About three weeks ago I wrote about the impending birth of my grandson, Enzo, which was to take place on 8/9/10. Apparently Enzo might be a baseball pitcher, because he threw us a curve and came a day early.
Enzo and I were introduced to each other two weeks later. Few things in life are as humbling as holding a newborn baby in your arms. When I held my own for the first time I thought of Stevie Wonder’s lyrics: I can’t believe what God has done, Through us he’s given life to one. If anything can replace that feeling of holding your own child, it is holding your child’s child.
Here we are, Enzo and me. My hand dwarfs his whole upper body. He’s a golf ball in my catcher’s mitt. His arms swing con brio like Max Bragado-Darman leading the Monterey Symphony. With his name, Enzo Braga, he could become a conductor.
My daughter says he can see objects about 8 inches away. Uh-oh, he can see my nose — if he thinks it’s a breast he’s in for a big disappointment.
So, Enzo. I see some similarities between us — dark eyes, olive skin, your hair is dark, but mine was, too, way back in the 20th century. Some of your DNA traveled from different places than mine — the Philippines, maybe Portugal, even from Ireland through one of your grandmothers.
I look deeply into your eyes and see a long line of descendents stretching far behind me, a relentless parade of hushed figures stepping where my feet fall as if I pipe a tune they must follow. I search for signs that bind us together: swarthy, Mediterranean olive skin; dark eyes; stubbled chins that reddened fair faces from Venice to Verona; a line of men who help me understand why I hitch my pants like a Sicilian peasant.
Some may have crossed the sea, risked death on scimitars to return with Semitic women who implanted in me a renegade gene that makes me listen plaintively to the muezzin’s call to prayer from a minaret. I know the man directly behind me. His dreams, the last to wither, launched me into his frail expectations. He had a time, a time alone, and a time he walked with me. His predecessor is not so clearly drawn. Yet, my dawn brightened his dusk as your dawn casts a light into my dusk.
I cannot identify the rest of the nameless queue, featureless, faceless, used-up lengths in the moving chain to which my soul is shackled. They lived in hovels, worked like dogs, broken by landowners, defrauded into dirt, swindled into prayerless poverty, entrapped by priests and whores, cowed by bullies, descended into depravity, duped by grappa, deceived by women … that is, when they were not breaking, cheating, swindling, groping, robbing and betraying women.
See what you have to overcome? Perhaps these words will help: Walk straighter. Stand taller. Listen to little ones. Hear the crystal song of daylight breaking. Inhale a flower’s fresh breath. Treat women with the gentle strength of a crocus. Treat them well. Respond to their tenderness, their graceful endurance. Say one true thing each day. Savor friends. Be serene as the sea at sunset, but scold the coming of the night. Walk with God.
Enzo smiles. Or is it gas. Either way, we are one.