I am going to be a grandfather.
I got the call from my daughter Katie and her husband, Robert, just recently. They are in Germany, where my son-in-law is a sergeant in the U.S. Army.
The kid? When he gets here in April he will be dubbed Connor Ray Duncan. Me? I’ll be dubbed Gramps. Or Grandpa D. Dare I suggest Grandpa Big Chuck? Actually, I kind of like that one.
I’ll be 65 years old next year when the kid is still in his first onesie. And although Katie and Robert are in Germany, they’ll soon be relocated back to the States in time for Connor’s arrival.
I wonder what kind of a boy he will be. And what kind of grandfather will I be? This will be my greatest role.
Katie will no doubt be the perfect mom. Robert will take care of the “guy” stuff. He’ll teach Connor to hunt and fish, to appreciate the woods and waterways and to cheer on his favorite Georgia sports teams. And he’ll show him how to fix things, like leaky faucets and squeaky car brakes. Robert is brilliant at all that. And I’m thankful because I come up empty in all those departments.
But I have some plans for little Connor when I get my own time with him. I want to tell him about history and books and music and great films and art and museums and politics and cemeteries. Yes, cemeteries.
Cemeteries are where I have done some of my best work. Thinking-wise. They are old, beautiful and contemplative places that I have always loved to be embraced by. I can’t think of a better thing than to take young Connor by the hand on a crisp upstate autumn afternoon, put on a tweed jacket and cap and take a stroll through an old country graveyard. I’ll tell him stories about growing up in those ancient black-and-white days of my own childhood. I will tell him my own life’s tales. I’ll make him laugh and make him think. I hope he will say, “Tell me another story, Grandpa Big Chuck.” But probably he’ll just fall asleep in my lap. And that is OK.
I wonder who my grandfather role model will be. I’d like to think it would be Ward Cleaver or Cliff Huxtable or Grandpa Walton. You know, solid, avuncular men whose every word is a life lesson or moral bon mot. Men with integrity and certitude. I hope I am like these guys, but I know that crazy, old Grandpa Munster will squeak out of me every once in a while.
Katie and Robert will make great parents. She’s a flaming New York liberal and he is the classic Southern conservative. And they seem to make it work. Robert still calls me “sir” whenever we talk and he calls my wife “Mama Trish.” Southern traditions die hard. I like that.
In a way, Connor Ray Duncan is my future right before my eyes. I will probably know him for about 15 years if I am lucky. And I hope to make the most of it all. I can’t wait to take him for a drive in his great-grandfather’s 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible with the tilt-away steering wheel. Or to show him where our little family grocery store was that I began working in at age 8. I will tell him how I started there making 25 cents an hour. He’ll be amazed when I stem-wind on about where I went to school in the 1950s and how I excelled at changing the ink pads on something called the mimeograph machine.
I will take him in his stroller down to the old railroad yards in Oneonta and let him pick up a brick from the weeds as I describe the World’s Largest Roundhouse. I’ll tell him of my own childhood heroes like Jackie Robinson and John Glenn. I will sing to him the songs of John Lennon and Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash. I’ll tell him about the time I took a limousine ride with the great singer Kate Smith, and about the time that Alabama Gov. George Wallace raised his middle finger at me at a political rally and about the time I won the Gong Show.
So many stories. And just 15 years. I hope after each “boyhood tale” he will look up and say “Tell me another story, Grandpa Big Chuck.”
But I know that he’ll just fall asleep in my lap.
And that is OK.
I’ll catch you in two ...
“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching “Big Chuck.” He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.