Friday, August 8, 2014

Grandfathers Just Never Stop Learning

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, August 8, 2014

By Bill Gouveia

            I thought I was getting to be an old hand at the grandfather thing.  After all, my oldest (did I mention his name is William?) is now six, and my amazing granddaughter Avery is two.  I love the relationships I have with them, and figured I pretty much knew what to expect when I was lucky enough to get another.

            Then Sammy came along.  And I discovered I still had a lot to learn, and so much more love to give.

            My youngest grandchild, Samuel Christopher Gouveia, celebrated his first birthday last week.  He had a bit of a rough first year, fighting some allergies and an unexpected medical condition that scared the living you-know-what out of all of us. 

For his first few months he was more than a little on the fussy side.  And he seemed to have a particular aversion to our house.  Every single time his parents brought him to see Grandma and Grandpa, he screamed.  Blood-curdling, terrified, “don’t make me stay here” type screams.  It was enough to give a grandfather a complex.

In fact, it did.

Even though I knew it was ridiculous, I was convinced Sam hated me.  That he was afraid of me.  That he just plain didn’t like me.  I was sure I was giving off some strange anti-Sammy vibe that only he could feel.  I loved him totally from the first moment I saw him, so the very idea my grandson didn’t want to be with me was – in short – terrifying and exceedingly depressing.

Oh, I denied it bothered me.  I pretended it was a big nothing.  Just a stage, I smiled at everyone.  He’ll get over it soon.  But in my heart I was worried sick over it.

Then Sammy wound up in the hospital with a condition that came close to requiring surgery.  I had never faced any type of even semi-serious illness with either my children or grandchildren, and it severely frightened me.  But it was hard to try and comfort a sweet little boy who screamed blue murder every time I got close to him.

So I just kept telling him how much I loved him, and kept on letting him know that my love was unconditional.  And then shortly after his procedure, things started to change.

Sammy was suddenly more comfortable at our house.  He was laughing and smiling when Grandpa held him.  He wasn’t timid or frightened, he was confident and assured.  And my blood pressure dropped back into the normal range.

I eventually realized there was nothing wrong with me and nothing wrong with Sammy.  Kids are just all different and wonderful in their own way, and it is up to us to let that way shine through.  To learn just who they really are.

Sammy took some time to adjust to us, and I realized I had taken some time to adjust to him.  And that is how it should be.  There is no magic way to be the perfect parent, grandparent, child or grandchild.  And no relationship is exactly the same, though all of them can be uniquely amazing in their own way.

I reflected on all this when young Samuel stayed with us one night this past week.  I rushed home from work to see him, and we laughed and played along with Grandma until bedtime.

I took Sammy upstairs to read a story, rock for a while, and then settle into bed.  I held him in my arms and softly sang him lullabies (like the poor kid hasn’t been through enough).  I took a few moments to just study this beautiful little person and remember how lucky I am to have him in my life.

And just as I was doing that, Sammy opened his eyes and looked up at me.  He smiled a tired smile, and reached out his stubby little hand towards my face.  He stroked my cheek lightly with his fingers, then closed his eyes and fell asleep on my chest.

Seldom have I been as much at peace as I was in that moment.

Sammy loves his Grandpa, and Grandpa is wild about him.  As if it could have possibly turned out any other way. 

Grandpas can be so silly sometimes..

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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