Editorial December 2012
Intensity is a wonderful thing, except when you need to turn it off. As one who has long been aware of his own “intense” tendencies, that’s certainly been my experience.
But I have good news for you today, my friends. Are you one of those compulsive people who sometimes wakes in the middle of the night and edits your “to do” list? Is checking on the latest storm warnings just before the hurricane strikes your idea of “down time”? Do you feel guilty when you call for a medical appointment during working hours … even though that’s the only time your doctor’s office is open and you haven’t had a physical for three years? Well if that’s your problem, Bunkie, I have a solution for you. It’s called grandchildren!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I thought this guy was about to tell me something useful, and instead he’s just another smitten grandparent. These folks are certifiable. They don’t need attention; they need their own clinical diagnosis in DSM-IV. Let’s leave now, before he breaks out the pictures and starts recounting his grandchildren’s latest miraculous achievements, like the first time his little princess managed to put the right end of the spoon in her mouth.
OK, OK, I plead guilty to the smitten grandparent part. Like you, for years and years I listened patiently but skeptically as otherwise seemingly normal people revealed themselves to be unwitting victims of grandchild infatuation syndrome. Moreover, I’ve found the patient part of the assignment increasingly demanding, thanks to the advent of the digital camera. Whereas a quick glance at a dozen or so pictures once concluded the video portion of the “cute grandchild appreciation” program, today’s often involves a tour of the last 100 photos. Trust me, I get it.
Short is what you need, and short is what you’ll get. What is it about grandchildren that helps cure intensity? They change your perspective. Ridiculous, you say, once intense, always intense. What is there about being a grandparent that can miraculously accomplish what none of my other major life experiences have been able to achieve?
That’s a tough question, and I’m not sure I know the answer, but I think it has something to do with the restoration of a sense of wonder about life, and love, and the meaning of it all. At one level, there is nothing miraculous about a small child learning how to properly wield a spoon. It happens every day. But there is another level, that of watching a tiny little person-in-the-making—one who belongs to you—learn on her own how to manipulate a tool whose name she does not even know or comprehend. From that perspective, one that comes naturally to this grandparent, it is a completely miraculous event.
So here’s my promise, dear reader. If we run into one another at ALA Midwinter or elsewhere, I’ll do my best to keep the grandchild stories short. And if I fail, just do your best to smile, and to appreciate that it’s all for a good cause, the best intensity cure I’ve ever found.—IER