We talk about "family trees," but even a tree is far too simple a symbol to capture the real complexity of a family. Maybe a vine would be better. Or a network of circles that overlap and link together into complex patterns.
Or a weaving, with its beginning lost in the past, its end undetermined somewhere far into the future, and its present a complicated tangle of interconnected threads. It is created from ties of blood, ties of marriage, and, above all, ties of love. They connect, overlap, blend, and sometimes clash in a complex mixture of colors and textures that create an ever-changing pattern.
And that may be a nice little bit of analogy, but actually a family is more like a sweater knit by a committee. Each person uses a different pattern, a different type and color of yarn, and different size needles, and there's always someone who shows up with a crochet hook. The finished garment might end up with seven sleeves and no neck opening–but it will be one of a kind.
All this imagery is an attempt to put into words my feelings about the arrival on July 21, 2011, of grandchild number ten: Jack Allen.
Since his father is my stepson, Jack is "my" grandson. He's also "my" grandson to his mother's parents, his father's mother, and his father's stepdad. And his father's father, whose thread in the family weaving was abruptly broken off nearly nine years ago.
Wayne will never get to hold this newest grandchild in his big, competent hands and grin at him with the smile that started in his bright blue eyes. Jack won't get to know the grandfather whose middle name he shares.
But he's there, nevertheless, just as we other grandparents are. Along with the rest of the family, we're all part of the pattern that right now comes together in this new baby.
Maybe that's a little too much heavy thinking for one little guy who isn't even a full day old yet. So, while Jack is getting to know his mom and his dad, the rest of us in the complicated connections that make up his family can wait a while.
For now, let's just keep it simple: He's here. His name is Jack. As in "Jeepers, he's cute." As in "Jump up and down with excitement," the way his father did right after his birth. As in Joy.
Welcome, Jack Allen. Your families are Jubilant about you.