Squalls drifted from the birthing room, and I knew my life was changing. I paced outside the door where my granddaughter, her parents, and nurses celebrated, but I worried.
I worried about being a grandpa; I had only one example to follow—my dad’s father. He had hovered above me like a German zeppelin, dark and ominous, and I recalled only one noteworthy conversation. He sternly warned me to guard the silver dollars he deposited in my pudgy hands.
Then Grandpa drifted up and away, again.
Friends slapped my back as I waited to see my grandbaby, and I searched my memory for a model grandfather: Was he the man who wandered Walton’s Mountain in overalls? Was he the CEO who stuffed his granddaughter’s college fund?
I held tiny Lenore before she was 2 hours old and midwives fussed. My daughter-in-law smiled wearily. My son beamed.
The happy couple took their baby girl home where she learned to walk. Then, when she was 18 months old, Lenore helped me take my first steps as a grandfather. She named me “Papa!”
Silver dollars could wait. Lenore needed crayons and color books—and I would never drift away.
Somewhere deep inside me a grandpa had been waiting to show up. I hadn’t met him yet, but God just works that way. I found this grandpa was a storyteller, an overgrown playmate, a friend. I only needed to ask myself what I would have loved when I was a boy, and I knew what Lenore needed.
My sons grew up in Alaska, romping over tundra and climbing mountains with me, and I often pointed out landmarks, like Pioneer Peak and Baldy. These mountains became visual reference points to keep us from losing our ways home. In God’s Word, Abraham was a landmark of faith that Jews and Christians have pointed to for generations.
Can there be a better landmark for a child than a Grandpa? Could God have painted a grander portrait of stability? I drive the same brand of pickup truck I did when I was young. I drink the same kind of coffee every morning. I carry the same pocket-knife I have for 20 years. I’m committed to the same woman forever, Lenore’s grandma. I’m predictable and settled—a landmark for Lenore wherever she goes.
The Apostle Paul must have been thinking of grandfathers when he wrote: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).
When Lenore grows old enough to understand, she will hear of mistakes her grandpa has made. I’ll tell her about God’s mercy, and if she stumbles, Papa will dust her off and point to Jesus, the perfect, eternal landmark for us all.
If there is a grander role on earth than being Lenore’s Papa, I haven’t found it.