Please join me in welcoming grandchild No. 5: John Harrison, born a few days ago weighing in at 8 pounds, 2 ounces, measuring 22 inches, with a head full of black hair and so many thick muscles in his shoulders and thighs I swear he must have spent his final months in the womb pumping iron.
A real bruiser. A future tight end, I'm saying.
Actually, based on his prenatal tests, we thought he was going to be even bigger — 9 or 10 pounds. Before he was born, I called him Hulk or Hoss Cat.
Now that he's here, I intend to call him just plain Harry. A good, solid name.
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He's the second boy my son, John, and daughter-in-law, Cassie, have had.
We're all excited about his arrival, but the person perhaps most ecstatic is his brother, Hudson, 3, who previously was outnumbered 3-to-1 by sisters. Way too much estrogen, mothering and bossing around for the little guy to handle alone.
Here's a recent conversation in my car.
I put on the Disney satellite radio station for Hadley, 4, and Hudson. The singer was not anyone I'd heard of, but boasted a vaguely Katy Perry-ish sound. In my mirror, I could see Hadley busting dance moves in her car seat.
Hudson: "No! Papa! I want boy music!"
I switched to a station called Willie's Roadhouse. Classic country. Merle.
Hudson: "Yes, that's boy music."
Hadley: "No it's not, Hudson. Papa, switch it back. My music is better. Hudson, you don't know."
Ah, the battle of the sexes starts early. Very early.
Now, at last, Hudson has an ally.
Not long after Harry made it home from the hospital, he started fussing.
"I think he wants me," Hudson told his dad.
Anyway, after Harry's big event, I reread the columns I wrote about the births of his sisters and brother. In one column, early on, I said it would suit me if John and Cassie gave me 10 grandchildren. (At the rate they're going, maybe they will.)
Already, I have trouble even calling the kids' names. I've long babysat the first four kids a couple of afternoons a week. All their names start with an H.
I often find myself churning through my mental Rolodex to get to the right child: "Harp—I mean Had—I mean Hud—I mean, uh, uh—Hagan! Hagan! Put those scissors down this minute!"
By the time I get the correct child's name out, she's shredded the mail into confetti.
So, superficially, at least, it occasionally seems as if all these kids age 6 or below merge into a percolating mass of bobbing heads and running noses and spontaneous meltdowns and errant scissors.
But the magic is that they're actually not just one multi-headed person.
In my heart, I know that. They're individual souls, with their individual quirks and personalities and talents and futures. They're all different.
My dad was one of five children. My first wife was one of five. My current wife is one of five. Of course they shared common history with their siblings, told family tales they each remembered only slightly differently.
Yet each of those 15 brothers and sisters turned out very different. Unique.
That's the magic with my grandkids, too, I realize.
Harper might eventually love zydeco music and Hudson hard country and Harry opera. Hadley might be an actress, Hagan an accountant, Harry a history teacher. Some of them will be fortunate in love and — although I hope not — some might find it difficult to navigate romance. One might become a preacher like me, and the others skeptics. They might all be preachers, but in five different denominations.
They've got the same parents, live in the same house, go to the same church and will attend the same elementary schools, yet each is a separate, complex universe.
The night you were born, Harry, I held you in my arms and studied your thick black hair, your long fingers, your strong arms.
I thought to myself, "I wonder who this one will turn out to be."
I can't wait to find out.