Our son and his wife celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary this weekend and I had the distinct honor of hosting my almost two year old grandson while they took some needed respite from parenthood. Noah was the perfect house guest and in the eyes of his Grandpa is really very close to perfect. When he looks at you with his almond shaped clear blue eyes and takes your hand and says, “Come on Pa,” what are you going to do?
You are going to go to the zoo early in the day to avoid the oppressive Texas heat, you are going to take him to the grocery store for snacks you think he will like, you are going to go to the park and slide down the slide that is just barely wide enough for your behind and you are going to revel in him clapping his hands saying, “Yeah” and “More.”
I’m not sure why, maybe I just needed to sit down and breathe and was burned out on “Dora the Explorer” but on his last day here I popped in an old VHS Christmas tape (yes, I still have a VCR) Marty and I made with the kids way back when. We made the tape to send to family and close friends for Christmas of 1994, its one step more narcissistic than the Christmas letter.
The tape was originally my idea, just something different the Christmas letter to bring our faces to people we would not be seeing for the holidays. Marty, took a good idea and made it better by adding humor, wit and sharpness to the family production. She often made my ideas better; I just refused to believe it at the time.
The tape has the four of us parodying our lives at the time. We have the typical 15 year old boy learning to drive with his mother wearing a crash helmet, the 12 year old girl constantly on the phone and me lip syncing Silent Night with Matt, Erin and Marty as my back-up singers. Family and friends watched it, family and friends smiled and laughed. It typified life with Marty, just a little bit over the top.
I wanted Noah to watch it because it was one of the tapes I knew we had with Marty on it, the Marty before she was sick, the Grandma I want Noah and Lily and the baby to be named later to know. I wanted Noah to see Grandma when she could walk, talk clearly and laugh easily.
I know he recognized me because he pointed and said “Pa”. I know he didn’t recognize his peach fuzzed 15 year old father to be, I don’t think he made the connection with Grandma, with Marty, she was too different for his two year old mind.
I watched this little eight minute tape with Noah and watched as my wife talked and laughed on the television. I watched as she nuzzled her face next to mine and snickered at the idea of making this video and generally acted silly.
My tears surprised me. I have seen this video before; it’s a prized possession because of what it contains, my wife smiling, my wife laughing, my wife. The tears welled, a small catch in the throat, pressure, then tears gently rolled down my cheeks. The depth of my emotion surprised me a bit.
I wiped the tears, watched the video as Noah ran circles around me. Watching the snippets of our past helps me understand where we have been and reminds me of the imperfect but rich lives we had. Watching Noah, he of the smooth, alabaster skin, of the easy smile, of the blue eyes reminds me of the blessings of our present and how Marty’s life, her essence will continue.
Watching and remembering the tracks of our lives always leaves me feeling, deeply. Watching Marty as she was makes me wish I had been better at living in the moment back then. Watching the past makes me regret the time wasted with minutia. Being aware of what “used to be” pushes me to spend my time enjoying the simple pleasures of being with the people we love. Noah didn’t recognize Marty in the video, but I did, and those memories make every day with her important.