Thursday, December 31, 2020

One Plus One Equals Three (A New Adventure Has Begun)

As this year ends and a new one approaches, it is the appropriate time to confide to this blog the news regarding what promises to be a dominant theme of my reflections in 2021.

To put it more simply and directly: my dear daughter-in-law Emily Janaro is three months pregnant.

Of course, John Paul and Emily have already told all their friends. But I have said very little so far. It's such an awesome reality. It humbles me once again, makes me grateful — so grateful — to be human, and ... well, I feel a bit shy, when it comes down to it.

Sure, we all know how these things "work" — here we are, a family, and John Paul and Emily got married, and they want plenty of kids, and well, ya know ... it's not like rocket science ...

And then, BOOM, there's a "someone," just like that, who is going to be a major part of the rest of our lives!

A new human person has already come into existence. Already, this new person is changing all of us around him or her in ways we never could have constructed from out of ourselves. This child, who right now is only the size of a peach, has already changed our whole family.

My wife and I are grandparents for the first time. Our daughters are aunts. My son and his wife are a father and mother.

Wait, what?? Let me say that again.

Grandparents. What is that like? Plenty of my old friends are grandparents now, so it shouldn't be a big deal... except that none of my friends are me! I am a grandfather. Sure, it doesn't involve much right now besides empathy for "the kids" in this new experience — "the kids" being John Paul and Emily, and especially Emily who has been a trooper through all the first trimester stuff.

Birth is, of course, the grand entrance of the child on the stage of life, and the cutting of the first and most physical of the many "umbilical cords" that nurture the child in the stages of growing up.

Birth is coming around July 2021.

But thanks to technology, this kid has already "Skyped" from inside the womb. They had their first sonogram weeks ago. The still pictures weren't very clear, but the live action and sound were a wonder. There is nothing quite like the first time you see and hear that new heart beating.

This was John Paul's and Emily's Instagram post
announcing the news a couple of weeks ago. 

When Eileen and I saw pictures of this first sonogram, we were amazed because the day is still clear in our memory when we first saw the sonogram and heard the heartbeat of this child's father

After the new year, they will have another sonogram, which might reveal whether the child is a "he" or a "she." He or she may acquire a name before birth. Then it's just one more step to Instagram! (just joking๐Ÿ˜‰). Needless to say, I'll post "baby updates" (just like I used to do verbally in my classroom when we were expecting John Paul). Of course, our grandchild's mother will have veto power over any posts....

I feel a little bit giddy, like this is a totally new thing. We did have five babies... well, Eileen had five babies, but I was there supporting her, and I saw each one of them born (women reading this are so totally not impressed). But we're going to do whatever magic it is that grandparents do with their grandchildren, without a clue as to what that means, but no worries about it either. (As I recall with my own parents, the grandchildren did most of the "magic" and they just rode the wave.)

I decided (without much thought, but very spontaneously) that I will be called "Papa." Eileen will be "Nana." Our kids called my Dad "Papa," which was what he called his grandfather. The name has a lineage. "Papa" Pasquale Janaro born around 1880; his grandson "Papa" Walter born in 1935, and "Papa" John in 1963 (son John Paul, 1997, and first grandchild, 2021). There's a good chance that this child will live well beyond 2080, and perhaps even into the 22nd century.

That's a chunk of real history, potentially spanning four centuries in 200+ years. That's living, breathing history: my father's stories of his grandfather passed on to me, and me passing on the memories to the next two generations. It's a heritage of relationships.

Suddenly, I have a "new name" that has come down to me from the past. And the reference point for that name is the peach-sized baby who will keep growing and, with God's help, be born in six months.

G. K. Chesterton, in one of his mystical quips, once said that "God knows all things... except arithmetic!" He was referring to the incalculable, overflowing, gratuitous, boundless love of God. In God's eyes, one plus one does equal three, and much more. It flows over from persons to families to peoples linked through the generations. History. The "place" where God cultivates the human family with a tender wisdom, a "human ecology" that has proven resiliant through many trials. (We do well to remember it, and revere it.) Above all, history is where God gathers us in a more radical way as His children, as brothers and sisters of His Son Jesus Christ.

Before I was born or any of us were born, He loved this child. He wanted this child. He loved and wanted each one of us.

How can I not be in awe of this gratuitous love? I hope and pray that my grandchild, and others if God grants them, will experience a taste of this marvel, this beautiful mystery of love, in the heart of his or her family ... our family.