Devon, unplugged

A child's simple delight in life renews her grandfather's spirit.

My best friend stands about two feet tall. She loves to run, play peekaboo, and read about firetrucks. She is unfailingly sunny, takes regular naps, and digs loop the loops in her bubble car. Her name is Devon. She calls me Ada.

They don't have a Grandpa's Day on my calendar. But then, they don't need one. Any day and every day works for me.

As parents, we miss too much of our kids' development. At least I did. I was too busy commuting long distances, too tired, likely too often too much into my own life. Not that I was a bad dad. We took the kids by train across the country, camped on both coasts. I coached the girls in soccer and basketball, read to them as long as they'd tolerate it, and later sat through endless swim meets. But there is a magic about being a grandfather I wouldn't trade for the world. No need to discipline. No need to hurry; at this point, I have fewer places to go and I'm more eager to smell the flowers, too – or pick them and try to blow off their petals (only the weeds, of course).

Devon cares no more about being wired, social-networked, iPoded, BlackBerryed or iPhoned than I do. She likes to walk our golden retriever Murphy, a simple pleasure on an early summer day. She loves the hammock and makes me swing in it. We sit in the backyard and play with her dolls and sand toys.

Devon isn't up on Twitter, either. She's not counting tweets out of Iran or arguing about Guantánamo. She's not following Britney or Paris or anyone, for that matter, tweeting all day long about ... what do these people write about in paragraph-long bursts? She couldn't care less about the rants or Rush or Dick, the caustic commentary of Keith or the bloviators of the blogosphere. (She doesn't even have a blog.)

I imagine Devon probably would consider Barack Obama a pretty nice man, a dad – not the socialist, fascist, or Muslim terrorist an astonishing number of his most rabid detractors try to paint him as. And I'm sure she'd love his daughters and the swing set on the White House lawn.

Like our president, Devon, for now at least, is growing up without a father. Like him, she's biracial. Mind you, I certainly have no ambitions for her to follow in Mr. Obama's footsteps. I wouldn't wish his job on anyone. But I do hope that our internationally schooled, nonwhite president will have paved the road toward a new America when Devon goes out into the world alone. I hope it's one with fewer labels, fewer assumptions, and fewer barriers. Obama's election, I believe, shows that this country already is heading down that path.

There's one other thing I hope. Decades from now, as she looks back on her Ada and Nana, and the role they played in her childhood, I hope Devon will smile and tell her children about the bubble car, her walks with Murphy, and the firetrucks we used to count. I hope she'll remember us warmly, and pass on values and stories from an earlier time. That would be the most special Ada's Day gift of all.

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