When Simon, my 12-year-old, was a baby, he would wake up singing every morning--no words, no real tune, just long warbling notes that got louder and louder. I'd lie in bed for a while just listening to him and wondering what innately made him such a happy child. He did the same thing at nap time, and even after I would get him out of his crib, he'd continue singing.
I took him for a visit to my parents every few months when he was little. Ron was getting his PhD, and when he needed to focus on school for a few days, I'd find a cheap airline ticket, and off Simon and I would go.
One day after Simon had just woken up, I took him in to see my dad, who was watching the news in his room. Simon giggled and sang on the bed. Dad glanced over, annoyed, and turned the TV up. So I took Simon back out, hurt but not bold enough to say anything.
Dad died of cancer in 2004. The time from diagnosis to death was only 10 months--10 short, heartbreaking months. In spite of the fact that there were things I couldn't talk with my father about (such as his apparent lack of interest in being a grandfather), he and I were very close.
Just a couple of weeks before Dad was taken to hospice, my kids were outside playing with a bucket of bubbles--laughing and squealing and getting soaked. My mother came out and asked me to quiet things down because my father's bedroom window was open. Instead, I went inside to shut his window. He could barely open his eyes or speak at this point, but when he heard me come into the room, he asked what I was doing. I told him, and he said, "No. Leave it open. I love the sound." I gave him a kiss and went back out to be with the kids.
The second story is the one I choose to recall when I think of how my father handled being a grandfather. It brings back other nice memories. I see him showing up at the hospital after I'd had each of my kids. I see him trying his hat on Simon and laughing with him. I hear him asking how Owen was feeling. I hear him talking about what a beautiful baby Emma was. They're little moments but important ones if I choose to recall his grandparenting efforts fondly.
And that's the thing about memories. We have thousands of them, tens of thousands of them. But we get to pick the ones that matter, the ones that can make our lives better or make them bitter.