Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Impending Grandfatherhood

Up until very recently, I regarded myself as a very young fifty year old, fairly active, a bit bolshie and retaining a zest for life. This was enforced when my kith and kin (well, mainly kin – my kith are somewhat miserly) bought me an electrical guitar for my milestone birthday and suddenly I was eighteen again, all teenage kicks and hope I die before I get old.
This came to a sudden and quite premature end a month or two ago, when my son, Neil, and his girlfriend, Amy, announced in true Maggie Thatcher style that ‘we are pregnant.’
Of course, we were delighted and after lots of hugs and congratulations, I expressed the hope, quite naturally, that the baby would turn out to be a boy and not just a child. “I mean, you’re not going to bring a girl back to the Rotunda and ask for a refund but still and all,” I blustered, as they all stared at me disbelievingly.
My wife of course has decided to put her spoke in for a girl because she prefers to buy clothes for a girl and also because boys widdle everywhere. It appears that the male inability to widdle neatly has us marked out from birth.
After sketching a quick family tree, my wife then further pointed out that this impending addition to our kin, meant that she was going to be a Granny and I a Grandad. They then got a good five minutes of entertainment by pointing at me and calling me Grandad.
Later that evening, I informed my wife that I couldn’t possibly be a grandfather, because such people were doddery oul’ fellers without much hair who fall asleep in their armchairs with their glasses perched precariously on the end of their noses. In reply, my wife produced a mirror and asked me to take a good look at myself. I still have no idea what she meant.
Now in my time on this earth, I have been a son, grandson and, briefly, a great-grandson; I have undergone nephewdom and great-nephewdom; I have practised brotherhood; made a fist of husbandhood; posed as a father; experienced uncledom; acted as godfather and run the whole gamut of in-law-hood. Some of these I was born into, some I achieved and some that I had thrust upon me. But none of them have involved the amount of trepidation that impending grandfatherhood has engendered.
Despite the immeasurable number of bytes of information available on the world wide web (at leasty fifty, if not more) there is precious little on the rules of grandfatherhood. One thing I do know is that when the parents leave the child with us, as doubtless they will, we can hand it back at the end of the day. This is one of the things I have been practising and, thanks to the help of Little Ted, Bunno and Milly (now all in their early twenties,) I believe I can handle this part of my impending duties with aplomb.
With the help of various other stuffed members of our children’s infant fraternity, I have also been busy practising regaling them with stories about the old days and how we had it much tougher when I was a lad. I understand that this is an important role for grandfathers to fulfill and I will not be found wanting. Big Ted, in particular, looked very impressed when I told him that the Blanchardstown Town Centre used to be a field and we had only one channel on our black and white television and that only came on in the early evening.
I also understand that it is very important for grandfathers to undermine the parents’ authority at every possible occasion. This can be done in a number of ways. If the poor wee mite is not allowed to have toy guns / chocolate / soothers etc, this will not apply when Grandad is around. With Grandad, everything will be allowed and discipline will be minimal.
I will also make sure to regale the child with stories about his/her father and the antics he got up to as a kid. If that doesn’t undermine his authority, nothing well.
There is also the question of how I would like to be addressed when my descendant finally decides to formulate words. I called my old grandfather Grandad, but he was a doddery oul’ feller without much hair who used to fall asleep in the armchair with his glasses perched precariously on the end of his nose.
My great-grandfather, I called Grandpa but that was merely to distinguish him from Grandad. Grandpa was even more ancient and I don’t actually ever remember him moving.
Gramps is out. I am not, nor ever will be, a Gramps. Gramps implies likeability, a characteristic I have been determined not to cultivate.
I think possibly Sir would be best. Nobody has ever called me Sir, except at Disneyland and I swear there was a big dollop of sarcasm every time it was used. Besides, its best that the little brat knows its place in the pecking order. Longevity means I will be top dog, even though I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve this. I mean, what’s the point of achieving grandfather age if you can’t lord it over the rest of the family?
So, to continue, I was gradually coming to terms with the new role that I would be expected to play in August. While all the talk around me was of Moses baskets and disposable nappies, I kept focussing on, “He’s had his bottle. Here you are. Bye,” a phrase that I can now reel off with a variety of intonations. (I have also had a go at “She’s had her bottle...” just in case the worst comes to the worst but the words don’t seem to trip so lightly off the tongue for some reason.)
Thanks to the wonders of modern science, I have even been shown a picture of my impending grandperson, though to be honest it looks like a pint of Guinness that’s just settling, though they keep pointing out arms and head to me.
Then in true 39 bus fashion, my daughter, Louise, and partner Greg, interrupted me while I was trying to play a Lionel Richie number on the guitar and asked me could I come downstairs for a minute. Like most fathers, I suppose, the thought flashed through my mind that she was going to announce that she was a vegetarian or a Bohs supporter or something but thankfully it was merely to inform us that we were pregnant also.
So now I’m going to be a double grandfather, which is a bit like being told, well, actually it’s twins. Of course, this adds the problem of having to decide which of them will be my favourite and become the sole inheritor of my practically worthless telephone card collection.
Suddenly life has become quite complicated. Maybe I’ll just fall asleep in the armchair with my glasses perched precariously on the end of my nose.