“Congratulations!”  “Best wishes!”  “Mazel Tov!”

As soon as our grandchild (a bouncing healthy girl) was born, the congratulations started pouring in.  We got phone calls, e-mails, cards — you name it, we got it.  And everybody asked a similar question… “So, how does it feel to be a grandparent?”  “Isn’t it just the best?”

What kind of stupid questions are these??

All of a sudden one day, you wake up sort of regular in the morning and by the evening someone has a new title for you.  Grandparent.  And congratulates you like you won the lottery!!

We smiled a lot, weakly, for these people and were as gracious to most as we could be.  “Yes, it’s wonderful, isn’t it.”  Maybe.  We wouldn’t know.   What did we do to get here?

Then there were the kidders.  They would say something like, “Oh, now you’re a grandparent…really old, huh?”  Our best rejoinder was to say “We’re too young to be this old” and leave it at that.  We didn’t sign up anywhere for this old stuff.

And we didn’t exactly do much to achieve this moment just now.  Did we??

We didn’t work on getting pregnant (not always the most fun, though it should be!); we didn’t get sick at all; we didn’t have to buy a new car or worry about insurance coverage.  We didn’t have to do much except be supportive and, inwardly, know that all the books in the world and friends with their stories couldn’t prepare the parents-to-be enough for that moment.  And what comes afterwards!

Maybe the congratulations were for a seemingly successful night some 30 years ago??  No, that wasn’t right.  Seems a bit off.

In the end, we decided the congratulations were for making the long march to this time.

When your child is bar-mitzvahed, the rabbi will intone (what a great word, ‘intone’…you can hear the somber voice even as you say the word!) the threefold benediction (old style Jewish culture…) and wish that your child will one day stand under the marriage canopy to start their new life.  Being bar-mitzvahed at age 13 brings a time of congratulations…mostly because you survived all the throw-ups and illnesses and school visits and baseball games…and the list goes on endlessly.  And there seems to be hope that the 13 year old won’t yet become a juvenile delinquent…somehow.

Then there is the high school graduation.  Followed closely by the college graduation.  Again, it looks like jail was successfully avoided and your money has bought a ticket to the future.

Soon, the wedding that just yesterday some rabbi was wishing on you.  Again, lots of congratulations.

And now, a grandchild.  And the congratulations overflow the inbox.

Best way we can understand it is to see it like a marathon.  The words should be “congratulations on making it 30 years to this point.”  Or, “good luck on the next sprint.”  Something like that.

Being the parent of the bar-mitzvah, the parent of the high school graduate, the parent of the college graduate, the parent of the groom…all marathon checkpoints, like crossing through Newton Center or passing Cleveland Circle (Boston-Marathon-language!).

Being a grandparent looks to be different, though.  Yes, it is another marathon milestone.  A big one.  But it isn’t just a moment in time.  It promises to keep giving and giving!

So, how does it feel to be a grandparent?

Well, it feels like a long race that isn’t over yet.  And one that has some tinges of familiarity as your children have now begun their own race.  Hey, weren’t we just at that turn on the course??  How did they get there instead??  And, then, where does that now put us in the race?

So, what about all the congratulations?

Yes, well, we guess they are ok in the sense of having made it this far.  And, more, for the promise and love they hold looking forward.

So, it is pretty neat being a new grandparent!  And nice that nobody ended up in jail…