A Letter to My Soon to Arrive Grandchild

Dear FNU (First Name Undecided, I’ll fill it in later)

How are you? I assume at some point in utero—your current address—you’ll gain the ability to hear voices. No doubt you’ll start eavesdropping on our conversations.

I hope nothing you hear gives you pause. You’ll learn that people often say things that are best ignored; even fewer things worth remembering. It is one of the realities you’ll come to understand in the future. At the moment, your future is all in front of you. You have no idea how lucky you are for that.

When you do arrive, I’ll read this letter to you in one of those familiar voices and start you on that path of learning.

We have much to talk about, places to go, things to eat. It would be helpful if you could learn the skills of walking and talking as soon as possible. No pressure here, just the anxious anticipation of an exuberant grandfather-in-waiting.

Soon enough, in the blink of an eye to those of us waiting for your arrival, you’ll be learning to drive and seeking your independence. They’ll probably assign me the task of teaching you to drive; I’ll be the one closest to my expiration date and the best choice for an acceptable loss.

No worries, I love scaring people on the road.

Don’t worry about words you don’t yet understand. In the beginning, they’ll all be unfamiliar. One of the things I most look forward to is reading to you and showing you the magical power of words.

All you need to know are twenty-six letters and some punctuation, and the rest will follow. But there’s no rush, I’ll help you along the way.

“Can’t you give me brains?” asked the Scarecrow.

“You don’t need them. You are learning something every day. A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.” 

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I know in the world you will soon be born to, the idea of watching a movie like the Wizard of Oz at a certain time of the year will seem odd. But indulge me if you would. I’d love to plan a day, once a year, where you and I and whoever else wants to join us watch the movie. It would mean so much to me and I would love it if we could do that.

You can learn all you need to know about life from that movie. How it is important to learn and think. How it is important to have the courage to face your fears. How there is truly no place like home. And, most of all, how we are “not judged by how much we love, but by how much we are loved by others.” You are off to a great start in that category.

We also have to watch the Three Stooges. I want you to a have a solid foundation in fine culture. Maybe some Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, for added good measure.

There are a few other things I’d love you to understand right away. Learn to laugh at yourself and with others. If you can learn not to take yourself too seriously, and find the humor in things, you’ll live a happy life.

Always tell the truth, even when it seems hard. Sometimes this can be a little difficult. Something like this probably won’t happen for a while, but if someone asks you how they look, and they look like an overstuffed pillow wearing a wrinkled shower curtain, don’t say that.

Just smile and nod. Honesty is the best policy, but discretion is a powerful ally.

There is so much I want to tell you. So much I want you to see. So many things to experience that I hope we have enough time. That’s one of the tough things you have to learn. We don’t live forever, so we have to live while we have time. See, I promise to always tell you the truth about the world, even if it is unpleasant.

Things won’t always go your way. You won’t always win. You won’t always be the best at everything you do, and the truth is you might be the worst. That doesn’t matter. Trying to do your best, even if it turns into a disaster, does matter.

Learn from your mistakes, but don’t be afraid to make them. If you’ve adopted a policy of honesty, and always accept responsibility for your actions, no matter what happens you’ll get through it.  Someday, when you’re old enough to understand, I tell you some dumb things I did learning this lesson the hard way.

Just trust me on this one, you’ll come to thank me for it once you’ve experienced life for a while.

I know this may be premature, but I wonder if you’d like to learn to play guitar? I did when I was young, and it has given me years of pleasure. If guitar is not your preference, perhaps piano, or cello. I always wanted to play the cello, the music it makes can bring tears to your eyes.

That’s another thing I’ll have to teach you. There are different kinds of tears. There are the tears when something makes you sad, or, in your case since it may be a while before you talk, tears to get our attention when you’re hungry or uncomfortable because you deposited some alien colored substance in your diaper.

And there are tears of joy and love, like the ones in my eyes as I write this.

I’ll explain it all.

And don’t worry if it’s not a cello, or guitar, or piano you want to learn. I will be happy to have a drum set delivered to your house for you to entertain your mother and father. Trust me, they will love it.

 It would give me such pleasure to do this for you, and them.

Speaking of diapers, that’s something else I am looking forward to. I can’t wait to see the look on your father’s face the first time he has to change your Salvador Dali-looking diaper deposit. I’ll take pictures. Don’t worry about who this Dali guy is and why he paints in diapers. You’ll hear more about Salvador Dali, he’s one of your mother’s favorites.

There are a few rules I need you to learn. The first, and most important, rule is treat everyone the way you would want them to treat you. But, if they choose to act in a cruel or impolite way toward you or others, ignore them if you can but be willing to stand up to them if you must.

You will meet some people who are mean and angry and act like bullies. If you or someone else you are with are confronted by such behavior, stand up for the right thing even if you’re afraid.  You might lose a fight, it may hurt for a while, but running away because you’re afraid will hurt for a much longer time.

Open doors for people. Common courtesy is one of the most important characteristics of a good person. Be polite, say please and thank you, and be willing share.

Be a dreamer. Use your imagination. “Hold fast to your dreams, for as you dream so shall you become.” Someone once told me those words and it has served me well. 

Look for things in clouds. Walk barefoot in the grass, or on a beach. Hike mountains, walk trails, go out among nature and appreciate your place in it.

Learn all you can about the latest in technology but never let it replace the wonders of the unconnected world. While sending an instant message to the other side of the earth is cool, standing in the woods watching a bear cub learning from its mother is better.

Learn to cook, to appreciate the efforts behind a good meal. Help with the dishes. Be mindful of your bounty and share with those less fortunate.

Learn about the planets, the stars, the constellations, the galaxies. In my lifetime, humans went from the surface of the earth to the surface of the moon. In your lifetime, people will likely stand on Mars. Go if that’s where your heart leads you, or stay here and watch others go, but embrace these moments of history.

Never be afraid to follow your dreams or let anyone dissuade you from them.

I know I’ve said a lot of things in this letter. You may be a bit overwhelmed with all the getting used to breathing on your own, all the new sounds and sights, and all the people trying to hold you and speaking gibberish (another cool word I’ll explain,) so let’s do this instead. You just let me know when you’re ready to learn things, I’ll be waiting to get started.

Until then, when you’re ready, you just come on into the world and remind us all of the wonder of seeing things for the first time.

All the things I want to show you will have their moment. We won’t know until I am just a memory how much we got to do, but hold on to these words and, when I am no longer here, you can remember them with a smile. I will always be a part of you even when I’ve gone on to the next journey.

I am glad you are soon to be part of our lives, and I hope I can make your world just a little bit brighter.

With love,

Your soon to be grandfather, Joe Broadmeadow (that’s my grownup name, but I’ll let you decide what you’d like to call me.)

P.S. While I wait for your arrival, I’ll start picking out drum sets…

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