A second childhood, in a good way | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Oct 12, 2016

I've been given books on three different occasions in the past couple of weeks. Not unheard of but a little unusual.

Not new books, which would be accepted only if on a special occasion or at knifepoint. There's no more room for new books. We have the book thing covered.

But a book that's been read, that's been handled, that contains bits and maybe quarks of DNA of former owners, a book that causes you to pause for a moment and suddenly, mysteriously feel as though a previous reader had paused at that exact spot – that's a book.

I accept these with thanks and joy, knowing I'll either read them or pretend I have and then give them back.

This is not a screed against electronic books, by the way. I’ve always got a few stored on my tablet for an attack of spontaneous insomnia or a long plane trip, and dozens more are in my library.

I’m fine with e-books and usually prefer them, if you want to know the truth, although that’s mostly a vision thing and, again, a fight against the book population explosion in this house.

There’s just something about a used book, though, an old book, and especially one that arrived at a particular time of life. This is where I get into trouble every time I make a feeble attempt to organize our library.

These are more than dusty pages we’re talking about. There’s history here, and maybe even some well-worn wisdom.

And as much fun as it would be to use old books as a lame metaphor for human utility and relevance, I’ll skip the dance and just make the point. I’m older than most of the books in my house.

I question my utility and relevance all the time, but I’ve managed to remember a few things.

And judging from a lot of my recent email, I’m slightly older than many people who read this column.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of recent empty-nesters, for example, and while I’m not exactly in that position myself, I have special circumstances. My kids are adults and have been for a while now.

And since these nice people who take the time to share their stories with me are at a certain stage of life, and I’m at a slightly different stage, I realized there’s one area in which I might be able to help.

Three years ago this week, I became a grandfather. My grandson has Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed at 17 months, but otherwise he’s a happy, very verbal 3-year-old, living in Austin and turning me into a rabid collector of airline miles.

I see him as much as I can, including in about a week, and while I miss out on a lot of things, my daughter keeps me up to date and video chats help keep me on his radar.

So, if you’re in your 40s or early 50s, and the kids have slipped the surly arms of the homestead and you’re wondering what comes next, I can help.

First, becoming a grandparent can be a shock to the system, as many of us remember our own grandparents as old people and we are most certainly not that.

More than this, though, will be the realization that everything you’ve ever heard about becoming a grandparent, all of these wonderful, cliché, almost cinematic stories of nothing but fun, are absolutely true.

Then there’s this, a limited truth, constrained by the subject and object and within those bounds, but still true: There is only one rule for being a grandparent, which is that there are no rules.

“Dad, you bought him a bouncy house?”

“It was on sale! Plus, I'm old, and can't live that much longer, and I wanted to.”

I’m speaking of a generic family, of course. There are all kinds.

I was fortunate enough to raise a child who did the (mostly) conventional things and went to college, graduated, fell in love, got married, and three years ago gave the world both a healthy baby and a father who spends way too much time looking at stuffed animals on Amazon.

I’ve thought of it as being a parent once removed, but even though in my situation I was lucky enough to be able to provide around 50 percent of the parenting (and yet made 78 percent of the errors; this seems odd), grandparenting is completely different.

Different in the way being a young parent with limited sleep and enormous stress is not the same as being a grandfather with a finger just waiting to be pulled by an unsuspecting toddler.

So, my slightly younger readers, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, to you and all potential grandparents: It’s exactly what you think it will be.

That’s been my experience, anyway, and I’ve had a few of those in my life.

I’ve made a lot of decisions, some of them good and some not so much, and a few that were just dicey, but there are just some moments in life when it all suddenly makes sense. This has happened to me a few times.

Including three years ago this week, when I realized that life, often unfair and treacherous, sometimes comes through in a big way.

I knew it was coming, I waited impatiently, not knowing what to expect, and then my heart blew open and all this new light and joy and a little boy flew in – and stayed.

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