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What the Devil won't tell you

Alannah Holliday takes this new granddad on a ride to forever

The child who extends my mortality, has arrived safe, sound and impossibly adorable

I am closer to the infinite and I can’t be that old.

On November 24, 2018, at 10:22 a.m., Allanah Rose Holliday made her atmospheric debut. Yes, my daughter broke spacetime and had a kid herself.

That makes me a grandfather, right? No. I never said that, see. Grandfathers are old men named Joe, Walter or LeRoy (prounouced LUH-roy). I was just in college the other day. Last Tuesday, I was a hip dad with a blue-eyed sweetheart of a little girl, who made me that much cooler.

What wormhole did my kid find, to go from that to being a mom herself so fast?

Jokes and denial aside, the weird thing about my kid having a kid (as I shun "the G word") is how old it doesn't make me feel. In fact, I feel kind of indestructible and sort of immortal.

My kid had a kid and that makes me something: A bit closer to the infinite. Alannah could live into the 22nd century. The shit that she’s going to see. Is climate change a hoax or an existential threat? Will artificial intelligence save us or enslave us or put us all out of work? When will America run out of patience with the Kardashians? She’s going to go sailing through that.

More to the point, Alannah could have a kid who has a kid in 60 years and talk to that grandkid about her grandfather, who will be me. And that kid, long after I’m gone, will carry my existence toward the 23rd century. Now we’re getting toward Star Trek territory.

After all the snake-gathering, sandlot football, wanna be Jedi imagining of my youth, and all the beers and girls and travel of young adulthood and after all the stories and columns and pages written during my career, the reason I existed at all truly lives in the baby I just met.

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Now I get to know her as she becomes the girl and woman she is destined to be.

Speed confuses

I just am stunned at how fast it went.

A little more than 21 years ago, Alexandria was on the warming table with a look on her face that said “uhhhhhhh … what the hell just happened?” So began her mom and my new regime of pacing with a crying baby, who needed to be fed, burped, changed and generally entertained in constant motion and perpetual need.

I called it boot camp. Start as a free-thinking, independent individual. Have the baby tear that down because those days are done. Then the kid rebuilds the parent it needs.

Then came the crawling, the walking, the running, the sound of a little girl’s laughter that was a tonic for every manner of ill and an entire year of the question "why?" punctuated by sacred moments when she slept. There was all the work that didn't feel like work because that's what parents do. Then came the soccer games, the days at the park, the help with homework, the little routines when she was a partner in crime. They all hit before the teenage smirks, snarls, eye rolls and fits of independence.

All that took – it seemed – a week and a half. Barely 11 days after her arrival, that warming-table baby was suddenly up in Montana working on a horse ranch, learning to lead trail rides.

What we glorify

My daughter is the best thing I ever did and you have to look hard to find any chips off this block (other than the eyes, nose and mouth). She doesn’t like talking politics with me because, I’m pretty sure, she’s a Trump voter. She’s all about country music, big trucks and loves herself some guns. So she’s not bookish. She’s able to go grocery shopping without getting lost in some sort of random concept and forget half of what she went to buy. Horses are her life and have been since she knew enough to know what she wanted. 

The best bit of parenting advice I ever got was from my publisher in Flagstaff, and he said it with a passing breath: “Children don’t exist for your glory, they exist for their own.”

And so goes Alexandria Morlock (Alex to the world). She’s living her own adventure. She's prefers what she can grab hold of, sitting tall in the saddle as she cuts her own trail in the world. She’s good to others, takes care of her tack and has found a great guy to spend her life with.

That brings us to dad. For all smack I talk in this space about the MAGAverse, Troy is Red State central casting. He’s from rural Tennessee, wears a real buckle, a hat that’s broken in to fit. He’s got Oakley-style shades and the boots that lawyers aren’t man enough to wear. I’m talking boots you work in, caked always with a layer of desert. He can fix or rebuild just about anything and once bounced a Marine bar outside Twenty Nine Palms, Calif.

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A sweeter person, you will not find. Alex’s mom and I won the son-in-law lottery with this guy.

Alex and Troy are their own people separate and apart from whatever I had in mind and that's why I love my family. Too many Blakes would be both boring and infuriating.

They could very well discover the same thing about their daughter. Maybe she'll find a life among horses and rebuilding engines. Maybe she'll decide she can't get enough of quantum computers and then we'll look at her with love and confusion. My mom says she’s a Sagittarius, with a moon on Jupiter and Capricorn rising, which means she may rule the world, which will mean that I want Virgin Gorda.

Right now, we know three things. She’s healthy, she’s tiny and scientists at Johns Hopkins and the Royal Observatory in the UK have proven she is, in fact, the cutest little thing in the whole wide world. I know, you have puppies, kittens and maybe even mini humans walking around whose adorableness exceeds Alannah's. Sorry. Ph.D.s used calipers, optical scanners and one particle accelerator to reach this finding of fact. Just sit there and know your pug is in second place.

In America, it’s said, you can be anything you want. I have a right-wing friend who thinks that’s bunk and he may be onto something. “You can’t be anything you want if you try hard enough because you may suck at it.” This explains why I didn’t spend my 20s and 30s flying fighters off of aircraft carriers. Alannah lives in a country where whatever you are, you can make a go of it and see where it takes you.

I imagine she won’t feel ancestral pressure to do anything specific. Someday after the nursing and the diaper-changing and crawling and the walking, she’ll have her own glory to hunt down.

She’ll be busy with friends made and lost, big days and small, love dashed and found, she’ll cry 'cuz it hurts and laugh until she’s convinced she’s gonna die. She’ll see things and go places both ancient and new. She'll get caught in ruts and stumble on promise doing jobs she hates and finding work that inspire. And hopefully, someday, she’ll find that reason she knows she was put on Earth at all.

Shockwave baby

My job? I'm still figuring that out. Imagine it will involve fishing poles and Barbie dolls and some fascination I am clueless about. I think one of the perks of the gig is the only pressure I really feel is to be wrapped around her finger.

Done. Yeah, she took me down fast.

As I held her in the delivery room for the first 20 minutes, she slept in my arms like they were built for holding her. “Just keep doing that, whoever you are. I had some sort of day and need some shuteye.” All I could think is, "OK, you are just perfect."

So, I’m going to need a couple fishing poles. I’m going to have to get used to tripping over dolls and stuffed animals all over again.

And I’m going to have to summon the spirits my own grandfathers. I barely knew my dad’s dad but grew up understanding the man was a saint. Grandma re-married a man I knew as “Walter,” a Georgia right-winger from the old school who taught me how to argue politics. Then there was my mom’s dad. He spent most of his time pretending he was a feeble old man, until he got me alone and told me “punch me in the gut, hard as you can,” I delivered the blow, as ordered, straight into cast iron. He came from steel worker stock and legend had it his brothers would bend rail road spikes around their necks – y’know, for fun.

And now they all live through her. On her dad’s Holliday side, there’s a 19th century dentist who once got into some dutch down in Tombstone.

So she's his Huckelberry now (and we're talking Val Kilmer, not Charles Henry).

No pressure, Alannah. You are on the shock wave in a gene pool that goes back toward the primordial goo.

So my warming-table baby has a baby of her own and I guess I'll have to admit that it was longer ago than a few weeks back that I was taking Alex to the zoo so she could see the otters and the polar bear.

My kid is a mom and parents know the routine doesn't let them think of the big idea behind it all. The day will likely come when Alannah is cradling her baby and her mom will wonder how time could possibly move so fast. 

Time's forward motion will bring her closer to the infinite, too.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is a former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things the Devil won’t.

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Alannah Holliday


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