Spirit Quest

Birth of granddaughter serves as inspiration to live in hope

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns Skoutajan

It is now  two years since my family gathered around a festive supper table on the deck of the cottage. The meal prepared by my son on the barbecue, salmon, I think it was, well garnished with vegetables and rice was served. The wine was poured, Beaujolais, I believe. Glasses were raised in a toast when suddenly my daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, blurted out: “Cheers, Stephen’s gonna be a dad!”

My glass hung in mid air while the rest of the family cheered. I was in shock. The prospective parents were in their early forties and had only recently married. As for me, I was two years short of eighty, too old, I thought, to be a grandfather. Elizabeth assured me, “You’ll be a great granddad.”

It seems that my spouse had already discerned certain signs obvious only to women. She was immensely pleased inasmuch as she had always wanted to be a grandmother and time was running out. 

Run the tape ahead a few months; I was at home alone one February afternoon when the phone rang. I heard my son’s voice announce, “Congratulations, you are the grandfather of Sophia Elizabeth Skoutajan.”

Disappointed that his mother was not on hand he insisted on breaking the tidings to her personally. I thus had to sit on the news for three hours until about suppertime when the phone rang once again.

And so a new life had entered our family that had seemed dead ended. My daughter had made the firm decision that parenthood was not for her, she was be a career woman  and would be content with the title of aunt and her partner uncle. They have accepted their roles seriously and with great enthusiasm. Only one member of the family had reservations, Dudley, my daughter’s dog, a beautiful poodle/terrier, who felt sidelined by this new arrival.

Ours is a small family, both my wife and I are only children and we have decided years ago only to replace ourselves. But we are a very happy family. Sophia who is growing up very quickly is a acquiring a vocabulary that includes “Opa” which sounds more like “apa”. “Granny is too difficult, her vocal apparatus still has problems with the “g” and “r”.

With this offspring we have finally projected ourselves into the future, a daunting future it is. For Sophia and all the millions of children I fervently wish a peaceful world, a clean and safe environment with adequate food and shelter and medical care. I am sadly aware that more than most lack those amenities that we take so for granted.

Can we be sure that our leaders have this in mind or are they more concerned about personal or their nation’s aggrandizement? Is it clear to them that we as the human race either live or perish together?

Having been a refugee as a child I was fortunate to find a safe haven in this blessed land. Until several decades ago there still seemed to be sanctuaries  on our planet but they have all but disappeared. In the scary days of the cold war when the east faced off with the west both armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons I read a book called On The Beach by Nevil Shute. A film was later based on it. It portrayed the aftermath of a nuclear confrontation that left behind a deadly cloud that had brought the end of life in the northern hemisphere. This cloud was now moving south and approaching Australia.  It became evident that even that distant continent was not immune. Once upon a time Australia had been a penal colony far enough removed from civilization to prevent its inmates from returning home. For me this story underlined the fact that we live in one world.

I suspect that there are some who have their eyes set on colonies in space, that when life on this planet has become intolerable there would be new vistas to pollute.

What I wish for my beloved Sophia I must also wish for all children. When I voice my concern about the future the family holds out the hope to me that Sophia and others might be more than passive victims but grow up to make a difference. I hope so. I will of course, not be around long enough to witness it, but I live in hope.

I hope and pray that she and her contemporaries will be wiser, more far sighted  and less greedy than the generations who have preceded them. 

They are not alone. To that end, I believe, there is a spirit of healing and motivation, dare I say “love”, uniting all humankind in building a better world. I can live happily only as I believe that that spirit is a’ movin’ NOW.

Hanns F. Skoutajan
July 18, 2008

More about Rev. Dr. Hanns Skoutajan’s story can be found in his excellent book Uprooted and Transplanted: A Sudeten Odyssey from Tragedy to Freedom available from Canada Books Online. — Mike Heenan, Literary Editor