The early morning birth of my first grandchild, my granddaughter, Madeline Marie Gregory, was a profound experience. For many years I had hoped to have a grandchild, a link to the future, a connection from my beloved deceased grandparents, a deep connection in the future, spanning more than a century. After that birth, I experienced overwhelming feelings of relief that my genetic makeup could survive, relief accompanied by achievement and pride … the satisfaction of a desire, a longing that had deep genetic roots, I think.
As Madeline grew, I grew up too, becoming a loving grandfather, a new role for me. He would embrace her with great pride and loving hope for her future. I would rock her and sing to her, no known song, just something I made up, a song … possibly unique to her. “Madeline, sweet little Madeline, sweet little Madeline, she’s a bundle of joy, Madeline, sweet little Madeline, everyone loves Madeline, she’s a bundle of joy.” I felt that the simple song would help incorporate a feeling that she was loved and accepted by all, and that feeling would remain deep within her psyche and maintain her trust throughout her life.
Madeline soon revealed that she had her own personality, her unique way of seeing the world. I first noticed it when they let me care for Madeline, as her parents took a short day trip and my wife, Kathy Marie, was working at the post office. I realized it was important to change Madeline’s diaper. He hadn’t done that in 25 years and that experience was infamous. I called Kathy and asked her to come home. She told me to change it myself. Damned! I laid Madeline on a towel on the floor, opened her diaper, and began to gag, vomit, make strange noises, and feel a little more nauseous. I didn’t even know Madeline could say more than a word or two, but she looked at me and said condescendingly, “Oooh Daddy!” It was like he was making fun of me for having a weak stomach.
The next funny experience came when we were in a big local store … I think Madeline was about four years old. My wife, Kathy and Mary, my mother in law, were there. Towards the end of our shopping we had difficulty locating Mary. Kathy asked little Madeline to help us find Grandma Mary. Madeline was ready to hunt. Kathy asked what she was looking for and Madeline responded quickly and seriously, “White hair and old skin.”
Over the years, Madeline never stopped amusing us. With his logic and frankness, it was as if every statement he made was from a perspective we had never considered.