It snowed that evening outside the hospital in Ann Arbor, and also in Rochester, NY, where I tended to funeral arrangements for my father. He had passed away almost a week prior, losing a long battle (as was his destiny) to Alzheimer's disease.
I wanted desperately to be at my daughter's side. Her son was arriving ten weeks early, her own health failing as she fought to give little Graham every chance at life. A day, an hour.... Extra minutes of womb time might mean the difference between a healthy - if tiny - child and disaster. She called to tell me she was headed for surgery. Neither of us tempted fate expressing "if" thoughts. We'd left nothing unsaid, anyway.
A week ago I visited Graham, my daughter and her husband. We took Graham to his first baseball game and watched Detroit win. I kept score while Graham sat quietly on his mother's lap and took in the sights, the sounds.... The rustle of an expectant crowd, the smell of hot dogs, the warmth of a mid-September sun. If he can't ever recall the day, his Grandfather will never forget it.
He giggles, he babbles, he eats. And he smiles.
He has my father's smile. Eerily so, the crooked, hearty, self-satisfied grin with which my father greeted the world. I wondered if I could see my father, not just in Graham's smile but in his eyes. Could I hear my father's echo in my grandson?
I saw a little boy looking at the world with his own soul, his own sense of wonder - open, clear innocent eyes. His living years are his. He reflects his mother's and father's unconditional love - unfathomable tenderness understood in the context of Graham's first ten weeks, spent in the NICU.
He can drain a bottle without seeming to take a breath. He welcomes the arrival of each plastic-tipped spoonful of goo as if Emeril himself had concocted it. He can throw a darned impressive temper tantrum. He loves to watch "Deadliest Catch."
Graham Patrick, son of Katy and Steve, with a whole, wonderful life to be lived. His great-grandfather Dave would have been proud to know he gave Graham the smile with which to greet the world each day.
Perhaps I did hear his echo after all.