The other day my two pre-school age grandchildren interrupted my wife’s reading the book, I Will Always Love You (by Caroline Pedler). As she read the lines: “I’m ready for surprises when Grandpa comes to stay. Even though he’s older, he remembers how to play.” Squeals of “Grandpa David, Grandpa David” erupted at the mention of the Grandpa. When my wife recounted this incident she said, “They know who their Grandfather is.”
My joy mingled with satisfaction. To realize my grands delight in me is a wonderful fringe benefit of having raised their father. I doubt that their delight equals my delight in them. I am deeply humbled and grateful to know my grandchildren.
You see, I never knew my grandfathers.
I have seen pictures of me with Grandpa Leroy, but I was three when he died. Since we lived far from Maine I didn’t see him often and so no memories. Grandpa Dean died when my father was three or four. I doubt my father had many recollections of Grandpa either.
Grandpa George, (well he is my wife’s grandfather, whom I adopted, or maybe he adopted me) welcomed me into the family. I remember the time he and Grandma Bessie spent teaching me to play the card game, Rook. How Grandpa George enjoyed egging me on to bid higher and laugh when I crashed and burned. How he gave with no strings attached. Alas, three years after I met him he left us.
That was about the time I met my next two grandfathers. Not mine but they became grandfathers the same time I became a father. I saw both Tom, my father-in-law, and David, my father, exhibit confidence mixed with gentleness around my children.
Tom, ever a story teller, regaled his grandchildren with stories of his numerous near death experience. Ever active, he still had time for his ever-increasing brood of grandchildren. My son, named after both his grandfathers, almost idolized his Grandpa Tom. My son was in Colorado for a week-long seminar when Grandpa Tom suffered cardiac arrest and died. One of the most difficult things I have ever done was to look in my son’s eyes when we picked him up at the airport and tell him the news.
My father was a scholar with an earned doctorate. (Unlike my father-in-law most of whose learning came from practical life experience.) I’d always regarded Dad as a reserved man, but when his grandchildren arrived he transmuted into an indulgent softy. And I wistfully watched him toss the football with my son and hold my daughters close. I didn’t remember receiving those blessings as a child so occasional wondered who this man was and what he had done to my father.
Dad also modeled a wisdom in grandparenting. One Christmas morning my son whined and made things miserable with his complaint: “I didn’t get any presents.” With all the ‘Dad-logic’ I could muster I replied (hoping he’d be quiet), “look at all your loot.”
Meanwhile Grandpa poked under the tree and tossed a package to my son. My boy squealed with delight and ripped wrapping off the football. Grandpa wisdom knew present = toy.
I wish I still had that wisdom available today. A year and a half ago my son honored his grandfather when he stood with me, ready to read Grandpa’s eulogy if I couldn’t finish.
Barely noticed, God’s hand turned the pages my life. Eight years ago, when less than an hour old, I first held my grandchild. Never having had a grandfather I now was one. What marvelous leaf grandparenting has become as I now write on the hearts of my grandchildren.
In golf they talk of a mulligan – a chance to do it over. My grandchildren are like my mulligan, not that I was a failure with my children, but that I can build on the experience of parenting as well as my observations of the grandparents in my life and so be more relaxed relating to my grandkids.
I suspect my son wonders who I am and what have I done with his father. You see my grandparenting philosophy is: “If there is any possible reason to say yes, say ‘YES!’”
Occasionally my son mumbles something about spoiling his kids or some such thing. But I can’t hear him. Someone else is usually shouting –
“Grandpa David! Grandpa David!”