93: The Softer Side

93: The Softer Side

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

The Softer Side

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.

~Robert Browning

When we got married we were very young. That was the trend then. We were still in college and we were both working. We started with nothing. Nothing. I finished my degree and started teaching. And then came the babies — three of them. Three boys in less than six years. I stayed home to take care of them and my husband continued to work. He worked two jobs and also continued with school to finish his degree. A few more classes were all he needed. We had very little time to spend together. But that was okay. It was not unusual for the times. Most of our friends were doing the same thing. And we were all working towards a goal.

Frank worked long, hard hours. He would finish at one job and go on to the other one. And when he wasn’t working, he was studying. He didn’t have much time to be with our kids but I was home and that was my job. He did play with them… when he had time. He did read to them… when he had time. He did teach them how to help around the house and fix things… when he had time. It’s just that he didn’t have much time. But that was okay. It was not unusual for the times.

Graduation came, and with it, the hope of a new and promising career. Starting that career meant long, hard hours of work with not much time left for anything else. We wanted a good life for our family. We knew we had to make sacrifices to make our dreams come true. This was important to both of us. And the hard work and long hours paid off. Promotions came, one after another, and with those came even more responsibilities and longer hours at work. Many times the boys were already asleep when Frank got home from work. Not to say that we didn’t have fun and do things as a family. We did. The boys were very close to Frank when he was home but those times were not as plentiful as we both would have liked them to be. But that was okay. It was not unusual for the times.

Married life was good. Frank had a wonderful career; I was delighted to be a stay-at-home mom and the boys were all happy and doing well in school. All of our years of hard work and sacrifice had started to pay off. The boys graduated from college, left home and started successful careers of their own. We were proud parents. Time passed… quickly. And then — we became grandparents… for the first time. They say you can’t understand what it feels like to be a grandparent until you actually become a grandparent. And you know, whoever “they” are… they’re right!

Suddenly I was married to a grandfather. (And we all know what that makes me!) This guy I had been with since high school was a grandfather. At first he didn’t exactly know what to do with this new position in life. Our son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Crescent, would bring baby Eli over for us to babysit. And I would be the one to take care of him; Frank was more of… an observer. Oh, he would also make helpful suggestions on what to do or how to do it but I didn’t listen. I’d smile at him and then I would do what I wanted. That’s what long-time married people do. I would feed the baby. I would change him. I would sing to him. Frank would stand by and… watch. Although he had been around all three of his own babies, he never really had the opportunity to spend a lot of time caring for them. He was working so hard to make ends meet and give us a good life he didn’t have too much time with them on a day-to-day basis.

But, having more time on his hands these days, things gradually changed with his grandchild. It started one day when we had Eli and it was time for his feeding. I got the bottle ready while Frank watched. But as I got ready to feed the baby, Frank said, “I’ll do that.” I stopped, wondering if I had heard correctly. Was this the man I had married? Telling me he’d feed the baby? Without being asked? I handed him the bottle, the blanket, the burp cloth and… the baby and watched as he sat in the big comfortable chair in our kitchen, feeding his grandson. He held him close, gently snuggled him, and gave him his bottle. How beautiful! About halfway through the bottle, Frank stopped and put Eli on his shoulder to burp him. He talked quietly and lovingly to this tiny baby, supporting his head while patting him gently and rubbing his back. I just watched… in awe. After a while, we both heard it. Burp! Frank looked up at me and smiled sweetly, and told Eli what a nice burp he had done for Grandpa. The man I married was changing right before my eyes.

As Eli grew, so did Grandpa’s participation in the baby’s activities. Soon he was the one who was feeding him, changing him, taking him for walks. I was only around to assist. “Would you please get a diaper and the wipes?” “Would you please get a bottle ready for Eli and give it to me so I can feed him?” Grandpa was the one playing on the floor with him, eating his toes, making silly noises and faces at him to make him laugh, and walking him for hours when his colic made him cranky. We were all so frustrated when Eli was cranky. But not Grandpa. He was so patient. He just took over: carrying Eli around the back yard in his arms, showing him the birds, showing him the flowers and the fruit trees and by his gentle voice and gentle touch, soothing his upset tummy. Grandpa’s softer side was really emerging. I liked it. And when Eli would come over, he would only want to go to Grandpa. There is such a bond that has developed between these two guys.

Now Eli is a year old and the bond between grandfather and grandson strengthens every day. The man who, so many years ago was working so hard to provide for his family that his softer side didn’t have an opportunity to develop, now has the time to show his true colors. And that softer side has spilled over to his everyday behavior and is not just limited to Eli. He is much more patient with everyone. He smiles more and compliments more. He is sillier. He is… well, the best way to describe him is just to say that… he is softer. I don’t know how else to say it. This hard-working man who I married years and years ago has turned into a soft, gentle man. It is his soft side that is so beautiful to watch. It is so attractive and sexy, and I am so proud to be his wife. I love him even more today than I did when I married him so very many years ago.

 

~Barbara LoMonaco

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