Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grandparenthood: The Prequel

Nobody’s happier than a new parent. You think for the rest of your life you’re going to have another person in the world who not only loves you, but who looks to you for guidance and support. No new parent realizes he or she’s going to have about 12 years of bliss, followed by half a dozen or so years of hell, and then get abandoned.

When I used to commute down to San Francisco from Santa Rosa, 55 miles to the north, each morning to process words at the Bay Area’s biggest fascist law firm, I would customarily request an exotic new destination each morning as I boarded. I would say, for instance, “Monte Carlo, please,” or, “Acapulco, please,” and the driver would chuckle ruefully. Charmed by my wit, he became friendly with me, and I’d occasionally take the seat right behind him so we could chat. When he confided on one occasion that his teenaged daughter, who’d adored him wildly all her life to that point, had recently turned on him, I thought that could never happen to me, as Brigitte and I were closer than any daddy and daughter in human history. On the first day of middle school, she held my hand as I walked her to her first class. When one of her classmates gave her a hard time about it, she was unapologetic. She explained, “Well, I love him,” and asked if her classmate had a problem with that. All was going according to plan.

And continued to do so for maybe three more weeks, whereupon she became a seething little ball of hate around me. Driving up to collect her after school on a Friday afternoon, I’d be giddy with the thought of seeing her. Then she’d get in the car, approximately as eagerly as a person reporting for open heart surgery, and mumble disgusted monosyllables in response to my asking how she was and what was new. But at least she was speaking to me, which she ceased to do as a senior in high school.

What a lot of people don’t realize, or at least don’t acknowledge, about grandparenthood is that it presents a wonderful opportunity to get back at your child for having trampled on your heart. I’m not sure that my daughter even suspects yet how I’ve been trying to ensure that her own kids, Todd and Maureen, 10 and 8, respectively, will cause her heart to ache at least half again as much as made mine ache. I’ve already got Todd smoking half a pack of Kools per day, and have told him that if Mommy smells them on his breath and demands an explanation, he’s to burst into furious tears and say, “And here I thought we were living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship!” In a similar vein, I have told Maureen that school is for losers, and that she ought to be thinking in terms of supplanting Lady Gaga or at least Miley Cyrus at the top of the hit parade. When she points out that she can’t carry a tune or dance, and really enjoys reading (indeed, at a grade level far above her own), I point out that the inability to sing didn’t stop Madonna any more than being abnormally short, with a voice kind of like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist, stopped Stevie Nicks, and that reading will make her cross-eyed, and that no boy will want to go out with a cross-eyed girl, and that she might not want to think in terms of boys anyway, as lesbianism has become increasingly stylish since Melissa Etheridge embraced it all those years ago. If she claims never to have heard of Melissa Etheridge, I will urge her with a wink to shut up and finish her vodka smoothie.

Neither grandchild has yet exhibited much enthusiasm for crack, but that may be just as well, as I’m always a little apprehensive driving with them into the neighborhood where it’s sold. I’ve been watching and hugely enjoying Breaking Bad lately, and wonder if crystal meth might be the better choice anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Wicked granddaddy ...

    You may have got Todd to smoke a packet of fags but our Tory Minister Ken Clarke got a generation of Chinese kids to smoke BAT ciggies, and now he's in government.