On Becoming a Grandpa
This week I became a grandfather. I’m fifty years old now, recently joined the AARP, quit my good job, and then to top it off, I’m now a grandpa.
Noah Iles was born Monday night to my oldest son, Clay and his sweet wife, Robin. Friends had told me that I would fall in love the minute I saw that grandbaby and they were definitely right. It is a phase of my life journey that I’m excited about. My life mission statement contains this sentence, “My greatest legacy will be my sons and grandchildren. Therefore I will invest my time, love, and money in them.” So that is exactly what I want to do.
Staring at that small helpless baby, I wonder what, and who, he will become. It will be fun to watch his life unfold. No matter what he does, or doesn’t do, he will be my grandson and that means I will have unconditional love for him. Isn’t that a good word- “unconditional?” It speaks of no strings attached, unquenchable love, and undying affection.
Several events of last week form part of the picture frame around which my emotions as a new grandparent are centered.
Last Wednesday, I rushed to the home of my lifelong friend, David Cole. We had just got word that his father, Mr. Olen Cole, had drowned in their family pond. Driving up, the first thing I saw was Mr. Olen’s only grandson, Quinn. He pointed toward the pond with tears in his eyes. All I could do was hug him. For all eleven of Quinn’s years he had lived next door to, and been a close companion of his grandfather. Probably a day never went by when Quinn had not visited with his grandparent who lived across the field. Now suddenly on a hot July morning that had started so normal, he had lost one of the lights of his life. I immediately thought back of the pain of losing my own paternal grandfather at this same point in my life.
The mix of pain, tears, joy, peace, and sorrow I watched in the Cole family over the next days touched me deeply. In spite of their loss, this Godly family decided to rejoice over the long, productive, and eighty-two year happy life of Mr. Olen. The peace I saw in the life of his wife of over fifty years, Mrs. Eva, was such a witness of the difference God makes in a life.
The next evening after Mr. Olen’s death, I sat in the counseling room at Dry Creek Baptist Camp. It was the last night of Preteen Camp at which I had served as the camp missionary. One of our college-age counselors was talking with a ten year old camper. The counselor called me over, “Could you help me with this young man?”
This boy had the sweetest expression and I could easily see that he was a fine young man. However, he was troubled by one thought and this had brought him to the counseling room during the invitation time. After being asked to share his concern, the boy through tears asked, “Do you think it is all right with God to have dreams about my grandpa?”
I asked him, “Did you lose your grandpa recently?”
“Yes, and I miss him terribly.”
Both his voice and face showed that this statement went deep into his heart.
I thought about Quinn.
I thought about my two grandpas whom I still miss, and always will.
I thought about my three boys helping to bury their own grandpa, my dad.
It was an easy answer to this young man. “Of course, God wants you to remember your grandfather. If you have dreams about him, enjoy them. Sometimes they are God’s gifts to our heart. It’s perfectly fine.” I then shared about how my own father had been gone three years and I still am visited by him in dreams.
At the camp on this Thursday night, my mind went back to the day before when I stood with the three Cole brothers awaiting the authorities to come remove their dad’s body. I’ll never forget the tenderness and compassion they showed toward him on the levee of the pond.
While we were standing there, neighbor Mae Willis came to check on the Cole family. She is one of Dry Creek’s kindest people and is also the grandmother of David Cole’s wife, Deleta. As we stood there, Mrs. Mae told me, “Curt, I had the sweetest dream last night about your daddy. In my dream I had run out of gas on the highway and your mom came along and loaned me her car. Later on your mom came to get the car and there was your dad in their truck with her. He was smiling that smile that made him so loved in our community. When he realized I had put gas in the Iles car, he slipped up to me and put money in my pocket as he hugged me. It was so good to see him and He looked so happy.”
Mae Willis’ story would have meant a great deal to me anytime. But the fact that she told it as we stood there with the loss of Danny, Larry, and David Cole’s dad, made it touch me even deeper. The dream sounded just like my dad.
Two days later when his family buried Olen Cole at Dry Creek Cemetery, Quinn Cole was there to help carefully bring his grandfather’s casket to its final resting place. This big strong boy grabbed a handle and helped the pallbearers finish their job. Looking at him, I knew Quinn would always miss his pawpaw, but the memories would always be there to warm his heart. No regrets… I heard it over and over.
So the death of Quinn’s grandpa, Mae Willis’ dream, and the Preteen camper’s heartfelt question, all were in my heart as Mitchell Noah Iles came into this world on Monday July 24, 2006.
During this day of awaiting Noah’s birth, it was a fine time of visiting not only with our family, but Robin’s parents Billy and Lori Mitchell. They are fine folks that we look forward to raising grandchildren together with.
I had held off on what I wanted Noah to call me. I figured it would be a while before he could say a name anyway! I’ve also seen where grandkids devise my own name for a grandparent. One lady told me recently that her small grandson called her, “Poo Poo.” She had finally been able to shorten it to “Poo” and spell it “Pooh.”
As we four grandparents talked of names, I admitted that I had not selected a name. Clay butted in and said, “Daddy, Noah is going to call you ‘Pa Pa’ because that is what I called your daddy.” The look in new daddy Clay’s eyes told me that this was what he wanted. I was reminded of how much he loved his own grandfather, my dad.
I recalled how Clay had stood strong at his grandfather’s funeral and delivered an eulogy that touched everyone deeply. His words of “Some folks may say my Papaw lost his battle with cancer. But that is completely wrong, Papaw didn’t lose the battle, he won the prize. Paul said in Philippians 3:14, ‘I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ (NKJV) Yes, my grandfather, Clayton Iles, he won the prize he had strived for all of his life- to calling and goal to know Jesus.”
Looking at that new baby in the incubator at the Lake Charles hospital I wonder what his life will be like. I suppose Noah Iles will one day help bury me, just as Clay Iles and Quinn Cole did with their grandfathers. My prayer is that I will be the kind of man that he’ll be proud to call “Papaw.”