“Gramps,” says she, almost absently, “you and Nana made babies, right?”
“Ahh, that’s right,” says I, a tad taken aback by her question—out of the blue from an early-teen granddaughter. “Two of them, beautiful sisters.”
We’ve been sitting on a swing-chair in the lanai, each of us tapping on our phones, together yet apart. I turn my attention from mine, but she is still engrossed in hers.
“Like Mum and Dad did with us, right?”
“Exactly,” I reply, wondering where this is going. “Like they did for you and your sister. But we did it first.”
She smiles to herself. “Did you ever make babies with anybody else?”
I shake my head. “No, the only one we made babies with was each other. Your mum and aunt are the only babies we ever had.”
“Did you ever try with anybody else?”
Another shake of the head, this one to clear the surprise I’m feeling. “Nope. I didn’t want babies before I met Nana.” I’m trying hard to answer the questions as asked, without offering anything extraneous.
“Was she your first girlfriend?”
“No, I went out with other girls before we met. But she was my last girlfriend,” I say with a chuckle.
Eyes and thumbs still on her phone, she smiles at that. “How did you guys know you were the ones you wanted to make babies with?”
I pause, gazing skyward, taking myself more than fifty years back. “Well, I guess it was because we sort of clicked right off the bat. After going out with her a couple of times, I didn’t really want to date anyone else. Lucky for me, she felt the same way.”
“Yeah, but how did you know that?”
I laugh quietly again, buying time. “I’m not sure we really did know, not right away. I think it was something that grew slowly, the more time we spent together.”
“And that didn’t happen with any other girlfriends?”
I shake my head yet again. “It was different with Nana. She had a wonderful smile, and I guess she liked mine.” I flash her a Cheshire grin for effect. “We both loved sports and played a lot of them, so that helped. Plus, we knew a lot of the same friends. After a while, we just didn’t want to be with anyone else. And before we knew it, we figured out we were in love.”
“But you didn’t try to make babies?”
“Okay,” I say, screwing up my courage, “you know how babies are made, right? Sort of?” I pray that she does.
She nods and blushes slightly, looking at me now.
“Well, Nana and I both wanted to graduate from university, meaning we wouldn’t be able to get married for a few years. Back in those days, most people didn’t have babies before they were married, and birth control—you know what that is, right?—wasn’t available the way it is today.”
“Lots of people have babies today without being married,” she says.
“They do,” I acknowledge. “But think of the enormous responsibility that can be, being a mother or father of a baby. It’s like a full-time job, so any plans you have for school or a working career could be delayed a long time.”
“You think it’s wrong to do that before you’re married?”
I pause again, thrust without warning into the role of a reluctant life-coach, caught unprepared for this conversation. But not disposed to dodge it.
“So-o-o,” I venture, “I wouldn’t call it wrong or right in a moral sense, like a sin or anything. Not if two people are sure they love each other. But I do think making babies could be an unwise decision for them, depending upon the circumstances. If two people consciously want to be parents, if they know what that will entail, and if they believe they’re equipped to raise a child, then at least they’re going into it with their eyes open. But even then, I think there’s a problem with that logic.”
“Which is?” she says, all in now.
“In my limited experience,” I say, smiling self-deprecatingly, “making love with someone is an emotional act—as it should be probably. But emotions can often push common-sense aside in those situations, so people might end up doing something that seems exactly right in the moment, only to realize in retrospect that it was exactly the wrong thing to have done. And if their actions result in a baby coming along, the consequences of that one mistake can be life-altering. Especially if they’re young.”
She nods, brows furrowed. “How many girlfriends did you have before Nana?”
I’m tempted to reply, jokingly, that the number was in the dozens, but her manner is quite intent now. “Boy, that’s a long time ago,” I say. “I think there were probably three or four girls I really liked before Nana. We’d tell everybody we were going steady, meaning we couldn’t date anybody else.”
“But you did, though, right?”
“Yeah, eventually,” I concede. “With all of them except Nana. She’s the last girl I went steady with.”
“And the only one you made babies with,” she affirms.
She leans close to plant a kiss on my whiskery cheek. “Okay, Gramps. Thanks for telling me about you and Nana.”
And off she goes, phone in hand—curiosity apparently satisfied—leaving me alone on the swing-chair in the lanai, wondering if I’d answered her questions wisely, thinking I might know the reason for them, and hoping her innate common-sense would prevail.
It’s all so long-ago for me, and so achingly right-now for her.