Tomorrow my granddaughter Elspie will be two years old. I have been responsible for her since the day she came home. And, if I do say so myself, she has made these last two years a delight.
I can thank my boy Kester for that. I wept the night he told me he had made Grade Three. He's a good boy, Kester; a good husband to Minella, a good father to Elspie, and a good son to me. His mother would have been proud.
Without his promotion this time with Elspie would have been impossible. Things are getting tougher and tougher all the time. Grade Fours and below aren't even allowed a child any more, and only Grade Ones are allowed two.
People say Elspie looks a bit like me for a girl, she has my eyes. But she has soft red hair and flawless skin just like her mother. Minella would have liked to look after Elspie, but she had to return to her job at Ad Central two weeks after Elspie was born - she had no choice. Elspie has been my girl ever since. It was either me or the Ad Central creche.
So I have been extremely fortunate, because I know her best. Better even than her father or mother. She won't ever be like this again for them or anyone. Never ever. When she's ten or eleven, or even fourteen or fifteen, they probably won't remember how she says, "I luth oo," instead of, "I love you." Or the way she sits in front of the mirror kissing and pulling faces at her reflection. But I will - for me she will always be like this.
The satisfied little sounds she made as a baby when I fed her her formula, and the way she grasped my thumb are my memories. The way she would often fall asleep in my arms. Her sighs of contentment and gratitude when I cuddled her. The little tears that streamed down her face when I comforted her distress.
I'll remember her gleefully splashing her hands in the bath, her blue eyes bright, her little fat stomach wobbling with the force of her cackle.
Her first steps were to me. I saw her expression of determination as she pulled herself to her feet on a chair leg change to one of triumph and glee as she took those wobbly steps into my waiting arms.
Pride almost burst my chest the day she learnt to say "Gramp". She walked around and around the room giggling, repeating it time and again. My face hurt I smiled so much. And how could I forget the way she tugs at my trouser leg, saying, "cuh, cuh," when she wants a cuddle?
Tomorrow Elspie will be two. So tomorrow it's mandatory for one of us to report to the Termination Centre, because our overlap expires and the two-generation law comes into effect. Now Elspie will have to go to the Ad Central creche, while I go to the other place . . .
I've said goodbye to Kester and Minella. I'm fortunate to have their trust because they're allowing me to take Elspie to the creche on my way to the Centre.
A lot of people would hide their child from its grandfather or grandmother on termination day. Until it was over. But I'm an old man and they know I worship Elspie. I couldn't take her there in my place, she has her entire life before her . . .
All that's left now is to say goodbye to her and I'm weeping already just thinking about it. Some birthday present.
But that's the way of life - the new replaces the old.
I'll remember Elspie into eternity - my only granddaughter, my only future.
I wonder if she'll remember me?
Originally appeared pp. 40-41, Eidolon 3,December 1990.
Copyright © 1990 Steven Paulsen. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1993 Steven Paulsen.
Reprinted with kind permission of the author.