We have another one on the way . . . grandchild, that is. The due date is in early July. The family is growing. The youngest son and his wife are getting into the mix with their expected child. Both the wife and I are really excited to welcome another child into the fold . . . especially as grandparents. Grandparents get all the fun and then get to send the grandkids home at the end of the day! The whole family is excited . . . especially my daughter as her daughters will have an actual cousin . . . something she and her siblings never experienced. Let’s just say there is excitement in the air.
When the youngest announced that he and our daughter-in-law were expecting on social media he used the hashtag: #KeenersLiveOn. Of course this is a reference to the fact that the child they are expecting is going to be a boy . . . a male heir . . . and, the “Keener” surname will live on for another generation. After a couple of granddaughters this will be the first grandson. Kind of cool.
Now we live in different times. When the wife and I were expectant parents it was rare and unusual to know the sex of the unborn child before his or her making a screaming appearance in the delivery room . . . nothing was known until the medical team checked out all the equipment and made the announcement. As expectant parents the wife and I played a guessing game based on myths and stories about determining the sex of a child before birth. Trust me . . . it didn’t work. In today’s age it is only a matter of using science and really high-powered technological devices to find out the sex of a child before he or she is born. Our son and daughter-in-law were told the sex of their unborn child shortly after the first trimester. There was no guessing . . . one glimpse and they knew . . . it was a boy.
When our first child was born a little over three decades ago we had to wait until that revealing moment there in the delivery room to learn that we were the proud parents of a boy. We were quite ecstatic . . . our parents were excited by the news . . . even my grandfather on my father’s side was pumped. He even called. My grandfather never called . . . ever. It was the first and last phone call I ever received from my grandfather. One short conversation that consisted of a simple question: “Well, what is it?”
My grandfather, on my father’s side, had three children born to him and my grandmother . . . three girls and one boy. That one male was my father. On my father laid the mantle of providing an heir to pass on the Keener surname . . . which of course, meant that he would have to have male children to accomplish the task. It was the only way to carry on the Keener name for another generation. This he accomplished when he and my mother had four children . . . three boys and one girl.
Between my siblings and me I was the only one who got married and had children. The burden of carrying on the Keener name fell upon me. Like my father before me there were four children born to my wife and I . . . three boys and one girl. It so happened that our first-born was a boy.
When I got home from the hospital the night that our first son was born, the phone rang. As usual, I answered, “Keeners!” From the other end of the line came the question . . . no greeting . . . no identifying who was calling . . . just a question, “Well, what was it?” Caught off guard, I answered, “A boy.” Click . . . the line went dead. Only later, after talking to my father and mother, did I learn that it was my grandfather, my father’s father. Without even realizing it I had accomplished the task . . . the Keener surname would live for another generation.
My father explained that it was important to my grandfather that the Keener surname be carried on . . . that the name did not die. Growing up I had very little contact with my grandparents, thus there was not what I would call a real intimate relationship there. As an adult I can only remember his presence in my childhood twice . . . once at his place and once at ours . . . and, they were short visits. As an adult the wife and I took our first two born children to visit them for two days. Growing up there were no phone calls . . . no letters. Thus it was quite a shock to get a call from him on the eve of our first-born son. Apparently I did well . . . I accomplished the job . . . the Keener name was saved for another generation.
In all honesty I never really gave it much thought about the Keener surname being carried on. Without even realizing it I did what had been expected of me . . . I took the baton from my father . . . and, I have now passed it onto my sons. The burden is now upon them . . . primarily because they are the only ones with the Keener surname. It is up to them to keep the name alive for another generation.
As I said, I never really gave this much thought.
Of our four children, there are three males and one female. Of our four children only two are married . . . one daughter and one son. The daughter and son-in-law have blessed the wife and I with two beautiful granddaughters. Unfortunately in the baton passing category they are of no use in making sure that the Keener surname is carried on . . . our granddaughters do not have the same surname . . . they are no “Keeners” . . . they have their father’s surname. The baton was not even passed to them . . . it has been given to the three boys.
Of the three boys only one is married . . . the youngest son. They are the ones who are expecting . . . the baton is firmly in their hands . . . the burden lies upon them. And, they have confirmed that the child to be born is to be a male . . . an heir to the family name . . . the Keener surname will live for another generation.
I imagine that the old man is spinning in the grave.
Yet, I understand my grandfather . . . who doesn’t want the family name carried on? When I actually think about it, it is kind of cool. The family name . . . the Keener surname . . . will live for another generation. That is pretty neat to see that it is now in at least its sixth generation with the grandson on the way. I can understand that, yet it really is not that important to me.
It is only a name.
What is important to me is what the people . . . the families . . . the moms and dads . . . the children . . . the grandchildren . . . embody as a family. That means a lot to me. To be a family . . . to love God . . . to laugh and cry together . . . to have relationships and bonding with one another . . . to love one another . . . to have compassion and passion for each other . . . to hope . . . to dream . . . to be proud of one another . . . to enjoy the presence of each other . . . to be good, caring, and loving to others . . . to be there for one another . . . to be a “family”. It does not matter to me what the surname of those people are as long as they are a family . . . a loving and caring family. That is what is important to me. I do not care whether or not the family surname is passed on from one generation to the next as much as I want the “family” passed on from one generation to the next.
Someday the family surname will run its course . . . will come to the end of the trail . . . and the baton will be dropped; but the “family” will always be there . . . always. I love the “family” that is growing with the present generation. My son-in-law and daughter-in-law are exceptionally caring and loving individuals who I enjoy being around . . . they embody the good in life . . . and, I know that they will be wonderful parents. The son-in-law already is and the daughter-in-law will be too . . . after all she has been taking care of our baby for a couple of years now. My granddaughters are fun and loving and wonderful little people . . . the future looks bright. The “family” is growing and the legacy of being “family” is growing too. That is neat . . . and, I want “that” to carry on for generations to come.
That is the real “baton” that must be passed on. That is what is important.