  Against one wall stood a set of hammers, arranged from small to large, including some I could barely lift off the floor with both hands.  And here was a thing called a vice, a machine of miraculous import:  a device designed by adults, apparently for the express purpose of crushing.

Outside the garage stretched a stone wall that was always full of chipmunks.  Grampa Michalko’s house was a haven of furry creatures:  the chipmunks that popped out from their burrows in the driveway-wall, the raccoons that mined in the trash cans at night, the deer that left their prints in the snow near the garden.

Grampa’s house was where I first grew curious about gardens and how they worked.  There I first tasted a crabapple— a couple seconds before spitting.  There I swung on a swing that hung from the branch of a tree that bore actual plums.  There I saw the airy antennae of asparagus.  There I could break off and suck on a stalk of puckering pink rhubarb.  There I could step out the door, from the living branch pluck raspberries and blueberries, feel them in my fingers warmed by the summer sun, and crush them into happiness on my tongue.  But in living among the berries—not just buying them in a store—along with the sweet rush of flavor came the awareness that berries meant struggle.  The raspberries were spreading not only their magical smell; they were always straining to fill in the pathways and take over the yard.  The blueberries, bright under their netting, were always being invaded by the hungry birds.  My pleasure in this paradise was possible through Grampa’s vigilance.

Some of the things most vividly imprinted in memory from our time in Grampa’s house involved the element of danger:  specifically, Front Yard Danger.

The front yard fell steeply to a two-lane highway called Ingomar Road.  One winter night there was a severe ice storm, and the snow in the front yard turned to a shiny, hard sheet of ice.  You could bash through the glaze to the soft snow underneath, to make a handhold or toehold.  But to boys deprived of snow-axes, whether you did this with gloves or with rubber boots, it hurt.  Nevertheless, to the truly determined explorer, an expedition was possible.  (After five minutes, my brother and I imagined we were on the side of Everest.)  And yet, if at any point you lost your grip, you were a dead man—doomed to slide all the way down, and then right into the middle of the highway, where a Mack truck would finish you off.

I think we did a little cautious sliding, accidentally at first, and I think one of us slipped halfway down, and had a slow and uncertain climb back up.  Someone may have had the brilliant idea of inching sideways to the driveway, which was well-sprinkled with salt and cinders.  But for sure it was high adventure on Ingomar Road that day.

On another occasion, this time in the fall, we started bowling fallen apples down the lawn to the highway.  Someone (probably me) had the idea of timing the apples to come up underneath passing cars.  Wouldn’t those drivers get a surprise!  We had a couple of successes, and then, after the third delicious chassis-bonk, the driver pulled over onto the shoulder and got out of the car.  By the time his door opened we were already hidden in a ditch.  Would he sprint up the hill and beat the daylights out of us?  Of course we didn’t dare look.  After a few seconds he yelled some threats, starting with, “I know you’re up there…”  After a moment, we heard him drive off.  The emotion this triggered was a strange blend of “I am the victor” and “I am the villain.”[3]

But on to the house itself.  It had a basement.  Our little house in San Antonio didn’t, so this was almost as good as a magic wardrobe.  One of the treasures in the basement was a stash of vinyl floor-tile:  stacks of squares for which a kid could find all kinds of recreational uses.  There were mysteries down there so fascinating that, not long after our arrival, a portion of the basement was fenced off.  This security project of Grampa’s was for the benefit of grandchildren who had been showing symptoms of Untoward Curiosity.

The house possessed yet another magical wardrobe:  the attic.  At that young age Grampa Michalko’s attic was the mustiest space I had ever entered and inhaled.  It was full of mysteries, but the greatest of all was an enormous, indestructible-looking steamer trunk, complete with hangers and drawers—a kind of portable palace.  I’ve never seen a piece of luggage to compare with it.  Did it make the 1909 ocean voyage from Slovakia, along with my grandfather?

In that house, we encountered new adventures even in the daily offices of eating and drinking.  The water smelled and tasted powerfully of sulfur.  (This was true of a number of homes in the Pittsburgh area, as I recall.)  I remember that smell in the bathtub, in the sink, in the cup.  I think my grandparents sometimes used a citrus concentrate called Lemon Blennd to mask that all-pervasive flavor.

Other taste-memories are joyful.  Grandma made her own blueberry ice-cream from our own blueberries.  At a tender age, I was imprinted with this insight:  Wonderful gifts can come from the soil, through the work of people you know and love.

In 1971, we did an extraordinary thing:  My nuclear family (six of us) drove in a grand circle through North America:  Virginia to Mississippi to California to British Columbia and back.  It was the adventure of a lifetime, and we did it with Grandma and Grampa Michalko.  As we made our way through campground after campground, state park after state park, Grampa would help with driving and making camp, and would normally buy the meat for supper.  Since he was a butcher, his standards were high.

Every family that has (as the cop shows say) means and opportunity, should consider a three-generation family trip.

When I was in high school, in response to one of my many questions about Slovak language and culture, Grampa said this to me:  “Keith, there’s something you need to know.  When I was growing up, it was not cool[4]  to be ethnic.”

That is the struggle my grandfather faced as a boy and a young man[5] growing up in the America that I took for granted as a place of easy welcome.  For his courage, which laid the foundation for my boyhood security, I feel admiration.  For that, and for all the ways he let me be with him, and for enabling me, during 18 years in Russia, to frequently pass as a local, I say:  ĎakujemThank you.

grampa-michalko-and-keith

Grampa Michalko and
me trying to look as cool as him

*****

[1] Mail delivery was from Wexford, PA.  Thanks to my Aunt Marilyn for correcting the geography here.

[2] The longer, older form of the village’s name meant ‘Saint Nicholas.’  The first word, Liptovsky, set it apart from other Saint Nick towns:  it was the one in the Liptov region.

[3] Another one of the dangers of the place involved the neighbor boy, who was the first bully I ever met (not counting a lonely short-term kidnapper in San Antonio who inflicted no physical pain).  The Ingomar bully came over one day with his friend—both of them three or four years older than us—and fairly soon had me pinned, giving me my very first noogy.

[4] What word did he actually use there?  Could it possibly have been “cool”?  Maybe with his lips scrunched in the visible equivalent of scarequotes?  Or did he say “fashionable”?  Was it “popular”?

[5] A struggle I understood a little better when I read a novel tracing three generations of Slovak immigrants, called Out of This Furnace. 

Grampas I Have Known: Grampa McCune

Early in the morning, my eyes fall on this little legend on the back of my Old Spice deodorant:  “If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.”[1]  Here on the back of a deodorant stick, we see an insight known to every physician collecting a patient’s family medical history:  We are not self-originating, self-defining, self-creating, isolated, autonomous individuals.  We are part of a family, part of a clan, part of a great stream of men and women who have shaped us.

This shouts out at us from the story of the call of Abram, where God extravagantly promises, “Through you, all peoples on earth will be blessed.”  Two thousand years later, a rabbi named Saul refers to a world-changing rabbi named Jesus as “Abraham’s seed.”  Jesus is who he is because of his tie to Abraham.  Abraham is who he is because of his tie to Jesus.

As I prepare to be a grampa, I find myself thinking more and more of this flowing, influencing stream, and of grampas I have known.

My father’s father, Frederick Stewart McCune, graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, whose own publication calls the school “the oldest technological university in the English-speaking world.”  (After reading that description, I felt a bit proud that I myself once stood in an RPI dorm room.)  I used to have a photograph of Grampa McCune’s graduation.  He was holding one end of the 1909 banner, and I remember thinking that I looked a bit like him in that photo.

grampa-mccune-and-keith

Grampa McCune and I

He was a civil engineer who in 1937-38 helped build U.S. Steel’s Irvin Works steel plant in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.  The builders moved more earth than in any project besides the Panama Canal.[2]  In addition, he worked as an engineer for a pumping station that is still operating, and two companies manufacturing coke (coal-based fuel) and steel.

For 15 years, he was undefeated in borough politics.  But when he could not get citizen support for legal action against a corrupt scheme he uncovered, he resigned.

He was 42 when my father was born.  After three daughters, he was glad to have his first son.  The last line of the entry in his diary for that day reads, “Rolled lawn.  Baby born.”

He held two patents.  One was related to the steel industry:  a “method and apparatus for separating metallic articles.”  The other was a toy waterwheel for the train set with landscape that first Grampa and then my dad after him used to set up every Christmas.  It was a very cute little town, complete with hills, trees, houses, signs, bridges, tunnels, trains and, of course, the real working waterwheel.  My dad wrote to me about it:  “What a wonderful dad to do all this for his son.”

Back in the 50’s, before anyone was talking about fitness habits for the common man, Grampa McCune walked for miles around the borough for pleasure, almost every day.  And bear in mind this is Pittsburgh, up hill and down dale all the way.

Of course many of my memories linked to Grampa McCune are memories of his house, with its grim, loud grandfather clock, magical basement and attic.  The basement was a bit intimidating to a small visiting boy, perhaps because it was dark and perhaps because its crannies and furnishings seemed to come from another world:  a coal chute, a drain right in the middle of the floor, a deep, square laundry sink with the obligatory bar of golden, gasoline-smelling Fels-Naptha soap, and—somewhat mysteriously—a toilet that, with no wall, stall or door, rather dominated the landscape and suggested that the household must have exercised a certain etiquette before descending the stairs.  The semi-finished attic, with its exposed joists and steeply slanting ceiling, was an unfamiliar feature that took on a holy significance when I learned that my Great-Grampa Oglevee had spent his last years sleeping up there, praying aloud every night.[3]

One of the many ways the Lord enriched my growing up was by arranging for me to live in the same house with my dad’s parents.  In 1968, Grampa had a stroke, and he and Grandma came to live with us in Virginia Beach.  So for twelve years I was able to do things like walk beside him when he walked his slow and steady laps around the yard with the aid of a three-footed cane.  We hung out.  I talked with him about all kinds of things, including the Bible, and his life and mine.  I listened to his stories, some historical and some fanciful.  Part of the picture was adjusting to his needs and differences, helping him get around, and experiencing at a young age the reality that a major physical weakness is not the end.

In a country where many kids scarcely know their grandparents, God allowed me to have a relationship with my grandfather, a man who—as I anticipate (any day now) beginning my grandfathering journey—stands in my mind as an inspiration.

 

[1] It happens not to be true for me, since Grampa McCune married in 1912, 26 years before the appearance of Old Spice for men.
[2] https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=zGgdAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JV0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=7059%2C4527609
[3] The parts of the house that I associate with Great-grampa Ogelvee’s name are the top and the bottom, since he slept and prayed in the attic and, down in the basement, made aromatic ketchup and a healing goo that he called “chap-stuff.”

Grampa Keith

 

Here I am, becoming a grandfather.  What a grand thing it is.

“The fruit of the womb is his reward.”  What a thought.  A reward that goes far beyond the couple that produced the fruit.

After all, in the last chapter of Ruth, people don’t say, “Ruth has a baby.”  They say, “Now Naomi has a baby!”  The whole clan is enriched, and who gets the biggest congratulations?  The grandparent!

I am being initiated into a noble club.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

 

The Story of Grandblessing 

 

At the round, ripe age of sixty, I am becoming a grandfather

What is my calling, in this new role of grandfather?  Is a grandfather a mere garnish on the dinner-plate of life?  Or is he intended by God to make a difference in the life of his grandchild?

Jacob, the patriarch I have such a hard time liking, is remembered in the Hebrews 11 hall of fame for two things, and the first one is:  “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons.”  One of his greatest acts of faith was to give a grandfatherly blessing.

Genesis 48 tells this story.  Jacob, in Egypt under the provision of his son Joseph who is now the grand vizier of that superpower nation, feels that the end is near, and calls for his son Joseph.  Joseph brings his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and a sometimes surprising, sometimes touching dialogue ensues.

One point where I empathize fully with the aged patriarch is when he says to Joseph, “I never thought I’d see you again—and now here I am seeing your sons.”  Jacob’s other sons had faked Joseph’s death and sold Joseph into slavery.  For years the old man thought his beloved son was dead.  The theme of separation from children is close to my heart, since each of my children, on graduation from high school, moved to the other side of the world.  And now that continental divide is going to be echoed, not with independent adults, but with the world’s most adorable infant.

There is a moment, poetic when seen in the broader story of Jacob’s life, when we are told that Jacob’s vision has deteriorated, and that he deliberately grants to the second son the blessing of the firstborn.  I call it poetic because, like the chorus of a decades-long song, it replays, with one great change, a scene from Jacob’s youth.  Years earlier, when Jacob’s father could no longer see, Jacob deceived him.  The result was that Jacob, the second-born, stole the blessing belonging to his older brother.  The great difference is that, this time around, Jacob himself, the blessing-giver, initiates the surprising reversal, and “puts Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.”

One thing that most Americans might find off-putting is Jacob’s statement to his son, “From now on, your sons will be counted as mine.”  Since Jacob knows he is on his deathbed, he is not muscling-in on childrearing or anything of the kind.  Rather, he is rewriting the future.  Because of this decision, the elevation of the two grandsons to the status of Jacob’s sons, when the tribes of Israel divided up the Promised Land, Ephraim and Manasseh’s clans were given allotments just like their uncles’ clans.  Furthermore, over time, “Ephraim” came to be a way of referring to the northern kingdom of Israel—the ten northern tribes.

It seems to me that the application of this moment to my grandparenting might be something like this:  I say to my grandson, who cannot yet understand me, “I consecrate myself as a contributor to your life and a stakeholder in it.  By God’s grace, I intend to invest in you, elevate you and expand your horizons as much as I can.”  Jacob’s words for this, in his blessing on the boys, are these:  “May they increase greatly on the earth.”

The other thing that strikes me in this scene with Jacob is this:  He extends to his grandchildren the story of God’s grace in his own life.  He wants his two grandsons to hear how God blessed their grandfather, and he wants to say to them:  Now you are part of this.  He says, “God Almighty appeared to me… in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers… and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’”

Jacob wants to place his grandsons in a story bigger than they are.  He says:

“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.”

He is sending a life-shaping message:  250 years before you were born, God started something incredible, and he is going to continue it through you. 

One of the most important blessings I can shed on the life of this little man is to give him a sense of his place in a story bigger than he is.

In these ways, imitating the aged patriarch at his best, I pray, “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, make me a grandblessing.”

Grandblessing

When this glorious interruption comes on you, when your child says, “We’re expecting,” what is the most beautiful role you could wish for yourself?

I think it is Grandblessing.  To be like the patriarch Jacob, in spite of all his many failings, placing his hands on the heads of his grandsons in blessing.

O God of Jacob, make me a blessing to a person yet unborn.