Time flies when you’ve just begun. Thirty years
Ago I paused Poet’s Purgatory:
(Bleeding-lip loneliness sleeping with fears
I’d die young in my car). I’d marry
A woman with three children, three brothers,
And a mother. Camping involved just eight.
But things happen, when you include mothers.
This year forty-three camped, and it was great!
But the campground owner asked us if we
Could find somewhere else, next year. Our loud joy
Disturbed peace, he said, though what caused our glee
Wasn’t booze, nor looter’s wish to destroy.
Ringers at horseshoes just made us yell a lot.
Funny how some think that joy is a plot.
Yes this did happen. The campground owner did state my family had “grown too large.” It’s just another crazy event in a crazy year.
Oddly, in some ways I agree with the man. As I sat watching 42 people have all sorts of happy fun, I (now the official “patriarch” of the bunch), had the sense things had gotten out of control. This was not what I intended.
What did I intend? Well, this involves looking at preconceptions. I don’t much like doing this, because it is embarrassing confessing how seldom anything in life has worked out as I planned. However within the obscurity of this website I’ll expose my dunderheadedness, by wondering what my preconceptions were, when I married thirty years ago.
I think I assumed that by now my kids would be raised and out of the nest, and I’d be in a quiet house. When my job as father was done, I could spend my declining years thinking, simply thinking. My house would become a sort of monastery, and I’d be the monk, deeply engrossed in thought. If any of my children were about, it would only to be to hear me deliver some sage wisdom in a reedy, old voice.
As usual, my preconception was utterly, completely wrong. Being a grandfather is not the same as being a monk. If you really want to be a monk, remain celibate, and then there is no danger of ever being a grandfather.
Yesterday I was trying to write and there were three grandchildren from three separate children making a racket in the background, aged six, two and one. My wife loves such rackets, and I love my wife, but I confess there are times I mutter nonspiritual things like, “Shakespeare never had to put up with this shit.” And usually it is just then one, or two, or sometimes all three small children are not willing to rest content with being background noise. They are not the slightest bit interested in the profundity I am gritting my teeth to stay focused on, but rather are interested in me. (Odd. No one else is.) And then I am confronted by these innocent eyes and wonderfully clean minds, and I am ashamed I called them “shit.”
To be a grandfather involves sacrifice. There is no pension, where you are rewarded for your years of service, and are freed from further service. Rather your reward is to sacrifice further. Not a good selling point. But the strange thing about such sacrifice is that the more you give the more you get.
What you get is beyond the comprehension of greed. Let me put it this way:
Mother Theresa only wanted to help a few dying children experience compassion as they died. Yes, a few were saved and survived, but mostly she attended to the dying innocent. And her reward was to be given more and more dying children, until she had to also deal with a whole nunnery of nuns who also attended to dying children. What the heck kind of reward is that?
I can’t say. I’m not Mother Theresa. But I assume she saw something in the eyes of dying children that made her kindness worthwhile.
In like manner, on a far lesser level, I see something in the eyes of grandchildren (and over a decade’s worth of kids at my Childcare), that makes sacrifice worthwhile.
In order to explain such sacrifice to the greedy, you must put it in terms the greedy can understand. It’s hard. But perhaps I can do it.
When you start out small, for some reason you are given more. You start out camping with eight, but it becomes forty-three. It becomes such big thing that people start to notice. A campground owner feels uncomfortable. Basically he is saying, “Stop. Something is going on here which is out of my control.” (The word for that is “sacrifice.”)
I’m scheduled to return to that campground at the end of summer, but not as part of a mob. It will just be me, my wife, and two close friends. (Oldsters need time to relax and be refreshed). But while I’m there I hope to engage the elderly campground-owner in a good conversion. If I can figure out how to break the ice, there is much to wonder about.
After all, in 1987 I was the sort of ruined drifter, basically homeless, who campground-owners did not want to see arriving at their campground in a battered, brown 1974 Toyota. Who could imagine the same dude would now be a “patriarch”, still pitching a tent but with 42 others, including four driving motor-homes?
Much to think about, if thinking is allowed.