It's a boy!
Yes, sports fans, believe it or not — and I realize I'm making the same announcement every year or two — grandchild number five is on the way, due this winter.
On May 24, my wife, Liz, and I went to Lexington to meet my son, John, and his wife, Cassie, to watch an ultrasound that would show what the newest addition is.
All four grandkids went — Harper, Hadley, Hudson and Hagan, ages 5, 4, 3 and 18 months. So did Cassie's mom, and Cassie's sister-in-law with her two small daughters.
John and Cassie had made an appointment at a spa for expectant mothers. Among other amenities, the spa conducts gender-checks on fetuses.
The place was pretty cool. I figured that only one or two of us would be allowed into the examining room with Cassie for the actual ultrasound and that the rest of us would wait in a lobby juggling preschoolers on our knees.
Instead, we were led to a spacious room big enough for all 12 of us, plus the woman conducting the exam. The room had a widescreen TV, toys to keep the children occupied and plenty of comfortable seating.
As the woman rubbed the wand over Cassie's tummy, we watched on television as the newest member of our ever-growing family appeared onscreen, flipping and flopping in the womb. We heard a heartbeat, a perfect 153 thumps per minute. We saw a head, ribs and legs.
Hadley, 4, said in a voice of wonder and sweetness, "Hello!"
Then the little fellow turned directly toward us, and it became evident he was — a fellow. No doubt about it. All boy there.
John and I exchanged smug yep-he's-definitely-a-Prather winks.
Our wives rolled their eyes at us and snickered knowingly, in the manner wives are taught to do in Universal Wives Training College.
I'm so glad this newest grandbaby is a boy.
Don't get me wrong. I'm bonkers about my granddaughters. So crazy about them people make fun of me.
But Hudson is the only boy in this generation of his family — up against three sisters and three female first cousins on his mom's side.
He needs a brother to plane out the testosterone-estrogen mix.
And now he's going to have one: Harrison or Henderson or Henry or Hector. Whatever name his parents choose. (By the way, I think "Paul" would go perfectly as a middle name with any of those H-name choices. That's only a hint, which also is an h-word.)
I never imagined I'd have five grandchildren. Never even occurred to me. Mainly, people who have so many children do so for religious reasons. They're traditionalist Roman Catholics who don't believe in using birth control, or members of ultra- conservative evangelical sects that think it's their duty to populate the Earth.
For John and Cassie it's not a religious thing, although they're churchgoers. They simply like having children.
They're great parents, too. I'm pleased to report they're raising amazing kids. (I don't say that from any bias. My grandkids are, objectively, wunderkinder.)
That's what I was thinking as I watched little Harrison-Henderson-Henry-Hector squirm on TV, even as my own old heart ecstatically matched his 153 beats a minute.
I was thinking how you never know.
Every child brought into this world is a divine gift, a cosmic set of possibilities. Maybe a future Nobel laureate or college president or missionary or Olympic athlete. Every child also is a soul-ripping fear. Maybe a flimflam man or narcissist or addict or sad victim of some rare illness. The universe can be so cruel to small things.
With kids, always, you roll the dice and take your chances. That's what my parents did. And yours. It's what I did with John. It's what John and Cassie keep doing now. It's what their kids will do someday.
I watch each new grandchild in succession wriggle under an ultrasound's wand, and I find my heart swelling with joy one instant, then contracting in panic the next. I envision infinite blessings. I envision knee-buckling dangers.
Most parents and grandparents probably feel the same. When you love a kid or even a grandkid, you sign on to endure barely controlled terror for the rest of your life.
That's why having a child constitutes an act of faith. Not faith in God, necessarily, because people who don't believe in God make the same leap.
But it's faith nonetheless. It looks toward a future that might hold unfathomable rewards or unbearable heartbreaks, and likely a measure of both, and it says, "This tiny being, and this world he'll inhabit, are worth the risks."