Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your own children.
Christmas morning. The house is quiet. Something that smells of cinnamon is in the oven. The tree is lit. The snow outside is very white and very deep. The LWW and I will head off to her parents' house in a couple hours. Our children and grandchildren will be invading next week for a few happy days.
I will admit that I can't wrap a package to save my soul, so the LWW spent hours yesterday gettting the robots and bicycles and LEGOs and underwear and books and computer games and noisy baby toys ready to be un-wrapped in seconds. You really have to be a grandparent before the old saw, "it's better to give than to receive," genuinely rings true. I don't believe our grandkids are any more or less greedy than other small children, but they do love presents - and their excitement is a gift to this grandpa returned many times over.
Material gifts for these boys are easy. A list from their mom, one's cash card, and the local Target store is all that's needed. I have no illusions that 90% of what the boys receive will be lost, broken, or forgotten within weeks. A few things might stick - a book that becomes cherished, a computer game that will engage, a special toy that will become "alive" and so escape the garage sales. But as I sweep the lost StarWars figures up from under the couch next week, I'll have to remember that material gifts are just this grandpa's shallow means of making his affection visible.
Were I able, I'd wrap these gifts up for each of my grandchildren with these cards attached...
- Health. While about 95% of your health is due to genetics, for good or for bad, the other 5% that you can control is pretty important. Strike a balance between risk paranoia and complete disregard for your bod. Eat a candy bar now and then, but have the good sense to walk it off. I hope you like the color and the size. To a large degree, the shape will be up to you.
- Passion. The luckiest people are those who find something that really interests them. What that something is makes little difference - computers or hockey or inorganic chemistry or etymology or entomology or library science or whatever. Wear this every day.
- Compassion. OK, this one is a little odd, but it's important, kids. The capacity to feel for others will give your life meaning and purpose. People who are best at handling the occasional blues do so by finding others to help. This one is polar fleece for the soul.
- Adventure. Here is the courage to take a risk now and then. Eat a new food. Travel to a different country. Accept a challenge to your physical strength and stamina and comfort. Read something by someone you don't agree with or completely understand. Do at least one thing every year that none of your friends has ever done. Take pictures. The people with the best stories, not the most money, are life's winners. Wear this hat even when it seems a little scary.
- Appreciation. Never forget how truly lucky you are to be born to loving parents who can afford to feed you, clothe you, and take you to the doctor. Remember that you live in a country that is free of political violence and gives you both freedom and protection. Be thankful that you can get an education that will let you become just about anything you want to be. Even when things may not seem to be going your way, wear these glasses and you will recognize that you are still more fortunate than 99% of the rest of the world.
- Problems. Yes, I am giving you lots of problems as a gift. You may be an old man like me before you come to appreciate this package, but it may be the most valuable one you receive. Problems engage our minds. Problems make us creative. Problems (and finding solutions to them) give you self-worth. Problems keep life from getting boring. Problem make life fun - really! When you put these in your pocket, it may feel like a burden, but they are boosters.
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Winter Solstice or whatever flavor holiday you celebrate.