By claiming to be a great-grandfather I am not talking about being an excellent grandparent but rather being a part of the next generation. You might think it makes you feel old but the truth is it makes you feel younger. It’s the start of a new day, a new generation. I am writing this column this week because as of Tuesday, Linda and I are great-grandparents. Our granddaughter-in-law, Maggie Johnston, gave birth to precious, little, Tenley Ann. The proud father is Zac Johnston. Maggie Johnston is a math teacher and volleyball coach at Eastside High School and Zac is the manager at the Bread and Butter Bakery. Tenley was born at Piedmont Newton Hospital.
You realize if I am a great-grandparent, the Mayor of Covington and his wife, Ronnie and Kelley Johnston have just become grandparents. I am so proud of the wonderful parents they have been for our four grandchildren and I know they will be wonderful grandparents. This new generation just gives another good reason for Mayor Johnston to continue to help build a stronger future for Covington.
I am reminded of my high school track days with the birth of Tenley Ann. One of the events I participated in was the mile relay. Four runners represented each school. Each runner was responsible for 440 yards. You do your best then you pass the baton and entrust the race to those who came after you. So with the generations of our families, we entrust the future to those who follow. We do our best but at some point, we pass the baton and entrust those who follow to win the race. We can help the generations who follow us. We can help teach them, support them, and love them but they each have to run their own lap. You see one of the real keys to winning a relay race is in the speed of passing the baton. We do so in life in hope and trust.
In my active days in the ministry, I would tell new parents, congratulations you have just had the last good night of sleep you will ever have. You just stay awake for a different reason along the way. At eight days to see if the baby is breathing, at 18 months to see if they will stop crying, at six years of age to see if they will ever go to sleep and then at 18 years for the screeching of the brakes. As you place one generation on top of another you can go back to getting some great sleep.
Tenley is blessed with not only four grandparents, but five great-grandparents. The more we know of those who came before us, the more we will be blessed by their experiences and wisdom.
I never knew any of my great-grandparents. They were all dead before I was born. I was thinking how far that generation reaches back in time. One of my great-grandfathers returned to Social Circle after the War Between the States, married and started a business. That was about 160 years ago. Think of all the change that has happened in the world since then. When I think of the decades ahead for Tenley, I cannot start to imagine what all the changes we will see.
When someone would say something nice about my brother or me, my father’s standard reply was, “why have another generation if you can’t upgrade.” Well I feel with each of the generations that have followed me, there has been an “upgrade”. I can’t wait to see where Tenley will exceed the generations that came before her.
Without regard to how you feel about the outcome of our Presidential Election, for the first time a woman was the candidate of a major party, though not broken, the greatest of glass ceilings has been threatened. Tenley will witness even more barriers being removed as she moves into the future. As I look back to the world of my great-grandfather and all the changes that has come to our world, I know, if I could look into Tenley’s world, we would be just as amazed.
I realize as a Great Grandfather, there are three laps already in front of me. But that doesn’t mean I stop doing everything I can do to make our community and world a better place. We can’t run their laps for them but we can sure continue to give all the support and help we can.
As a new generation is born, we are blessed to get a glimpse into the future. As I do see that new generation, I truly believe the words of the old spiritual, “I don’t believe He has brought us this far, to leave us now.”
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.