Being “Granddad” Without Having Been “Dad”

Posted on August 18, 2010


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Dan and I married in 2006.  Dan lived in a high rise condo in Washington DC.  He was single, with no children and no pets.  I lived in a house in Arlington, VA.  I was divorced after well over two decades of marriage, with three grown children and a cat.  One year after our marriage, my daughter married and last June, my grandson Jonah was born.  The plan is for other children to follow.  My older son married last September.  They plan to have children.  My younger son plans to marry and have children.

 In the last four years, the terrain of Dan’s life has changed in a way comparable to that of the land inhabited by dinosaurs, as the Ice Age hit.  For awhile, Dan, like the dinosaurs, wasn’t quite sure that he would make it.  Fortunately for me and for him and for my children and grandson, he adjusted better than the dinosaurs did. 

I see how tough it can be to flip into step-fatherhood and grandfatherhood, without ever having been a father.  When my kids are around, Dan sometimes needs a short break.  The activity and noise level is more than he’s used to.  At the dinner table, when one or more of the kids is in town and the conversation turns to video games, indie bands, and fantasy football, I notice that Dan gets quiet.  He still refuses to make baby talk with Jonah, and he gets annoyed when I do when I’m on Skype with him.  I joke that he’s marking time until Jonah, age 14 months now, can enjoy a glass of wine with him and discuss world affairs. 

But the truth is that Dan keeps a photo of Jonah as his screen saver, and when Jonah is placed on his lap, he melts.  And the other truth is that Dan enjoys being around my kids, and he thinks they are almost as amazing as I do. I think that might be a little bit understandable, as he never had to experience the boys wrestling under the dining room table while the meal is was progress.  And he never had to watch my daughter taunting her older brother into a screaming rage. 

The bottom line is that slowly, Dan is taking on a role he never thought would be his.  And nobody is more surprised (and I suspect delighted) than he is.