In August of 2007 the last of four kids went off to college, leaving the proverbial empty nest. Thoughts of babies and toddlers and all of the things that go with that were far, far away, even though there was another child on the horizon. And while it would be my first grandchild, the impending arrival didn't seem to have a lot to do with my world. Another kid, sure, but it would be the job of my daughter and her husband to worry about it, raise it, feed it, take care of it.
Then, on October 5, Annie showed up.
I like to think I'm pretty good with words, but I can't describe the way that little newborn just reached up and grabbed my heart. I was totally unprepared for the emotion of being a grandfather, and was blown away by the realization that the little bundle in my lap represented a whole new generation of "my people," another link in a chain that goes back to my great-great-grandfather making the decision to leave Holland and seek a better life in America.
|Coloring easter eggs|
There are multiple sets of grandparents, and so my daughter gave us all different names. Penny and I are "Oma" and "Opa," and while I can't say that Annie's first word was "Opa," it was in the first five.
It became apparent - at least to me - right away that she was a bright child, and I began referring to her in this blog as "The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe." I was struck by the fact that, even before she could speak, she remembered people and names and things. She liked to sit in my lap and watch hockey, and when she was just two, I took a three-ring binder and made "Anne's Hockey Book," a collection of small felt pennants from all 30 NHL teams. All you had to do was ask, "Where are the Predators?" or "Where are the Blackhawks?" and she could pick out the right pennant.
|Watching her beloved Minnesota Wild|
|Showing off her artistic side|
|Taking care of her baby brother Cal|
And for five years, she's been reminding me all over again how it's possible to love someone else so completely and totally and unconditionally, which is a lesson all of us need to be reminded of once in a while.
Happy birthday, Annie, and thank you for being there for Opa.