"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." It's the opening line of Neal Postman's book, "The Disappearance of Childhood."
And since we started doing this "Thank God for Kids" 30 years ago this week, I've been watching childhoods disappear... some through the natural evolution of life, and some as tragic as the shooting in Connecticut.
Twenty children... all of 'em only 6 or 7... lost their lives and their message to the future because of a madman's bullet, and the magnitude of that human tragedy shocks good people everywhere.
We'll have the usual arguments about gun control and public safety... how we treat the mentally ill... the arguments we always have.
We'll raise the questions we cannot answer. We'll mourn the loss of those children. We will grieve for the families left behind.
Then we'll move on like we always do... until the next American tragedy.
And the only thing we know for certain is that there will be another one.
Our children face an uncertain future. but I think we worry about it a great deal more than they do.
Life goes on. It must. It always has.
When we started doing "Thank God for Kids" in 1982, I was the father of two young kids... not a good father, maybe... but trying to do, as my dad said to me that he did, the best I could.
Thirty years later, I'm the grandfather of a teenage girl whose childhood is almost gone.
Makenzie was born in September of '93, and I didn't think it possible that I could love someone as much... as I have always loved her.
She was raised by a single mother, a father who didn't help much, and a papa who tried to spoil her beyond her wildest dreams.
She's 19 now, a freshman at Texas Women's University in Denton... thinking about nursing... physical therapy... maybe a social worker.
She's like her teacher mom in so many good ways... a huge heart who cares more about helping others than maybe she should sometimes.
She brought her friends to spend a weekend in Waxahachie with us once, and this other little girl looks at me and says, "It really is true ... you're just like Makenzie said you were. She told us you were funny, and you were really cool."
I asked Makenzie, "Did you really say that about papa?" She looks at me and says, "Knock it off, papa. You are cool, and you know you're funny."
Well, here's your money.
It is the best part of spoiling a granddaughter. I'll let her mom deal with the fallout, and if I'd known how good it is to be a grandfather, I would have started there.
I've had so many of you over the years tell me you gather with your kids at this time of year and on this particular night... and that you (like I usually do) shed a tear about the days that used to be... and never will be again.
Makenzie calls me almost every week now, and always has. But I also know that it will eventually slow down, and probably stop.
But I'm hoping that it never will.
She has her own life to live now. I won't be as big a part of it as I have been, and I won't be there when she delivers her message to the future.
I wish I could go back and do it all over again.
I wish that my 19-year-old college freshman was only six again.
And I probably will cry tonight thinking about the childhood that has disappeared.
My daughter (like I would imagine parents everywhere) cries a lot about the empty house she lives in now, walking past a bedroom door... a room that's too quiet now after so many years when it wasn't... because her baby girl doesn't sleep there anymore.
But I hope she finds some comfort in this, and I hope that every crying parent who has seen a childhood disappear can, too.
The American poet John Vance Cheney said: "The soul would have no rainbow, had the eyes no tears."
Papa loves you more, Kenzie... more than you will ever know.
Thank God for Kids.
I'm Dale Hansen. Good night.