I’m allergic to joyfulness and have been for years. It’s one reason I love cycling. You can have a good time on the bike, but it’s always in the context of some larger unpleasantness. Sometimes the misery is contact with the pavement, sometimes it’s contact with other people.
Hey, life’s a bitch. You’re born, you get old, you die, and you’re forgotten.
So when it comes to pure, unadulterated joy, I’m not your guy, which is why having a grandson has been so difficult. No matter how I try to find the negative, it comes up sugar.
No matter how grimly I try to fit this experience into the framework of cosmic irrelevance, hope and joy bubble to the surface. It’s like going to a bike race where you actually win, and where everyone is happy for you, even your teammates who did everything they could to chase you down at San Dimas. In other words, it’s not like a bike race at all.
Having had three kids, I wonder what’s changed? How did I not notice any of this before? Where the fuck was I?
- You are older. A lot.
- You were even more clueless then than now (incredible, but true).
- Riding my bike.
It’s hard to articulate the joy of a grandchild. He is so fat. How fat is he? He has rolls on his ankles and wrists. Why is it okay for grandbabies to have fat ankles and necks and wrists, but not for adults? I don’t know. Maybe because the adults sweat and have moles with hair growing out of them and blackheads? I just know that I don’t want to nuzzle some adult’s bellyroll, or daub their flabby triceps across my chin.
I’ve tried to focus on how exhausting he is as a negative, for example. They say it takes a village but that isn’t true. It takes as few as one person and as many as a zillion, because babies can vacuum up all the energy in the room. Whether it’s one or infinity, no number of adults can supply the vacuum-sponge of a baby, who will leave each adult spent and exhausted, especially old grandparents who didn’t start the day with much vim anyway.
But the exhaustion isn’t like staggering off a bike and collapsing face-first into a plate of meat sauce, or coming home from work and flopping like a dead fish on the sofa. It’s the most gratifying exhaustion I’ve ever felt.
It’s the only gratifying exhaustion I’ve ever felt.
And when my grandson smiles and laughs, the whole world laughs with him, even his crusty and sour old grandfather. “Where is the down side to baby laughter? There has to be one, doesn’t there?” I wonder. And I got nothin’.
In fact, as I listen to his voice, my vulture’s croak is overpowered by a warbling birdsong that rushes over it in a torrent, reminding me of love.
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