I'm finally free to announce that I'm going to be a grandfather, for the second time. Daughter number two told us last December that she was expecting their number one. But we were under a gag order to keep the information confidential until
they were ready to announce it. Finally, on Friday, they put the word out on Facebook.
"Arriving in time to help us cheer on the Cubs in the postseason! We're all pretty excited."
Daughter number three (Scarlette) had grandchild number one a little over two years ago. But this experience, of course, will do me no good in preparing for grandchild number two because daughter number two and daughter number three undoubtedly have entirely different rules for grandpa to follow. In other words, indulgences that I can get away with in one setting will not be tolerated in the other. I will have to depend on the sympathy of daughter number one (Mindy, the world's greatest aunt) to console me, for she too will have to navigate between different sets of rules.
Grandchild number one, whose parents are both Chinese, was born with a full set of hair, which I am told is typical of Chinese babies. Each time the Chinese in my family tell me that something is "typical," I have no idea whether they are pulling my leg. Which is only fair that they would do that, because I can often use idioms like "pulling your leg" to pull their legs in return, and they will have no idea what I really mean, maybe...
Alison, who is Caucasian, and is fanatically in love with human diversity, almost went crazy when she got to hold her Asian nephew in her arms for the first time...this being over two years ago. She cooed, "Oh...I want to have a cute Chinese baby too."
Well...we don't know what gender Alison and Nelson's baby will be (they don't want to know until the birth) but we do know that Alison won't be having a Chinese baby...as Nelson is from West Virginia, not Guangzhou. It's not that there are no Asian people in West Virginia...well...actually...let me get back to you on that one. In any case, Nelson is very tall, very white, very bald, and very bearded. We don't expect their baby to be very tall...at first. But Alison has this nightmare that the kid will come out very bald and very white...and maybe even have a trace of Nelson's facial hair. But hey...if you're a big fan of human diversity, how can you not love a vanilla baby with facial hair? There's a lot more to human diversity than just race.
Grandchild number two will be grandchild number one who is born to native English speaking parents. Grandchild number one mostly hears Chinese around his house. So he's become a fast talking Chinese kid. His mother informs me that speaking a language rapidly is not the same as speaking it fluently. Even his parents have trouble figuring out some of what he is saying.
It is interesting that he picks up on racial diversity, even though he is only two. In his experience, people with Asian faces seem to understand what he is saying...sort of. But every Caucasian face he talks to has this clueless look. Consequently, he tends to be really quiet around Anglo-Saxons.
For a long period of time, he would only stare at me, the most ignorant adult in his life...since I could neither speak nor understand his language. He parents taught him to call me "gong gong." They told me that this is the typical affectionate Chinese word for "maternal grandfather." I hope they're not pulling my leg. But even if they are right, I expect that years from now my grandson will grow up, learn English, and tell me that for the longest time he thought "gong gong" was the Chinese word for "dimwit."
Grandchild number one is a bright kid and he is now starting to mix lots of English words in with his Chinese. He'll point at something, tell us the Chinese word for it, and then spout off the English word.
He finally started to treat me as an intelligent being when I started reading Dr. Seuss's books to him, with great drama. Now gong gong is something akin to a lovable, delightful alien in his mind.
Becoming a grandfather again makes me think about my own grandparents. On my mother's side, I had all the privileges of being grandchild number one. My brother was grandchild number two, and I couldn't believe at the time how much he weaseled in on my territory. When it comes to being a grandchild, you may very well be king (or queen) of the mountain for a time, but don't get used to it: anyone who comes along later will roll you off and take your place.
On my father's side, I was grandchild number five. And I had barely started my reign when my aunt went and had twins, just six months later. I had to manipulate my way like crazy in that family in order to get any attention. With that set of grandparents, I had 15 competitors.
But somehow both set of grandparents had a way of making me feel pretty special. By the end of each of their lives, I never felt shortchanged. I hope that with number one, number two, and all the other numbers...my own grandchildren will feel the same way.