One of the things I remember best about library school was the management class taught by Dr. Charles Curran, AKA Dr. Chuckie. His dry sense of humor and booming voice disconcerted more than one Mainer taking the class over satellite TV. He taught us two things that still echo through my head on a regular basis. #1: “Librarians buy stuff.” He couldn’t emphasize strongly enough that a big part of earning our paycheck involved purchasing stuff (generally with a limited budget) that patrons would want to get their hands on, so we better know what the hell they wanted.
The second thing was far more interesting. Chuck said that no college experience could prepare you for everything that would happen in the workplace, so he was going to have us go into the real world and interview a librarian who had gotten his/her MLIS within the previous three years. We were to ask them about the biggest situation they’d faced that library school left them completely unprepared for. The exercise was called the ‘Roof Leaks’ experience. When we met as a group several weeks later, the shared experiences were all over the place and absolutely reinforced what Chuck had been telling us about the unpredictability of our future job experiences. I wish, in hindsight, that more people had been that frank about new jobs like the one I’ve just begun.
Fast forward to last Labor Day weekend. Beth and I were celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary. Older daughter Sara and her husband Russ had come to make us lunch. We had told them not to bring presents, but while we were waiting for food to hit the table, sara pulled out a small box and set it in front of us. Inside were two simple picture frames that had no photos in them. One was labeled Grandma, the other, grandpa.
That was our heads-up that we were soon to become grandparents. Beth was in 7th heaven. I was pleased, but the fact was more an abstract reality than something that had me stirred up. Remember, I’m the guy who once told the world he would be dead before turning 26, so momentous events don’t tend to get me too wound up at 66. My grandparents were never much more than hazy memories. Both of my grandfathers died when I was fairly young and while my maternal grandmother, Della Look Clark, lived in Union for several years when she got old, she also died when I was a freshman in college. Even my grandmother, Martha Ingersol Carman, while she lived until I was in my 30s, was distant, both physically and emotionally. In sum, experiences with my own grandparents hadn’t been anything exciting.
When Beth and I became parents, we pretty much flew solo when the girls were little. Neither set of parents was really involved once the babies were born, nor did they offer to take them for a few days so we could have some ‘us’ time when the girls got older. I will say that my mother was really good about spending time with Sara and Lisa when they got old enough to explore Sennebec Hill Farm. She would head out on nature expeditions and have just as much fun as they did
All those experiences didn’t help me develop a mindset that enabled me to have the slightest idea how I’d turn out when my time came to assume the Granddad role. Sara was due around March 17th, but because of breech issues, she had a C-section on March 3rd. That decision continued a family tradition that makes birthdays a snap to remember. Sara was born the day after Beth’s birthday, while our new granddaughter, Piper Alexis Lozefski, was born the day after mine. Super convenient.
I’ll admit that my first inclination was to stay home when I knew Sara was ready to have Piper, but I changed my mind pretty fast and was in the recovery room when she was brought there for new dad, Russ to hold her. We all took tons of photos and got a chance to hold her. I can’t describe the felling that filled me, save to say it was unexpected and amazing.
Beth and I returned the next day and were there to help out a week later when Sara came home from the hospital. Somewhere during that time, I discovered that sitting quietly and just holding my new granddaughter was an unbelievably satisfying feeling. Some of that comes from being an observer of my fellow humans. Between my time in mental health and in the various libraries I’ve worked in, I’ve had plenty of time to watch people feel and interact. Much of what I’ve seen hasn’t looked particularly happy. I understand unhappy and it sucks. Happy is way preferable. Beth and I have talked about the differences between the beginnings when we were little, when were were new parents and this time around. I think we’ve both used some of the insight we’ve gained, so we’re looking to do the next right thing for Sara, Russ and Piper.
I spent last Monday afternoon holding my granddaughter while listening to new mom, Sara vent and talk about how completely unprepared she was despite doing everything right. I know the feeling, so it was good to be there for her as a supportive sounding board. I hope that type of usefulness continues. While Piped napped, I semi-dozed myself, imagining how much fun she’ll be in a year or two when she’s fully engaged with the world. Yes, it’s early in the game, but I have a feeling I’m gonna love this grandfather job…A lot.