I Could Have Had Another Meeting, But Then…
Two weeks ago I returned from seven days with two precious granddaughters. I watched over them while their mom and dad were at a pastor’s retreat. Because the gods smiled on me, I got to see them again last week. Since they live close by, I see the other three more often. I adore all five granddaughters, but over the last couple of years there have been more than a few changes in my relationship with them.
Some changes arrived with my gender transition. When Grandpa became GramPaula, the adjustment for the girls was less traumatic than I feared. Their parents did a great job preparing them. In fact, once they met me their adjustment was pretty much instantaneous. Not to say there were not some interesting conversations. Like the time we were in a public restroom and one granddaughter asked, “Hey GramPaula, are you allowed to be in a women’s restroom if you used to be a boy?” We had a little conversation about private versus public conversations.
I know I risk pandering to stereotypes, but as a father I felt a deep need to provide for my family, to keep them clothed and fed, safe and secure. I loved spending time with my children and I knew each of them very well, more than many fathers I’m sure, but providing for my family took precedence over nurturing. While this has probably been true of fathers since the dawn of humanity, I now find myself able to take at least a peak from the other side.
I’m sure some of the changes are simply because I am now semi-retired, with more time available to my grandchildren. But there is more to it. There are chemical changes brought about by the arrival of estradiol and the departure of testosterone. I do not know how to define these changes other than to say all five senses are heightened when I am in the presence of my granddaughters. There is an awareness that is deeper and more tangibly experienced than anything I knew as a father or grandfather. It’s as though I can see into their hearts and feel the timbre of their expectant souls. I cherish each moment with unspeakable joy.
As comfortable as the girls are with me, I notice a difference in how they relate to their Grandma. They are a bit more free with her body, (though they are pretty comfortable with mine. Last Friday my back served as a surfboard for four little feet. “Come on GramPaula, make some waves!”) But I must admit their little bodies do fit a little more snugly in Grandma’s embrace. I assume it is because of who she is, this person who always gives. It is also because she is a mother, with all the instincts and rights thereof. That is one of the many aspects of female experience I will never know.
As for me, I’m happy to be in a position in which I can truly attend to these five little lives. Last Friday morning I could have had a business meeting. The folks I was with the day before, women I thoroughly enjoy, were open to meeting again. But I declined their generous offer because I was in New York and had a chance to let my son relax while his wife went to work. So I fixed breakfast, finished making their lunches, and walked the girls to school in the 20-degree weather, two precious gloved hands resting in mine. Why work when you can begin your day with a little bit of heaven?
Dad, Grandpa or GramPaula, my children and grandchildren have been the finest blessing of my long and fulfilling life. They make me grateful to live and have my being here on God’s green earth, where I have heard many little voices laughing and known the unspeakable joy of love offered without condition.
There are still days in which it is difficult to accept how much pain I have brought into the lives of those I love, but then I am struck by the grace offered to me by Cathy and my children and their spouses. And I remember that to these little girls, I’m just who I am. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Paul or Paula. And that feels like pure goodness sliding into my life on some myseriously generous moonbeam.
And so it goes.