Granddaughters can be unnerving.
Eclipsing even the considerable skills honed by their mothers and grandmothers over the decades, granddaughters can cut their grandfathers down to size in a single unguarded moment.
The other day, for instance, my 7-year-old granddaughter, Eva, sat beside me on the couch scrutinizing the deep crevices of my ancient face. She was fascinated. Unexpectedly, she emitted a sharp little yelp.
"Opa!" she squealed, brimming with wonder. "Do you know that you have a hair growing on your nose?"
Not under my nose, mind you. Not in my nose. On my nose.
Oh, the humanity!
"Well, uh, yes, I guess I have known that for some time," I stammered as I faced my accuser. As a rule, I try not to look too closely at my visage. I subscribe to the axiom: What I don't know can't hurt me. It's my personal defense against nature's appalling inequities.
Eva couldn't take her beautiful hazel eyes off my nose. She was transfixed. Unfortunately, sitting next to us on the couch was Eva's oma, my wife, Hedy.
"Let me see," Hedy eagerly intruded, as she somewhat indelicately pulled my face toward hers. "Eva is right, dear," she confirmed after a brief inspection. "You have a hair growing on top of your nose."
Now, three of us — make that four or five when my readership becomes fully informed — know my dirty little secret.
As my wife examined my mid-face Scarlet Letter, she giggled and said, "How strange."
Hedy sprang to her feet and hustled to the bathroom. She returned with a pair of tweezers, and the situation was soon rectified. I need not describe her corrective in detail. Suffice it to say my proboscis no longer harbors an errant whisker.
I tell this story to illustrate the fact that we grandfathers willingly abide myriad humiliations for the express purpose of indulging our sweet granddaughters. We wouldn't permit similar indignities heaped on us by grandsons.
Grandfathers have special relationships with granddaughters. I should know; I have six between the ages of 2 and 12. I've always considered myself a soft touch for my three daughters. Now, with six granddaughters, I don't stand a chance.
For instance, I'm called "opa" because of my wife's Dutch/Indonesian heritage. Our daughters, as they grew up, called Hedy's father and mother opa and oma, respectively — Dutch endearments for "grandpa" and "grandma". Our daughter taught this to our first grandchild — a boy — in the cradle.
But my eldest three granddaughters have added a twist. Over the past couple of years, they've taken to calling me "opie-dopey." Why? I'm not sure, but they delight in it.
Those three girls live in North Carolina and each displays a thick southern drawl, yet they purposely fabricate "Noo Yawk" accents and regale me with: "How ya doin', opie dopey?" They think this is hilarious.
Me? I'm just a simple opa. I've learned to roll with the punches.
How about playing tea party? Yeah, I've learned to do that, even to the point of employing a hoisted pinky with my teacup. I slurp with judiciousness.
Or how about sitting quietly and watching impromptu living room dance recitals or choreographed renditions of "High School Musical," "Wicked" or "Les Miz?" Yep. Been there too.
Monopoly? I used to be the most ferocious player at that board game ever. As the banker, I'd steal blind my little brother and his friend from across the street. I'd rack up utilities and railroads, houses and hotels — and lotsa dough. Now, when I play the girls, I'm Mr. Pushover. I literally give my assets away.
Me win? Never.
The younger granddaughters love to play tic-tac-toe with me. Boy, Opa is dumb! What a nimrod. He always puts his "O" (Opa never gets to employ an "X") in the wrong box. The girls score three X's in a row with regularity.
The occasional "cat's game" is Opa's sole means for salvaging self-respect — which, come to think of it, he hasn't had much of since retirement.
Still, there's significant payoff.
I may be decidedly deficient in the dignity department, but as Opa … I rule!
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.