I have been blessed with two happy, healthy adorable grandchildren. Even though I always thought I was too young to be a grandfather, I’ve embraced the role quite comfortably. Those who have experienced this joy firsthand know what I am talking about. There is nothing like it. It’s a different, deeper kind of love. It makes you realize the important things in life. All of the cliches are true.
My granddaughter Eliana, or Ellie as she is affectionately called, was the first girl born into my family in a generation. I grew up with three brothers. I didn’t have any sisters. I had two sons, no daughters. My wife quickly got used to being around all boys all the time. She was severely outnumbered on every front. It truly was a man’s world in my household – until Princess Eliana was born.
To say my granddaughter changed my world is an understatement. Not only did she breathe new life into the family, she brought a whole new perspective. Her beautiful blonde hair and big blue eyes were just icing on the cake.
Because it takes a village to raise a child in these financially trying times, my contribution was to pick Ellie up from day care on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. It was the highlight of my week. It filled me with warmth seeing her face light up when I entered her classroom.
Ellie was always a talker. She learned her ABC’s at a very young age. She loved to sing the ABC song over and over again. She was especially fond of Lmnop which she thought was one letter. On this particular Monday when I arrived at the school, the teacher said, “Ellie learned to say your name today!”
“Really,” I said. “That’s great!”
The teacher pointed at me and looked at Ellie. “Ellie, look who’s here! Who is that?”
“Pee-paw!” said Ellie with a big smile brightening her face.
“That’s right!” said the teacher.
Before my granddaughter could speak, it was preordained that Ellie would call me Grandpa. The name “Papa” was already taken by her other grandfather. “Grandpa” always sounded old to me. Grandpa was my grandfather. I was never too thrilled to be called Grandpa. So when Ellie chirped her version of my name, I was taken by surprise.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Pee-paw!” Ellie said as she ran over to give me a big hug.
My new name fit like a glove. It didn’t make me feel old. It sounded different enough from “Papa” so I would never be confused with Ellie’s other grandfather. It was easy to say and it sounded cute when my granddaughter said it. At two years old she was creating her own words. In my eyes, this little girl was a genius.
When my daughter-in-law arrived home that afternoon, I couldn’t wait to tell her the news (or let Ellie tell her).
“Ellie learned to say my name today,” I said.
“That’s fantastic!” my daughter-in-law said. She pointed at me and asked Ellie, “Who’s that?”
“Pee-paw!” Ellie said proudly.
“Yes,” I said. “That’s my name. It has officially been decreed by Princess Eliana from this day forth I shall be known as Pee-paw.”
“I kind of like it,” said Ellie’s mother.
“Me too,” I said.
“Pee-paw! Pee-paw! Pee-paw!” sang Ellie.
I love my new name. It’s unusual. It’s offbeat. It has an old world tribal quality to it. And if I ever apply to Harvard Law School, I will have no problem checking off the box that says I’m 1/32 Cherokee. According to my granddaughter anyway.