Carnett: Even Rockwell would be proud

It's what grandfathers do.

I sat in my easy chair the other morning, savoring a cup of muddy java while reading the newspaper. Our youngest daughter, Melissa, sat across from me with her 9-week-old son tucked snugly in her arms, feeding him a bottle. She was busy cooing to him, talking baby talk and singing snippets of favorite 1960s Top 40 hits.

Oops, my bad!

Those weren't the tunes of her misspent youth; they were the tunes of mine! My wife Hedy and I, exhibiting suitable responsibility, inculcated those songs into her childhood experience. She and her two sisters were subjected to '60s rock music on "oldies" radio stations — and eight-track tape decks — during innumerable family road trips.

It's called passing one's culture to the next generation, and I did it dutifully.

The aforementioned living room scene — a blessing beyond description for this crusty grandpappy — is rightfully where we all should end up at some point in the latter stages of life. That's if we live life scripts according to ones fabricated by Thornton Wilder or Norman Rockwell.

Unfortunately, that's not how things work out in the real world.

I felt particularly fortunate the other morning to share my living room and leisure moments with Melissa and squirmy Judah James.

Melissa, Judah and 7-year-old granddaughter, Selah, visited Hedy and me last week. Our normally quiet household was once again alive with giggly laughter, a baby's cries and sounds of mind-numbing Disney Channel programming. It was great!

A number of months ago, in a savvy career move, Melissa and her hubby moved a couple of states to the east of Zzyzx. We miss them terribly. Eight years ago an older daughter and her husband and their four youngsters moved three time zones to the east — to where the Gulf Stream gently (except during hurricane season) laps the shores of North America.

Thankfully, our eldest daughter and her two little girls remain ensconced — for good we hope! — in Orange County.

My mom and dad were lucky. All three of their kids — as well as their seven grandchildren — resided for decades within an hour's drive of the Carnett Clan Compound in Costa Mesa. Not many American families today can lay claim to such a distinction.

In fact, if you happen to be a member of one of those rare families not divided by preciously accrued air miles, I suggest you take time to thank Providence for your good fortune.

Each time Hedy and I visit North Carolina our 13-year-old grandson has grown another 6 inches. He's already taller than most male adults in our family, with four to six more growing seasons ahead. A couple of months ago his junior high coach told him he needed to start shaving.

And, how about our 7 -year-old granddaughter? Last time we were on the East Coast she had a gaping hole where her front teeth used to be. Three weeks ago when we returned she had a pair of industrial-strength adult teeth filling the space and fighting one another for limited beachfront access.

Or, what about our 12-year-old granddaughter who this time had sprouted braces and a cell phone permanently attached to her ear. Lord, have mercy!

Everything happens during the gaps when we're not there. Can't they just remain the size they were when last we saw them?

Hedy has done something particularly endearing with our telephone answering machine. Our almost-14-year-old grandson has always loved leaving us enthusiastic voicemails when we weren't home. As a result, we have a large cache of messages (we didn't dare delete any of them!) recorded at ages 10, 11, 12 and 13.

During a 10-minute recorded rite of passage you can now hear him enter, transit and officially graduate from puberty. He goes from boy soprano to full-throated manhood in one sitting. It takes my breath away!

Last week I watched Judah James enjoy a bottle of formula in his mother's arms. In the blink of an eye he'll be acquiring teeth and growing a mustache.

Life comes at you at warp speed!

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.

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