My newest grandson is just a few weeks old. He needed a bit of help to be born, so instead being one of my daughter’s birth buddies I waited anxiously in her room while a doctor in the hospital theatre gently lifted out her second child into the waiting hands of his father. Nine months had done their job. DNA had distributed the family genes into yet another unique model.
They called him Harry Isaac. It’s just possible that his dad thought Harry was a good name for a future Australian cricketer, or maybe a full back for Collingwood. Unlike his not-so-big brother Jack William, who is named for two grandfathers, only Harry’s second name has family connections. The first Isaac in the family was a convict, a bit of a villain according to stories that have surfaced in historical records, but the name has persisted through the generations since .
Harry looks so tiny lying halfway down the cot, a dark haired bundle of endless gifts and possibilities, hands stretched above his head, a fluffy blue blanket holding the rest of him tight, His vulnerability is heartbreaking, his helplessness tugs at my heartstrings the way his fingers curl around one of mine. Then he stirs, opens his mouth and the helplessness disapears in a powerful, hungry roar.
While he was being welcomed to the world and adjusting to a sleeping and eating routine, records were being broken and medals won at the London Olympic Games. The tragedy that is the war in Syria still raged, local manufacturing jobs were being sent off shore and wattle was splashing Victoria with colour.
I wonder how the world will be when he is the age I am now. It would be nice to think that it will be a more peaceful place and the children of third world countries will no longer go to bed hungry, but maybe that is a stretch too far. Will technology, so advanced in my eyes, seem quaint as the twenty first century ages?
As a grandparent I get to experience all the joy that each new child brings to our family, without the responsibility of 1 a.m. feeds, dirty nappies and teething problems. As Harry’s brother has already discovered, there will always be chocolate teddy bears in my pantry and time for a story or a visit to the park and lots of hugs. Like all grandparents, my task is to support this little family in the vocation we call parenting. Maybe the best gift we can give our parenting- children, along with regular or occasional child-minding, is a listening ear, a supportive shoulder and respect for the way they choose to parent.
Sometime in the next year Harry will be baptized into the Catholic tradition. If infant Baptism is seen mostly as a rite of passage along with things like first birthday parties and a ticket into a catholic school, then maybe there’s something to be said for adult baptism. My understanding of baptism and of being Catholic has changed greatly over the years. It’s a changing world but not necessarily a changing Church. Along with the way they parent, our adult children are challenging and questioning the religious values they inherited from us.
I gaze at my tiny grandson, at his body perfect in every detail, his soul imprinted with God’s loving touch. That touch, as gentle as the kiss I drop softly on the head of the sleeping baby, will live within him all his life as a God memory. We put it into biblical language when we say that we are created in the image and likeness of God.
Welcome to our world, Harry and may your God-memory colour and strengthen you all the days of your life.