Jakey has 3 grandpas

by John R. Stiles

I can't believe it's been five years since the birth of my grandson. In fact, as of the 21st of this month, it's been exactly five years. And I'll be spending that day with Jacob Robert Schwarm and probably 30 to 40 other guests at the little guy's birthday party in Bettendorf.

Now most grandfathers wouldn't be concerned with the concept of justice, when taking part in this particular milestone in their grandson's life. But then, I've never been what you might call ''most grandfathers.''

I act as stupid as any, I guess, giving my grandkids ''The hammer and the looking glass,'' as my late Irish grandmother used to put it. But I have a tendency to worry about the strangest things.

Take this for instance.

When I was a young man, about three decades ago, I wasn't what you would call a solid family man. Oh, I had a family all right, a wife and infant daughter, Jakey's mom as it happens.

But if I'd have been asked by most of the people I came in contact with in this business back then, I'd have come up with one of those smart-alecky answers something like, ''My wife is married, but I'm not.''

Quite frankly, I was one of the the most self-absorbed and selfish individuals I've ever known. It wasn't unusual for me as a young sportswriter to go to work on a Monday, and then to wander home any time 15 to 16 hours later. And, I might point out I wasn't working much if any overtime at that particular juncture in my professional life.

Sportswriting has to be one of the roughest professions I've ever known on marriage. In my heyday I knew very few guys in the business who were still married to their first wives.

It didn't help any not knowing what a Friday or Saturday night off was either. I believe that I worked the first 10 years in the business and except for a rare vacation, never had a single Friday or Saturday night off.

While I was covering Major League baseball, the only other profession I know to be just as hard if not harder on marriages, I can't recall a single beat writer who was married, for the first time or otherwise.

Life on the road, and especially spending seven months out of every year living on room service food, in-room movies and following around a flock of 20-something millionaires with nothing but time and amusement on their hands, is not conducive to anything remotely resembling a healthy monogamous relationship.

I knew one guy, who still is a baseball writer -- traveling with the team all season long -- who, when he married his third wife, spent their honeymoon on the back roads south of the border covering the Mexican World Series.

Talk about your ''Montezuma's Revenge?''

Well, as I should have expected my first wife and I split up just over 20 years ago this summer. And the only thing surprising about the break-up to anybody else who knew me or her at the time, was how we made it through 12 years of marriage before the eventual divorce.

Since that fateful day, I've been through two more divorces, which were probably, like the first, well- deserved.

Guess I found it easier to give up marriages than the newspaper business. As I get older I am very thankful that there is no law against being an asshole. Because if there were, believe me, there wouldn't be enough people left in this world to guard the rest of us.

But like I was trying to say earlier, there is indeed justice in this world. And anybody that doesn't believe that is welcome to come along with me to Jakey's birthday party.

At that extended family gathering, I'll be just one of a crowd of eager onlookers.

There will be at least two great-grandmothers, one great-grandfather, as many as eight or so great aunts and/or uncles, two aunts, two grandmothers and three grandfathers.

That's right, I said ''three grandfathers,'' which is, by my estimation, one more than the allotted number. And therein lies my rub.

It's the fact that I will be just one of three grandfathers attending his first grandson's fifth birthday party. So, when the little half-pint calls out for his ''Grampa'' at this little get-to-gether, he already knows to add a name to the inquiry -- ''Bob,'' ''Dick'' and/or ''Rich.''

I will be the last on that list, which is another bit of a sore point with me.

Well, as I was saying in somewhat different terms before, ''what goes around, comes around.''

Funny how some of the strangest things can bother a soul.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online July 25, 2001

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