Beginnings and endings have been on my mind a lot recently.
This is, for instance, my final column as managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. I’ll work until Wednesday, spend a few days in Texas and then drive to Macon, Georgia to begin my new job as senior editor of the Macon Telegraph — an ending and a beginning.
For the last 30 years, I’m fairly certain I’ve been the only Caleb Slinkard in the world. That ended last Tuesday when my nephew Caleb James William Slinkard (nicknamed “CJ”) was born. At six pounds, two ounces and 18.5 inches long, he’s tiny, adorable and perfect. If you follow me on social media, you’ve been buried under an avalanche of baby photos (I apologize for nothing).
My twin brother Joshua and his wife Sara kept the name a secret until I walked through the labor and delivery room door and saw Baby Caleb for the first time. It was a magical moment I hope I never forget. What an honor they blessed me with.
There was a moment in the hospital when Josh picked up Baby Caleb and started talking to him, and as my brother held his infant son, I realized that I and everyone else in the universe could have been standing next to him or a million miles away — it wouldn’t have made a difference. His entire world at that moment was a little six pound, two ounce baby boy. My brother has the biggest heart I know, and he’s a wonderful husband and a great dad to his two stepchildren, Grant and Harley. He’s the best brother anyone could ask for. I’ve never seen him look at anyone quite that same way.
Caleb is my namesake, but he bears the names of other ancestors as well — a paternal great grandfather (James) and a maternal great grandfather (William). Little CJ will have a legacy of strong, caring men to guide him as he grows up. I can’t wait to share stories about them with him, about my grandfather James Slinkard, who we called Papa. A man who learned ASL because he had a deaf co-worker, who helped rebuild France after World War II, who built hundreds of homes in the San Antonio area, a talented athlete who played baseball and golf and billiards. I was 11 when my grandfather died, but I remember his funeral, how the church was packed with people who came to pay their respects to James Slinkard.
I hope that I’m able to build a small legacy of my own. I want to be known as someone who cared about other people, who helped those in need, a hard worker, a compassionate friend. I want to give CJ every reason to be proud of his first name.
There’s a song in the musical Hamilton I softly sang to Baby Caleb when I held him that first day. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr sing it to their infant children, Theodosia and Philip. My favorite line from that song is “If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you and you’ll blow us all away… some day, some day, you’ll blow us all away.”
It’s a big world out there, and CJ will need to carve out his own path in it. But he’ll have two great parents and hundreds of family members and friends cheering him on.
No one will be cheering louder than me.