"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." -- Charles Dickens
Two of the young women whom I love most are at present "with child."
Our daughter Susan's second child is due in January 2012. We are reliably informed she will be presenting a sister for Elijah.
Our fifth daughter, Lisa (she of the in-law persuasion), has her first due in March 2012. In this writer's observations there is nothing more beautiful than a young mother with her first baby.
Of course we worry about them and pray daily for the well being of each mother and child, and a baby in the house is always an occasion for great joy.
But, deep in a grandfather's heart are always certain trepidations. By the time you are old enough to be a great-grandparent you have seen enough of life to know that both joy and tribulation are ahead for all new parents. We fear for our children not because we sent them forth unprepared, but because by our age we see the past once more predicting the future. That future does not look bright.
It is not a good time to bring new life into the world. The world is in furious chaos, and does not know it. The world is in futile conflict, and does not know it. The world is in final convulsion, and does not know it. It is not a good time to bring new life into the world.
In the years when Kay and I began our family, in the poetry of Bob Dylan, "The times they are a-changin." Changing in ways we of the 1950s could not have imagined. These were days of protest and discontent, unjustified war and intolerably unjust segregation were challenged in ways that might well bring down governments and Presidents. It was not a good time to bring new life into the world.
This week it will be sixty-eight years since my own birth. I don't think of myself as that old, but it does sound like a very long time when you say it out loud. In the year I was born war raged from one end of the earth to the other, the United States of America alone had perhaps 16 million men and women at arms or in related service. There was no family in the nation, in the world, which went unaffected. And don't kid yourself, either; no one knew what the outcome might be. That generation born Twenties and reared in the Great Depression faced a world in which Nazi tyranny and Japanese warlords might yet win the day, dominate the world, and threaten all for which mankind fought. It was not a good time to bring new life into the world.
In all of this I probably differ none from my own parents and grandparents: We worry for them because what lies now behind us is what our children have yet in front of them. At the same time we are glad for them in their journey and seek only their happiness. Like all men of this uncertain age we look at how impossible it would have been to transverse sixty-eight years of best of times and worst of times without Kenneth, Nathan, Matthew, Susan, and Benjamin.
French novelist Alphonse Karr wrote, "The more things change the more they remain the same."
I take this to mean that if there is no best of times for a birthday, neither is there a worst of times.