A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker



Do I look any different to you today?

Sound different?

Seem different?

Am I acting . . . you know . . . differently?

I should. I'm different today. I even have a different name. I'm Becky's Grandpa.

And I'm different.

No, I haven't suddenly taken to wearing a fedora. I didn't feel an overwhelming compulsion to drive slowly in the freeway's fast lane on the way to work this morning. I'm not sporting a comb- over. I've still got all my teeth. I don't own a single Lawrence Welk album. I'm not looking for ways to sneak more bran into my diet. And I can't remember ever having referred to some youngster (that means anyone under 40) as a whipper -snapper.

Whatever that is.

The differences I'm experiencing go much deeper than that, and are subtly manifest. Like the feeling in my heart for this adorable baby girl, our first grandchild. It's . . . different than what I expected. Going into grandparenthood , I assumed I would feel the same sort of feelings for my son's child that I feel for my nieces and nephews, who I love dearly, yet distantly. But the feeling that floods my heart every time I think of little Rebecca Lynne is more closely akin to the love I have for my own children. It is that deep, and that profound. In less than 48 hours, she has become a major focus in my life and has stolen a huge hunk of my heart. For always.

And that makes me different. At the very least, it makes me want to be different. Better. Wiser. Smarter. More loving. More generous with my time and means. More compassionate.

You know . . . grandfatherly .

I never had much of a relationship with any of my grandparents, so I'm not exactly sure what that means. But I've seen terrific grandparents in my family and in my neighborhood, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what it takes and that I don't have what it takes. Not yet. But I think I can get there. I'll have to make a lot of changes some major adjustments, some minor course corrections but with Becky's help I can become the grandpa she deserves.

And what better time to make those changes than now? New Year's Day always dawns bright with promise, hope and unvarnished potential. It is a clean page, a blank canvas, an empty screen stop me when I get to your favorite metaphor. It is a chance to begin, or if you've already begun and failed, it is a chance to begin again.

More than anything else, however, New Year's Day is a chance to change. Especially this year when we usher in a new year, a new decade, a new century and a new millennium-simultaneously. It is the Mother of all New Years, a celebration that cries out for meaningful observance. And what could be more meaningful than to boldly embrace the new year/decade/century/millennium as a New You cleansed by change, different by design?

That's what I'm going to celebrate this New Year's Day: a Happy New and Improved Me. I'm going to be different, but not just for the sake of being different. I'm going to be different for my sake and for my family's sake. But mostly, I'm going to be different for Becky's sake.

Even though she is just . . . you know . . . a whipper-snapper.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and