Village Voice - June, 2005

The "Three Little Words" of Fatherhood

Ron1Boy, am I out of practice!!  Look at me!  I'm holding my new granddaughter like I'm not sure which end is which!  I'm surprised she just doesn't float away!  I've been a "father" for over thirty years.  So, where is that grandfatherly instinct?  What happened?

A lot has happened.  I didn’t' know what to expect with the birth of my first grandchild.  I was worried, excited, proud, and more than a little bit anxious about just what to "do" as a granddad.  As the event drew nearer and nearer, I grew ever more restless and uncertain of my grandfather role.  When Ross called us with the wonderful news, I started to panic just a little bit.

Then we flew to St. Louis and Bethany (our daughter‑in‑law) just "handed her to us."  Despite my clumsiness, I instantly thought of those "three little words" that calm us all, and make everything seem a whole lot better.  You know what those words are!  But, even with those "three little words" rolling around in my head, it wasn't instant relaxation.  Thanks to my granddaughter Ellie (and the terrific patience of her mom Bethany), I discovered and re‑discovered a bunch of things.

First, I love being a dad.  I don't know that I was (or am) particularly good at it, but I sure do like the "dad" thing.  And, I missed being an "active dad."  Just as I got comfortable with the role, my boys all grew up and went on their own (or nearly so).  And, it seemed like all that I had been working on as a dad was now just going to waste.  So I guess I got rusty, and didn’t exactly evolve "father‑wise."  I knew of those "three little words", but I wasn’t quite sure of their meaning or power yet.  I missed more than a few opportunities.

Second, babies are (still) transforming.  When I held Ellie, I remembered holding my own children.  (Got to admit, Ellie is a little prettier than ours.)  And I was able to look back over my own "fatherhood" and be reminded of the real meaning of those "three little words" that are special to dads.  Nobody else could do that.  It took Ellie.

Ellie didn't say anything - she was just there.  She didn't ask me to do anything - she just allowed me to be with her and accepted my clumsy affection with all the grace a one‑week old baby can muster.  She made me nervous and calm all at the same time.  And, each time, I remembered what those "three little words" for dads really mean.  I saw it and felt it, looking both forward and backward with my granddaugher in my arms.

You know by now what those "three little words" are.  They remind us that fatherhood (and grandfatherhood) is always a work in progress.  It keeps on going, asking different things of us at different times.  I'm pretty lucky.  I've got three sons who still call me "dad" even though they're occasionally mortified by my antics, a wife whom I adore and can depend on to set me straight, and a beautiful grandaughter who has already reminded me how dads (and granddads) are supposed to keep growing.  You guessed it - those three little words for dads are "some assembly required."Ron2

I'm not done being a dad and a granddad.  I've got some learning to do, and some "evolving" to accomplish.  In short, there's still "some assembly required" for me.  But, I've got my family - including Ellie - to help me.  While "some assembly" is going on with me, there are still things I can already do for my boys and my granddaugher.  She knows, and they know.  Between the two of us, we've got 360 degree coverage.  As I told Ellie when I last held her, "I'll get better at this little girl.  But don't worry for now.  I've got your back."


Ron Knode