It does make me a little jealous to see the close relationship baby has with my parents. As a kid, I never had anything like she has, and will continue to have, with my parents — especially my father.
I remember having childhood friends who spoke of all the adventures they experienced with their grandparents and wondering why mine had to live so far away from me. I only saw mine twice a year or so, meaning every time we were reunited there was a long breaking-in period when I had to get to know them again.
My two grandmas were everything I imagine a grandma could be – soft, warm, doting and playful. My grandma Mynatte is smart, funny and is now my biggest fan, asserting I’m the most wonderful mother she’s ever seen. My Grandma Betty developed Alzheimer’s and passed away when I was relatively young, but I have memories of going to the mall with her, hearing her hearty laughter and playing with her in the manifold mirror in her bedroom, our giddy selves reflected infinite times.
My grandpas, on the other hand, were less prominent in my childhood. Maybe this was a product of their generation, in which southern men were expected to be tough, distant breadwinners. Or maybe it was just their identities as Baptists: the Bible asserts that women should call their husbands “master” while quietly attending to issues of the home, a lifestyle that they actually take quite seriously.
I respected them, but I can’t really say I felt much warmth from them. Grandpa Clarence was a prisoner of war in WWII. I read his memoir when I was 12 and couldn’t believe the things he saw and experienced. My grandpa Frank worked as a salesman his whole life to keep food on the table for his six children. Yes, they were resilient. Definitely tough. Grandpa Clarence was quirky, too, and often playful. But truly loving? I don’t know. Even their hugs were hard, jolting.
My dad, now a first-time grandpa, is completely different. He sees my daughter maybe twice a week, but wants to see her more. We have a running joke about his wanting to hold her, too – early on, he would say, “you must need a break,” or “your arms must be really tired” or “let me hold her while you get your car keys,” when I finally snickered and replied, “if you want to hold her, you can just say so.” Now, he’ll make a hyperbolic version of one these statements with a knowing sparkle in his eye before gladly scooping his granddaughter into his arms.