My dearest Ruby Elise Golding, you are my first great grandchild, and although I hope and anticipate there will be others to follow, your arrival caused me to think, because of my age and the cancer diagnosis that I have, that I won’t be here to play the long-term role in your life that I had the good fortune and pleasure to play in the lives of your Mother and her two sisters. I’d like to think that I was, in part, their safety valve or harness. Someone who they could turn to and count on in both good times and bad. Someone who could be humorous and lighthearted, but could also serve as a sage, serious confidant when the occasion demanded it. It was my fervent hope that they could learn from me emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, photographically and gastronomically. Sadly, you and I won’t be able to share those extended years together. Because of this, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts, hopes and dreams for your future, and to offer some guidelines for living your life. Hopefully, you will find my words comforting, nurturing and of value.
Let me start by saying that, on July 15, 2018, at 2:15 pm, you mother, my granddaughter, delivered you into the world. Those of us who were there to mark your arrival gathered together in the waiting room, making idle chatter to assuage our anxiety while munching on Popeye’s fried chicken. I sat, rather reservedly for me, behind the group and watched as one grandfather openly broke into tears at the announcement that you were named after his deceased father. Your other grandfather cautiously but adoringly approached you while, I thought, preparing himself to be as exceptional a grandfather as he had been a father to his three daughters. Your grandmothers were both ecstatic, one reassured you how pleased she was over your arrival. The other repeated the words “So cute” over and over again while her face beamed with pride and joy. Your great grandmother, my wife, smiled at you with far more emotion than she generally allows herself to display and I could see that she was already planning your first shopping trip with her. There were one aunt and several uncles there as well, all of whom had forgone an opportunity to attend a baseball game – quite a sacrifice for them – in order to assure you that they would be there to emotionally support you throughout your future life. Two of your aunts, your mother’s sisters, couldn’t be present. One was on a boat off Newfoundland working as a geologist and the other was enrolled in a Master’s degree program at Tulane University. They were, however, certainly there in spirit and through social media. Both begged for pictures and were delighted by the fact that you had red hair.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but marvel at your small size, how fragile you appeared and how much care you would require. It saddened me to think that I would not be there throughout your life to aid in that care. At the same time, I thought, how fortunate you were to have been deposited into a wonderfully supportive, loving and caring family, filled with individuals who will be there to support, nurture and to protect you. You have a mother who has a tremendous capacity to love and to demonstrate her emotions openly and lovingly. One who was willing to endure natural childbirth in order to welcome you into her world, her way. You have a father who is kind and good natured, warm, intelligent and elated over having you in his life. As he held you during the first few hours after your birth, his face lit up and seemed to present you with a welcoming light that said “I will always be here for you and you can count on me to nurture, care and love you all the days of your life.” In all honesty, I don’t ever recall the two of them ever looking more proud than I saw them that afternoon. I recall seeing your mother reach down to grasp your little hand, and I heard her say “She was wailing loudly, and the only thing that seemed to comfort her was lying here on my chest, flesh to flesh, knowing that I’m here for her.” Then I watched you yawn, issue a small cry, close your eyes and drift off with a small smile on your face. I hope that throughout your life, you will experience many more similar occasions when you feel equally free of fear, unthreatened, and sufficiently safe to peacefully close your eyes and drift off to sleep.
Once again, I questioned what role I would get to play to aid you to achieve that sense of peace. Even more reason for me to feel the need to provide you with some lessons that I hope will contribute to making your life a wonderful exciting adventure, despite the pitfalls, the inequalities, the stress and the disappointments that you are inevitably bound to experience.
My initial thought was that your arrival itself was the first lesson that you had to learn. After all, for nine months you had been in a wonderfully comfortable environment, constantly fed, massaged from the outside, and spoken and read to while you grew on the inside. Then suddenly it came to an end, and you and your mother had to endure a difficult ordeal. Coming into this world is not an easy experience. Thus, the first lesson is that the world doesn’t give you a free ride. If you truly want to go somewhere, attain a goal or experience success, you have to be willing and able to expend the energy and experience the pain that it sometimes requires. It’s the price you pay. The trip on the way towards your goal is the reward you get.
Which brings me to lesson number two; it being that life is not necessarily one constant joyful, loving event. It includes ups and downs. It can go from high to low in seconds and it will be filled with contradictions, duplicities and mystery. The truth being that despite the best laid plans of mice and men, there is no guarantee that you’ll get to where you originally intended to go, or that when you get there you’ll be pleased with what you achieved. Recognizing this will help you throughout the rest of your life to not be entirely disappointed or disenchanted with the world, the people in it or with yourself.
The third lesson is that although the world will not always be to your liking, you have the wherewithal to steer you in the direction you desire. If not the first time around then later, when you come to realize that where you are is not necessarily where you want to end up being. The lesson it imparts is that you can make mistakes, take a wrong turn or go off course. It’s not a sin. What is a sin is to perceive yourself trapped by circumstances, the actions of others and yesterday’s decisions, and to do nothing to alter your situation.
The fourth lesson, and perhaps one of the most important of all, is that you needn’t be perfect. The fact is you can’t be because you’re human. By definition, human beings are imperfect, have frailties and experience feelings of insufficiency, fear and dread. Fortunately, you have a family who will surround and support you in times of need, reassure you that there is no crime in being scared, to not being totally independent and to occasionally need to lean on others. My stressing the fact that you needn’t be perfect is in no way said to dispel your desires to achieve or to mitigate your motivation to experience success. It is instead intended to provide you room to breathe, to know that your disappointments will often be counterbalanced by joys, and to give you permission to avail yourself of any help and mentoring you feel a need for.
The fifth lesson is that, despite your being lucky to have arrived in such a loving and supportive family, all the care in the world won’t dispel the hardships you are likely to encounter while facing the challenges that life presents. You cannot avoid the highs and lows and the disappointments that occasionally occur. The key to life isn’t to avoid them, it’s to run towards them, to face them and to put them behind you. The process necessitates that you be able to own up to and to accept your humanness. The saving grace being that you have the wherewithal to correct them in a manner that will allow you to be proud of how you do so.
Lesson number six is that after every conflict, difficulty or hardship you experience, do not waste an inordinate amount of time looking at or lamenting the poor actions of others or the lack of fairness in the world. It’s to no avail. You can’t change the world or the people in it. All you can change is you and how you chose to deal with your world. The solution then, to every dilemma is to say to yourself, “This is where I am now. How am I going to deal with it?”
Lesson seven. Forewarned is forearmed. I recognize that I have repeatedly referred to the disappointments, hardships and potential failures that you may experience in your life. That’s because life really isn’t easy and you won’t win every competition you enter. Having that knowledge beforehand, however, can help you to circumvent, overcome and lift yourself up after you do fail. It is the result of the confidence that comes from knowing that you don’t have to per perfect and that your failures aren’t a testimony to your lack of ability, intelligence or worth. They are instead an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and to redirect your energies and efforts toward what does work.
So, Ruby Elise Golding, welcome to Houston Texas, welcome to the Golding/Grenader/Reitman family. Know in advance that we are all here for you and you are worthy of our being here just because you’re you. In particular, I want you to know that I am so very happy to have been able to be part of your welcoming entourage and I hope you will benefit from the love, the care and the warmth that I feel inside towards you. The lessons I’ve listed could, of course, go on forever, but essentially, they’re all designed to say that what I wish for you is that you will have the courage to be who you are, to express what you think openly and honestly without malice of hostility, to share your feelings, both positive and negative, without fear and to be intellectually open and receptive to change and conflicting views. I’d have you accordingly cherish your life, don’t take things to seriously, and give yourself room to breathe. That means to fail, to take risks, to succeed, to laugh, to cry and to love, and I promise you your life will be meaningful and rewarding. To that end, I’d have you appreciate and value every person, every moment, every event that you experience as you grow to be an adult woman.