“I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.” ― Charles Dickens
For some strange reason, I developed an irrational fear of dropping her. Born at just three pounds and one glorious ounce, I could easily have held Hattie in just one hand. Maybe arriving two months early didn’t give me, her grandfather, a chance to think about how to cradle a tiny, fragile gangly premmie newborn. Just a whiff, and off she’d flitter like a feather. So I demurred. “No, no, she looks much better on your chest than mine, dear,” I tell her mother. “Hattie will need your chest for nourishment. I hear rumors that baby formula is still in short supply.”
I say ‘glorious ounce’ to tell you that before Hattie turned her life around and started eating properly, she lost that ounce, then another. Technically, Hattie weighed less than three pounds during her brief bout with dieting. Evidently, her weight mattered more to the hovering nurses in NICU than it did Hattie. They weighed the poor girl from a hook nearly every hour- gently, of course.
If a baby is going to arrive early with a little heads up, modern medicine can help. While still in momma’s oven, they gave her mother a steroid shot to hasten the development of Hattie’s lungs. It’s similar to grandma opening the oven and basting a little butter on top of her rising bread so the loaf arrives nice and brown on top. When the time came, Dear Hattie took her first gulp of air when given a little encouragement and never looked back.
For six weeks, Hattie was connected to tubes and hovered over as if she was ripping down I-10 fleeing from police helicopters in her motorized domed crib. Despite the attention, she grew till it was time to go home. Because cells divide when provided nourishment, she was now twice the weight she was born.
Hattie’s mother and I have a long history of arguing with one another. If Hattie was born early, my daughter was born ready- ready to fight for truth and justice. She may have been a little overbaked. I’ve told many-a-campfires that as her head exited the birth canal, I think the term is crowned, she peered at me with cold, beautiful eyes and said, “Nope.”
With my daughter, I had no fear of dropping her. I was a young father who feared nothing cause I knew nothing. I had no idea of the force I was about to go up against. So when handed the bundle all wrapped in a swaddling blanket thirty-some years ago, we looked each other in the eyes, sized each other up, and settled on loving each other come what may. That love endures but would be put to the occasional test.
Post Hattie, our arguments have centered around how to raise Hattie. As is typical of my very bright argumentive daughter, her antagonist (me) knows nothing. History is not proof of prior experience because everything is new and different. If a statue of me had been erected, she would have torn it down. Evidently, the ‘great reset’ button got pushed without me knowing, and we’re now in a brave new world.
But I offer my opinions anyway because, well, I’m not a quick learner. Most dads my age have learned to keep their pie holes shut. But I love my daughter and somehow hold on to this fantasy that she deserves my considerable insight into all things regarding raising young daughters. I’ve even harbored fleeting notions of writing a book. The title would be “Sons are Easy, Daughters are Impossible.” If I tell her of my pure motivations, she’ll point at herself and say, “You see, dad, you don’t know nothin!” She has a point. She essentially raised herself, or so she thinks.
Sadistically undeterred, I ask her if she is going to stay color neutral when painting Hatties room. Will she choose a color other than pink or blue? Some say that a child should be able to choose their gender at an appropriate age- maybe as a teenager. Not wanting undue influence such as that suggested by the color of a childhood room, we are to treat the child in a gender-neutral manner. Right?
My daughter looks at me expressionless without answering. Her eyes are still cold and beautiful.
I then suggest we decide on nicknames. I’m thinking of either Harriot or Harold. What about ‘Har’ for short? That way, when Hattie decides on her ultimate gender, we can easily make the transition by what we call her/him.
She still just stares at me. But I sense a subtle smile. When she smiles, she can be so warm.
“And dear, you’ve read that everything is simply a social construct today. Your gender, your race, and now your age. That’s right! There is an actual growing number of people who consider themselves ‘transage.’ Your age is whatever you want it to be. How wonderful is that.” The Urban Dictionary defines it this way. Transage people can be of any age and are not all younger than their chrono age. Transage people may also fluctuate between ages, be multiple ages or be no specific age.
“I think Hattie will have a real argument for being a ‘transageist,’ dear. Is her birthdate the day she was delivered, or is it the day she should have arrived? That is nearly a two-month swing, and there may be a day that will matter- like when she wants to get her driver's license or apply for social security.”
Finally, she speaks. “Nope. Dad, Hattie is a little girl. Her birthdate is the day she was delivered. She is your granddaughter. Now, would you hold her please?”
“What? Me? Ahh… ok.” My hands are trembling. Fear grips me. What if I drop her?
I reach across the table and cup her little head in one hand and her back in the other. Shaking like an unsure old man, I bring her close. I sway a little thinking that will comfort her. I can’t help it, but I’m smiling- wider than I have in a few years. My fear is replaced with a kind of joy I experienced when staring into the eyes of her mother over thirty years ago. I steal a peek at her mother- she’s looking at me warmly. I think she’s proud that her daughter has a grandfather. I just hope I don’t drop her.
Hattie then opens her eyes. For a brief moment, we hold each other’s stare. That’s when we had a private conversation. Just the two of us.
“Little darlin. There are just a few things I wish for you. If it is ok with you, I’d like to tell you what they are in a form of a prayer. It is also my prayer for your seven cousins.”
“I pray you grow up healthy. I pray you have an abundance of satisfaction in everything you pursue. I pray that when obstacles are thrown in your path, you’ll do your best and always persevere. I pray you’ll find love and contentment in your family- perhaps your own someday. And I pray that when you are confronted with disappointment, pain, and suffering, you’ll look up to the Heavens and know that God is with you.”
Have a great weekend!
Ron, before long she'll be crawling toward you and speak with her eyes - "please, hold me again, gramps."
great writing Ron!