I knew that I was going to have a boy. I knew that I would have a son. I knew that I would be a mother to a little boy, and I knew his name would be Clifford. I knew this well before the doctors informed me of my pregnancy and the gender of my growing child.
My son is named after my grandfather, Clifford Charles Freund. Growing up, he was my hero, and I spent the majority of weekends at his house doing nothing more productive than hitting plastic golf balls in the backyard or ordering our standard root beer at the Lumber Mill Inn, the small town’s answer to fine dining. As I got older and lost my innocence, I realize that my grandfather was far from the idealized man I’d conjured him up to be; more like a devil whose horns were hidden underneath his Budweiser hat. But you couldn’t convince me that he was anything less than perfect.
Just before my high school graduation ceremony, I was devastated when my grandfather had had a stroke, and would spend the next month in a hospital, then in hospice, then in the adjoining cemetery plot to my grandmother’s.
Now, I consume any memento that brings back memories of my grandfather: his rosary, his library card that checked out books for me, and a picture whose anecdote is more valuable than the actual event it portrays hangs in my son’s room.
My grandfather told me that it was a painting of him and his dog, Neff, saying their nighttime prayers. I believed that story longer than I would like to admit, but those types of exaggerations are what endeared me to him.
I rock my son under that picture multiple times throughout days and nights. When we first brought Clifford home, and I would nurse him, he would occasionally shift his gaze from me to a spot above my left shoulder. I didn’t think much of it, mostly because I was so sleep-deprived that I couldn’t be sure I was awake myself. Then, one feeding, Clifford looked up to the left, and I softly asked him, “What are you looking at back there, Sweet Boy? What do you see?”
I turned and saw that picture and realized that he was looking at his grandfather’s picture. It warms my heart to see him continue to look up, and in my opinion, his guardian angel looks back to return the smile. Cynics will say that he was just looking at the wall, that babies cannot see that far away or pick out those types of details. They will also say that I see what I want to see, and even if I am, what a beautiful connection to believe in.