My children have often heard me say, “Your Grammy is not the woman who raised me.”  This expression has many interpretations that include your grammy is more patient, flexible, available, and/or free with her purse than the mother I remember as a child.  This generational delta expresses itself across time, families and cultures.  Traditionally, grandparents have more experience, money and expertise than the parents who actually have to live with the children in question.  Bill Cosby offers his typically hysterical account of the contrast between how his father parented him as compared to how Grandpa Cosby treats the grandchildren.  Likewise, Popsie pampers my children in a way entirely distinct from my upbringing.

Being in The Villages with my father this week, I have several times thought about the distinctions between how my dad interacts with our four children and how I perceived him as a child.  I have always been something of a daddy’s girl.  I have long adored my father and basked in the warmth of his pride.  His eyes can still transport me to that time in a blink of their blue.  There is something dense and heady when he looks at me in a flash of gestalt awareness and sees me in a new way.  Even as a child, I could register the surprise in his eyes as they measured that I had done something he did not know I could master, or when I exceeded his expectations of quality.  Likewise, there was ice in his gaze when I made choices that disappointed him.  I knew my father had high standards for himself and his children.  I internalized his drive, but not his precision.  As such, it was always something of a thrill for me to surpass his bar.

One of the times I remember most clearly was when I was cast as the Lion in The Wizard of Oz. I was 10 at the time, my parents were still together, and they both worked full time.  Our pace was latch key and brisk, so neither of them had access to my rehearsals at home or school.  Another mom offered to let me use an old Halloween costume for the show, so neither of them saw me in character before the night of the play.  Even from the stage, I could see his eyes wide in surprise. With each solo, and The Lion gets three baby, I sang as if he were the only one in the room.  As far as I was concerned, it was true enough, and his joy gave me courage to sing like The King of the Forest.  He took us to Tinkler’s for a hot fudge sundae afterward to celebrate.  I had extra chopped nuts on mine, as many as I wanted.  Hot fudge had never and has never ever tasted so sweet.  Ice cream kissed my mouth like sweet lipstick as he looked at me with delight, smiled at me and shook his head.  It was one of those times his eyes were thirsty and drank me into his heart.  It was one of my childhood’s finest moments.  It was dear and rare, like fine wine, and I still remember its heady glow.

It is not dear or rare when he looks at my children.  When my father puts his eyes on my babies, there is pure and constant delight.  His heart is always thirsty for their whimsy, beauty and antics.  His ears don’t bristle when they get too loud, his brow does not creased when they ask for something, and his eyes polka blue fire.  His eyes light on them like a butterfly dances on flower petals.  It is a graceful exchange made possible only through metamorphosis. My caterpillar father is a Monarch grandfather.

I love my father’s eyes.

I recall an Amy Grant song she made popular before she went pop:

Her Father’s Eyes

I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl.
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world.
But that’s all right as long as I can have one wish I pray.
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say.

CHORUS:
She’s got her Father’s eyes, her Father’s eyes
Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around.
Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can’t be found.
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain.
Knowin’ what you’re going through, and feeling it the same.
Just like my Father’s eyes, my Father’s eyes, my Father’s eyes
Just like my Father’s eyes.

And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,
Good and bad they’ll all be had to see by everyone
And when you’re called to stand and tell just what you saw in me,
More than anything I know, I want your words to be

REPEAT CHORUS

I have not always been my father’s dream for his little girl.

And my life may not fulfill every wish he had for my world.

But that’s all right as long as I can have his love for mine.

My father’s eyes delight in his grandbabies.

He has been positioned by time and role to love them in a new way.

My Father has touched my father’s eyes.

Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around.

Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can’t be found.

Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain.

Knowin’what your’re going through, and feeling it the same.

Just like my Father’s eyes.

What joy!

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!