Soon I'll have even more bragging rights

This one's a boy. That's right: Grandbaby No. 3 is on the way.

Columns announcing a new grandchild have become my annual ritual.

Harper was born in November 2008. By November 2009, Hadley was here.

Shortly after Christmas, our newest family member is scheduled to arrive.

John and Cassie, my son and daughter-in-law, are leaning toward calling him Hudson, which is Cassie's maiden name. It's what they'd considered naming their first child, had Harper been a boy.

I'm lobbying for Bobby Paul, after his two grandpas. I'm not biased in this. I just happen to think Bobby Paul is a terrific name for a baby.

Whatever he's called, I can't wait to meet him.

Neither can his dad. Shortly after learning that Cassie was carrying a boy, John dashed to the store and bought him a baseball glove.

For my part, I'm discovering there aren't too many joys to getting old. I'm in my mid-50s and on the downhill slide. I wake up most mornings feeling as tired as when I went to bed the night before. If I sit down to watch TV, my joints ache when I try to get up. I can't read the fine print on my many pill bottles, even with the aid of trifocals.

But here's something about aging that's pure, undiluted pleasure: being a grandparent.

I am, as anyone who knows me will testify, wild, banshee-crazy about my grandchildren. John and Cassie couldn't have enough kids to suit me. I'll take 10 grandbabies if I can get them.

I've turned into the kind of geezer who'll waylay preoccupied co-workers in the hallway and, unbidden, launch into a monologue about how brilliant my grandchildren are. And, oh yeah, I just happen to have pictures if you'd like to see them. Which of course you would.

On Sundays, I work stories about Harper and Hadley into my sermons. I don't mean to. They're not in my notes. They just magically insert themselves most any time I open my mouth.

I've become a walking, talking cliché. Yes, I've seen those "Let Me Tell You About My Grandchildren" T-shirts. But I'm a happy cliché, so leave me alone.

Speaking of my granddaughters, I'm fascinated by how early kids' personalities begin to form. This is one of those life mysteries to me.

Harper and Hadley are only 12 months apart, spring from the same gene pool and live in the same house, but they're very different girls.

Harper's wiry. Her mom used to be a gymnast, and Harper must be destined to follow a similar path. She's a climber. She climbs furniture, climbs steps. Once John turned his back and a moment later found her sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. She's 20 months old.

She's always in motion. Take her into a crowded restaurant and she'll make friends with everybody there, from other toddlers to octogenarians.

"Hi!" she says, waving. "Hi!"

Hadley's more laid-back. She sits in her baby seat and studies Harper as Harper careens around the living room. Her expression seems to say, "Well, I wonder what she'll do next."

Hadley doesn't take to strangers. Coo at her and sometimes she'll puddle up and cry. But when you get a smile out of her, it lights up the whole room. And this old man's heart.

Now we've got little Bobby Paul — I mean, Hudson — on the way.

I'd have been perfectly ecstatic had he been a girl.

Yet I admit it'll be fun to have a boy around again. Raising John was one of the great joys of my life — teaching him to pass a football, sitting through what sometimes seemed like an endless series of hot, dusty Little League baseball games — that now seems to have ended all too soon. I want John to have those same experiences as a father.

And I'm tickled that, all joking aside about his first name, there'll be a male grandchild to carry on the Prather family surname.

I'm already trying to picture him in my mind, what he'll be like when he's an infant, when he's a teenager, when he's a man.

Will he enjoy playing golf and working with his hands, like his Papaw Bob? Will he prefer to read books and write, like his Papa Paul? Will he be a musician, like his dad? Or will he be somebody entirely different from all of us?

Come December, we'll begin the long journey of finding out.