To my grandson


Dear Carson,

Well, you took your time arriving, young sir, going the full distance and then some, evidently comfortable where you were, reluctant to leave your mother, unknowing that you wouldn’t be leaving her but becoming still closer to her, that you forever will be part of parcel of one another, a bond so unbreakable that your DNA is irrelevant, redundant. The same is true of your dad, so nervous in the final hours before your debut that he was more in need of sedation than your mom. It often is that way, as you presumably will learn in, oh, a score years and more.

Now, in these first score days of your presence, we of your family tip-toe about you, fearful of waking you needlessly, concerned for annoying you inadvertently, anxious to avoid interrupting the auto-didactical instinct you already are following: those blue eyes (will they go brown?) can now focus, say the experts, and we can see, or imagine we see, that you are taking in, recording everything in the codex that is your cortex.

Not that you much care but I like the shape of your hands. I see them at second base, maybe at short. Your cousins wrap their fingers around golf clubs and are doing very nicely at it, and I know that your dad wants a football player. And there’s basketball to consider, and swimming, tennis, track and all manner of sport to help that sturdy frame of yours grow stronger when you’re not flexing your most important muscle, which resides between your ears. But, see, baseball is the pursuit that simultaneously nurtures intellect and sinew. Therefore you and your team can never lose. (And, with allowances for bad hops and inside pitchers, you’ll spend less time in the emergency room).

It is not too early for you to consider your life’s work. Actually I’ve already decided it for you: you can be anything you want to be. As a very shrewd fellow likes to put it, being born in the United States puts you halfway toward whatever goal you set for yourself. I confess I hope you live a vigorous life. By that I mean an involved life. Involved in the affairs of your community, your state, your country, your world. Volunteering, giving, remembering. Learning, every day. Reading, constantly. Aware. Tolerant, respectful, show to judge. Solicitous of other views; indifferent to color, creed, nationality. Mindful of others who haven’t your advantages. Grateful for the helping hands of others, eager to extend yours. Confident without conceit. Spiritual more than denominational.

Oh — shine your shoes. Learn to iron a shirt, and, when comes the time, do not disdain the razor. The condition of your room is between your mother and you, and good luck to her.

Your cousins have enriched the lives of every life they have touched, beginning with their parents, your M’amie and me close behind. If our cup runneth over (already it has) then we simply get a bigger cup. For you not only are a son, not just a nephew and cousin, but a grandson.

Curious, something of a coincidence: my bedtime reading in the hours before your arrival was a memoir by a grandson, the namesake of an Englishman named Churchill, a great man of whom I trust you will be learning in years to come. His country was under attack — practically the entire world was at war — when his grandson was born, some 70 years ago. So perilous were the times, so great the destruction and the threat of still more, that Churchill was moved to mutter, “Poor infant, to be born into such a world as this.”

His lament was a momentary lapse, for Churchill was strong, and he believed in his country and his countrymen, and their shared future. He, and they, would never, never, never despair. Born into the world as it is on the day of your arrival — a distant but important region in conflict; your own countrymen conflicted about the course of the nation, its economy troubled; the planet’s politics and demographics changing at a speed your ancestors of the previous century could not have imagined — your elders have a full plate of opportunities disguised as crises. Yours will be a different platter, perhaps, but you will have one. Which is why my prayer is that you never despair, never surrender. I want you and your generation to believe in your country and its promise, the better to address its problems. And to believe you can make it, and the world, a better place, for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren.

For the moment, though, can’t you give your parents at least a little sleep?

Love, Granddad.

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Steve Barnes is host of Arkansas Week on AETN.