Mornings with Meena
My life as a dad is completely different from my life as a grandfather – Opa – to my grandchildren. I’ve been a dad several times and similarly an Opa and even a Great-Grandfather! What an honor! I have been blessed. But as a dad I had very different responsibilities. Today’s dads of course have things different than my dad had it and then myself and other boomer dads, but I saw being a dad as a responsibility for supervisory care, family directional leadership, manager of resources. In other words I was the father to my children but my most important mission was the direction and safety of the family I was entrusted with. Not to say I didn’t have my moments with my children as a loving and caring parent I did; but there was this element of supervision and leadership that always was at the back of my mind. I would venture a guess that most dads my age would agree that our relationship with our children was not as intimate as the relationship our wives have/had with the children.
Then Meena happened.
I have several grandchildren but I have not had the opportunity to spend as much time with them as I have Meena. A couple of the grandkids stayed for many months while Monica took care of them and our oldest daughter worked, but I was working too at the time and rarely saw them. Besides as the grandfather my role is usually that of the typical grandfather, holding the child for a short time while being supervised and laughed at and with, as my apparent ineptitude with small children is on display.
Meena gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my capacity to care for a small human and to relive the small opportunities of life with a baby that I’d experienced as a dad with my own children. And it all happened as a fluke.
As full-timers we spend all our time in our RV traveling or visiting our home-base in and around Nashville TN. Until a few months ago we would generally either stay at local state parks or a KOA in Nashville while in town. But we were able to add a 50amp connection for our camper next to Jessica and Shane’s house in Mt Juliet, the same type connection we added to my sister Pat’s place in upstate NY, so we could connect and stay right next to their homes. On our last trip earlier this year we were out west for a few months and needed some repairs done to the RV. We took it in and a series of problems occurred at the dealership causing us to stay with Jessica, Shane, and Meena for more than three weeks while our RV was in for repairs.
I’m and early riser. Meena is as well. I like to have a cup of coffee and watch the morning news as I check my email, read the NY Times, and generally enjoy the peace that the early morning brings. Meena sleeps in a rocker like gizmo for babies and as I sat on the couch in their living room the first few mornings I let Shane or Jessica care for Meena when she awoke. But after a few days I walked over to where she was sleeping and watched in awe as her small clear blue eyes soaked into my soul. I was entranced as I watched and she cooed and “talked” to me so I started getting her out of bed each day.
I’d change her nighttime diaper and get her out of this amazing sleep suit they call a “fat suit” that cocoons her in softness and warmth. Her slow morning movements matched my early morning speed perfectly and I’d hold her to my chest and talk to her about the new day. She of course, would wisper talk and tell me about her night and her hopes and dreams and her plans for the day as well, along with glomming my reading glasses and hamming it up for the camera on my cell phone.
Sometimes I’d lay next to her on the couch and allow her to explore what hair I have left on my head, and pull and tug at my face as her brain processed all the information storing it in places she will soon forget. I do the same as I soak in her beauty and store it in places I will never forget.
Sometimes I’d break out the cornucopia bowl of baby toys and watch her dig through them, every time discovering a new toy or sound and watching her light up with delight. But every time I’d sit and hold her, I’d find myself reliving the same feelings of pure love I had when my children we young.
One morning I took her outside to sit in the grass, listen to the wind, feel the sun. I had forgotten a baby’s need for visual stimulus, their brains growing so fast as mine slowly goes away. With those soft perfect fingers she would ever so delicately pick at a single blade of grass. In wonder she would let the grass slip between her fingers always studying it with an intense focus. She would push those strong legs into the dirt and rest herself against me, a reassuring feeling for her and a warm peaceful feeling for me. The wind would stir the new leaves in the trees that surrounded us and she would look at them with eyes so bright and would smile at the simple pleasure it gave her.
I’m sure all of my grandchildren are as wonderful as Meena, but she’s the one I have had this chance to experience this new life and growth with as never before. Many years ago on a very cold day in Missouri while camping with our son James, he could not have been 6 months old, the night got very cold and Monica and I cocooned him with our bodies to keep him warm. He spent most of the night in a deep sleep and in the morning we awoke to his soft sounds of a baby warm as toast, all wrapped up and protected by his parents, gazing out through the door of our small tent at the trees swaying in the wind. It was a wonderful feeling, as wonderful as my mornings have been with Meena. These mornings have allowed me to feel and experience some of the emotions that I know mothers must feel with their children. That maternal visceral feeling of a love that is almost tangible.
I know I can’t ask for more time or longer mornings just as I know that her wish is to grow as fast as she can so she can play and do things that big girls do; but I don’t want her to. In a very selfish way I’d like to spend the rest of my mornings in the sun and under the trees with Meena. She feels more like a daughter to me than a granddaughter, although both are more precious than anything on earth.
I love you Meena. Opa