My world changed on Jan. 25, 2020. Bradley Harper Bucy, my granddaughter, was born that day in Austin, Texas.
It was just like many friends have said: “Oh, you’ll love it. Everything changes once you’re a grandparent.” I believed them because I had seen evidence of it when Debbie became pregnant with our first child, Patrick Aaron Dougherty, in 1982.
We called to tell my mother that Patrick was on the way, and she squealed, “Oh, thank goodness! I didn’t think I would ever be a grandmother!” (We lived in Vernon, Texas. My folks lived in Little Rock, Ark., and still do.)
Forty-four. That’s how old Mom was at the time of that call. She was 45 by the time her grandson arrived. When Bradley was born two months ago, I was 65 years, 11 months. I’ve reminded Mom of that a couple of times already.
Mom was excited with the news 38 years ago, as we knew she would be. After I told her, I talked to my dad, who doesn’t say much until he’s known you a long time. He said it was great news that we were having a baby. But I still was surprised nine months later when Patrick arrived Oct. 6.
I didn’t work that day after being up all night, but the afternoon paper where I was sports editor featured in its Oct. 6 edition a two-columns-wide by five-inches-deep ad welcoming Patrick Aaron Dougherty to the world. It was “signed” by my parents. When they made it down to Vernon for their first visit a couple of weeks later, Dad was wearing a baseball cap with the words “PATRICK’S GRANDPA” across the front.
Debbie and I share three children: Patrick, 37, of Seattle; Bradley’s mom, Molly, now 35; and Bradley’s aunt, Megan, 32, also of Austin. We divorced in 2002. Debbie is retired from teaching special education and lives with her husband, Randy Brown, in nearby Round Rock, Texas.
As some of you know, my wife, Nancy McQuary Dougherty, died in January 2019. She was sick with cancer and, eventually, leukemia for much of her last four years. Her illnesses were not the reason, but I have written few columns since I retired from newspapers (though Patrick set up a website). I believe my lack of discipline and not having a deadline to meet after 40-plus years in the business was the real reason. (There are no excuses.)
But I have decided to ease back into “columnizing,” as a good friend calls it, by writing virtual letters to Bradley, the new center of my universe. I will tell her stories, introduce her to some friends, teach her that we are Cardinals baseball fans, relate some history, try to explain our culture, and remind her that we don’t choose our families but we love them anyway.
It will be an evolving process. Bradley’s mother or dad (son-in-law John Bucy III) will have to read the letters to her until she learns to read in a year or two. (No pressure from Pawpaw, huh?)