Awaiting a Grandson

I wrote this to my son Matt (who taught me about bandages, patience, and love) on his thirty-third birthday (1-14-2003) and who was awaiting the birth of his first child, a boy. That child, who is now nearly as tall as me—who can clean a fish, shoot a basket, and draw not only a cow but renders amazing dragons—is turning twelve in a wink and a smile.

There are useful things in life to teach a son—some taught by a father, some by a mother, some by others, and the rest learned by experience. Tradition once determined who taught what, and, traditions have changed.

Some things taught by a father perhaps:
To snap his fingers, whistle, and wink.
To shake hands, high-five, and bear hug.
To leave a dog alone that is sleeping or eating.
To not eat the cat’s food.
How to throw a ball, swing a bat, shoot a basket, sink a putt.
To not leave tools in the driveway, in the garden, or in the rain.
How to build a fire. And split wood. And put up a tent.
How to bait a hook and catch a fish—and how to clean it too.
How to paint a fence, hammer a nail, saw a board, mow a lawn.
How to tie his shoes, pedal a bike, ride a horse, drive a car.
How to read a map, put in oil, change a tire, put on chains.
To plant a garden with carrots and tomatoes and basil and lovely fragrant sweet peas.

And from a mother perhaps (actually, my father taught me many of these):
To brush his teeth up and down. To wash his hands and wipe his feet.
To make his bed, wash the dishes, sweep the floor. To set the table, with napkins.
To pop popcorn and make spaghetti and bake Toll House cookies.
To sew a button and iron a shirt. To wash a load of clothes.
How to tell time and balance a checkbook. To write a thank you note.
To use a Kleenex and not his sleeve.
A clean T-shirt is not formal attire.
How to draw a cow, shoot a camera, fold a crane.
Ladybugs aren’t mammals.
How to kiss a girl and how to slow dance. About birth, and birth control.
To say a prayer, sing a song, make a wish.
To smell the roses, to count the ants, to watch the stars. To notice the beauty of the moon.

And some things he’ll have to learn on his own, most the hard way:
Going to bed with gum in his mouth is bad for his hair.
To not put marbles, pennies, or Legos up his nose.
To not eat sand or yellow snow.
To not wander away at the zoo, at the ocean, or in the city.
Vacuuming water out of the toilet is not a good idea.
Putting tweezers in an electrical outlet is a bad idea.
He’ll get in trouble with his teachers when the dog eats his homework.
His first girlfriend may break his heart; his second one too. And, he’ll be okay.
Bees sting. Cats scratch. Dogs bite.
Mice, hamsters, turtles, and goldfish die.
To not dig up his buried pets a month later to see what they look like.
John Henry died, people we love die, we die. But not our souls; our souls don’t die.

Matt, Catherine, Jon

Matt, Catherine, Jon

Matt, you and your brother learned all this growing up, and these are the things your son will learn, and so much more. He’ll be as lucky to have you as a father as I am to have you and Jon as my sons. I love you, Mom

Catherine Sevenau

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  1. Beautiful, beyond beautiful. Simple truth. I smiled. I teared. I loved this post and loved picturing you and Matt and Satchel and Jon. Love, Carole

    • Hi Carole, I loved this piece too. It was their growing up. It was also the first thing I had published. The Index Tribune put it in the paper for me (in the obit section of all places) and I received a couple of lovely notes about it. Thank you for yours.

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