We just learned that our daughter is on her way to the hospital, confident that her contractions are the Real Thing and the baby is on his way. If so, our weekend plans are out the window and we will be heading for Minneapolis to meet our first grandchild. We’re not excited or anything…
In the course of more than thirty years of parish ministry I baptized at least 500 babies, likely many more. In my role as pastor and now Goodwill chaplain, I have been shown an uncountable number of pictures of newborn children and grandchildren, always making appreciative remarks about how amazingly beautiful the baby was.
Confession time—in truth, all newborn babies look pretty much alike to me. They are cute, of course; it is a baby’s job to be cute. Some are darker or lighter in complexion; some have full heads of hair while some are nearly completely bald. I can sometimes discern, or at least convince myself that I discern, specific features that relate to one of the parents (“He has his father’s nose!”). But most of the time a newborn baby resembles, well, a newborn baby.
What’s more, newborn babies do not do much that is particularly interesting. They sleep, they cry, they eat, they cry some more, they squirm, they poop. That is pretty much a baby’s entire act. They do not play Parcheesi, disagree with umpires’ calls or discuss literature. They become more interesting about the time they learn to play peek-a-boo, but until then they simply look adorable (except when they are crying) so that we can admire them.
None of these things will be true of my grandson, of course. He will be beautiful, and he will look like no other baby ever born. I am guessing he will look very much like me. He will be very clever and utterly fascinating from the moment of birth. I will swear up and down that he smiled at me and no, it was not just gas. I will carry pictures of him and insist that you look at them and pretend to see how unique and wonderful he is. After a lifetime of looking at pictures of other peoples newborn grandchildren, it is payback time!
Grandparents, in the end, are the ones who have it right. Each person is beautiful, each person is precious, each person is unique, each person is of infinite worth and each person is to be loved not because of what they can do or how they look, but simply because they exist. This is a core conviction of religious faith, one we too easily forgot in a divided and violent world. Babies, in their helplessness, remind us of this essential truth. So when I show you pictures of my grandchild, I will be acting as spiritual teacher. Honest.
Work and Dementia
2 years ago