How my grandson is saving me

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Grandson Jonah, with Jeanie Gushee. Photo by David P. Gushee

Grandson Jonah, with Jeanie Gushee. Photo by David P. Gushee

My 20-month-old grandson Jonah is saving me. I don’t think that’s too strong a way to say it.

He is saving me from weariness with late middle-aged life.

He is saving me from weariness with my scholar-teacher-writer-activist-controversialist life.

He is saving me from weariness with American culture and politics.

He is saving me from what is for me the most dangerous weariness of all, that is, weariness with the church and Christians.

For Jonah, there is no weariness except when it is time to take a nap.

He is not weary of his life because everything is a new discovery.

He is not weary with his tasks because his only tasks are to learn about his world and walk around without hurting himself.

He is not weary of American politics because he is blissfully unaware of them. Because we are committed to never harming our grandson, we do not allow him to see political news, talk, ads, or candidates. Not kidding.

He is not weary of any human being because all human beings are a new adventure for him. Each has a new face to learn. Each offers a new challenge in smile elicitation.

Each day Jonah takes another bite of the apple of knowledge.

He learns a new word or solidifies his understanding of a word or how to say it.

He learns how to make trains race around our little railroad track, how to make the Legos go in their little green slots, and how to name the two dozen or so family members who keep wanting to hold him.

He learns how to communicate what he needs as well as how to understand what others need.

He learns that when he gets to giggling, entire rooms full of adults become crazy with hilarity. This is a great power to possess in the world.

My wife Jeanie and I have been blessed with three children. They were born in 1988, 1990, and 1992.

I think Jeanie would tell you that I was a very engaged and loving father. But I think she would also tell you, as I am telling you now, that at that stage of life, as I was on that upward professional climb, I was often distracted, exhausted, stressed, or absent.

Our children were very little when I was writing my doctoral dissertation at night while working during the day, getting about five hours of sleep a night.

They were not much older when I was trying to figure out how to survive a first teaching assignment at the turbulent Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Then my career stabilized and I started to hit the lecture circuit. So I was gone — a lot. Jeanie would ask me to throttle it back. I would tell her that I’d try, and then get yet another can’t-miss invitation. I never missed birthdays or holidays but I did miss altogether too many other days.

And if I was working at home on some writing project, I would sometimes be frustrated by the pitter-patter of little feet or the sounds of loud childhood play.

But now, there is nothing more important to me on a given workday than seeing my grandson, whom Jeanie is now caring for each weekday in our home.

If Little Dude wants to see Pops, Pops wants to see Little Dude. Everything else can wait.

Work used to seem so important. Climbing professional hills used to be so critical.

Now all I want to do is hold my 20-month-old grandson. I want to giggle with him, read books about Spot the Dog with him, take walks with him.

One day, soon probably, I will return to my work with a new sense of purpose. After all, this little guy was born in 2014. He might well live to the year 2100. What will be the state of our climate, our world, our country, 86 years from now? What am I doing today to make a world for him that Jonah and his generation might want to live in?

I will get there. But right now, all I want to do is push him on the little bucket swing and watch him smile and hear him say “Whoa.”

Yes, I do believe my grandson is saving me.