Category Archives: Grandparent

National Novel Writing Month: My Personal Day 1 Challenge

In September 2006 my eldest daughter, Ruth, challenged me to utilize National Novel Writing Month to fulfill my life long dream of writing science fiction. Each year since I have participated in the daunting challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. What an exhilarating experience seeing my stories come alive and discover where my characters would lead me.

I take time off early in the month to concentrate on writing and get a jump start toward the goal. Even though the fewest words I have written is 75,000, I still feel insecure each November 1 and worry about reaching my goal. Something might happen to thwart my goal.

That “something” happened November 1, 2010. My heart was not in my writing. The prior Wednesday my mother entered the hospital with what was determined to be a rapid onset leukemia. On Saturday the Doctor told my brother that Mom had 24-48 hours left. So, Monday I dreaded the call, which came at 1:30 PM. When my brother couldn’t finish “Hi Dave…” I knew the end had come. My mother now slept in the hope of the resurrection.

Unlike the year prior when I wrote over 5,200 words on November 1st, in 2010 I wrote just over 2,700. More than that my heart was not in the writing, so distracted was I waiting for the news. Amid the travel to Florida for the funeral, participating in the arrangements, grieving with family, and the funeral service, I wrote some each day. I wanted to retain some connection with my writing even as I was connecting with and grieving with my family.

By the time I returned home on November 6 I had reached just over 6,100 words. That is a lot of words but when compared to the year before I was way behind my output of 36242. Even in grief life goes on and I found the habit of writing in November assisted my ability to focus on something other than my grief and I did exceed the 50,000-word goal. I also knew my mother had been pleased with my writing so I also wrote in part to honor her memory.

But November 1st remains difficult. The year after Mom’s death I told a friend my concern about writing on November first. She suggested I incorporate some of my mother’s characteristics into a character and so honor both my mother and my writing. That I did and exceeded my output from the prior year. Since then the malaise of grief hung over my first day of writing. I found myself procrastinating, checking email, Facebook, and games on my phone fascinated me. My reaction to this was self-recrimination. How could I waste this much time when I really want to write?

How? Because I am still grieving over the loss of my mother and five years later the loss of my father. After the excellent advice from my friend the first Nano after Mom’s death, I went into denial. As if by not thinking about or acknowledging the reality of November 1, 2010 I could somehow participate in the writing month as I had the years prior.

But grief does not work that way. No matter what I do to suppress my grief, it will rise to the surface one way or another. My procrastination in subsequent years was my subconscious grief telling me things were not the same as before—that things will never be the same. That’s what the transitions of life, especially death of a parent, do. They tell us of the inexorable progress, as a popular film expressed it: the circle of life.

Mom was the family matriarch as Dad was the patriarch. They lived to see the first of their great-grandchildren. Now in my family I am the patriarch and my wife the matriarch. We recently learned that grandchild number six is due next May around Mother’s Day. How better to honor my parent’s legacy than to provide a similar legacy to my children and grandchildren. I relish the time with my family and long to see them all grow, not just physically but also mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

To that end I will spend time with them, share my life with them, model life and living (including grieving), and shower them with love.

By facing my personal November 1 challenge, by acknowledging my grief and loss, by writing about it as I have here, my challenge becomes an opportunity to grow into the person I desire to be.

But –

I still miss you Mom.

I still miss you Dad.

I’ll see you both in the morning!

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Two Whole Hours


I had one objective that Sunday afternoon – travel two towns over and see my granddaughter. She’d only arrived two weeks earlier and already I contorted myself around her little finger.

Once inside my son had me sit on the sofa and promptly handed me the sleeping cherub. I’d given my son enough notice he had his plans. While his wife slept and I sat as still as I could be – unwilling to wake the sleeper in my arms – he tackled household paperwork.

I looked at my granddaughter. Utterly content was I in observation. A tiny life. Child of my child. I didn’t ponder that mystery of life. I enjoyed life.

Occasionally she’d move. A yawn. A stretch. A deep breath. Every move a wonder. And then …

Her tiny fingers found my finger and she – could she sense my love? – clasped on. I whispered to my son, “Look at this.” He picturized the moment. Cherished record.


No longer do I recall who stirred first; me, my child, or my child’s child. But away went that vaporous moment removed to memory and picture.

“Can’t believe, she slept two hours for you.” My son sounded delighted.

Two hours? I held her for two hours? As I departed I thought, I don’t remember holding any of my children like this for two hours. What had just happened?

The experience intrigued me. Since this wasn’t the first time I’d held a baby (not even the first time holding my granddaughter), what brought about the contentment to sit and look so long?

As I considered this, my love for and delight in my granddaughter welled to overflowing. How was it possible to love such a tiny person so deeply this quickly?

I remembered the oft-repeated grandparent-ism: if I knew grandchildren were this much fun, I’d have had them first. That’s a more positive way of saying, “Grandkids are God’s reward for not killing our children.” The longer I considered this I felt this answer was incomplete.

A few days later I said it. “Son, enjoy her while she’s little. She’ll only be a baby once.” Walla, the elusive companion to that “-ism.” The reason I could hold my granddaughter I knew experientially how quickly children grow up. How else could this boy, who interrupted an outing to the beach with his arrival in what seems like just a little while ago, now be the father of my grandchild?

So, now, I cherish time with my grandchildren. None of the five are two weeks old any longer. They now span the ages of two to eight. They change so quickly. Me not so quickly. But change is relentless. How I desire to share life with my grandchildren.

Isn’t that what God desires for me also? He knows how fleeting my life is. The Bible describes this in terms of wild flowers, grass, and wisps of mist. Nothing very enduring.

Instead of a God who demands my time to prove my devotion to him, could it be that God wants to enjoy me and our time together? For much of my life I’ve responded to God out of a sense of duty. To be a good Christian meant I had to read the Bible, pray, memorize verses, go to church, and witness to others.

How could I have missed the reality of the love connection? What ever the reason I began in my grandfatherhood to see the relational power of love. What pleases me as much as spending time with my grandchildren is how much they look forward to being with me.

My three local grandchildren know whose turn it is for the “Grandpa date”. (At the time I’m writing this it is my grandson’s turn.) On the day it’s their turn the coat and shoes are on – the two-year old doesn’t like wearing shoes – as they stand vigil at the window.

The last time I felt that way about meeting with God was a month ago as I drove to a workshop entitled: Art and Prayer. Maybe it was because I interrupted my routine and took the time, but that’s a partial explanation. On a deeper level I feel I am responding to God in a similar way my granddaughter responded to me when I held her at two weeks old.

And I am changing, growing in my sensitivity toward God.

I look forward to more times with God, resting, enjoying, being, maybe even for…

… two whole hours.

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Grandpa David! Grandpa David!

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!”

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Christmas Tears

Christmas is a time known for surprises.

My tears unexpected.

As is our custom, we attended a Christmas Eve service. The day before we celebrated with our son’s family at their Church’s service. This night just the two of us visited a nearby church anticipating the joy of this season. No distractions from grandchildren tonight.

I found the service a wonderful blend of traditional carols and newer songs. The antics of the 50-plus member children’s choir brought smiles of reminiscence. What unabashed joy. What complete honesty. How many parents embarrassed by their child’s antics wished they hadn’t insisted on recording the performance?

In the midst of these positive moments I thought, “My parents would enjoy this service.”

With that thought, tears came. My father had died four months ago. My mother five years before that. The very lack of distractions provided the setting for grief. I took the time to worship and met my God. And the tears came.

Gently yet relentlessly the emotional incoming tide engulfed me. I allowed myself to remember my parents. Mom loved Christmas. Everything about Christmas: decorating, cooking, gift-giving, but especially family get-togethers. Those often included Christmas Eve services.

For his part Dad added the wonder to Christmas. He always found a way to surprise us on Christmas morning. When we went to bed Christmas Eve only a handful of gifts (deposited by us kids) adorned the tree skirt. In the morning a veritable gift mountain filled half the living room. (At least that’s what the child me remembers!)

Tears during the service were not simply my missing my parents. They represented a deep gratitude for the gifts my parents gave. As much as I liked unwrapping those gifts Christmas morning, the physical presents were not the ones for which I wept.

My parents presented me with love and presence; they gave of themselves more than they themselves received. They modeled God’s love; released us, their children, to follow God in our own way; of demonstrated hospitality and serving God as partners; and showed us what grandparenting entailed.

Those unexpected Christmas tears also reminded me of all the gifts my Heavenly Father gives. This night the memories revolved around my irreplaceable gift of family. And there are many other gifts God has given me over the years.

All the gifts I recalled that night lead me back to the Gift of the Christmas season. As much love as my parents demonstrated, their love dissipates like morning mist when compared to God’s love in sending Jesus. A birth destined to change history. I know it changed me.

The tears of that Christmas came unexpected and I received them as a gift from my loving Heavenly Father.

Thank you for the gift of Christmas tears: unexpected and profound.

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“Do it ‘gain!”

Family camp was winding down to the final service on Sunday night. The children’s program coordinator had already gone home with a sick child. With no childcare provided I chose to take my four-year-old grandson and two-year-old granddaughter to the playground. That way my daughter and son-in-law could participate in the service unencumbered by the demands of active and somewhat fatigued children.

Not for the first time I acknowledged the energy differential between my grandchildren and me. Neither of them seemed to walk, especially not at my preferred pace. Nor did they stay at any one play area for long.

That is until my granddaughter asked to go down the slide. The day before she had attempted it but her parents took her off the ladder. Apparently since they were not going to stand with her every moment she wasn’t allowed to climb. Me? I had time and stood behind her ready to intercept any fall. She navigated the climbing well until she reached the top where the last ladder rung was only a couple inches from the bottom of the decking.

“Hold me.” She said. Gently I held her sides enough to stabilize her. In that confidence she climbed the final portion and ran to the slide. I had just enough time to get to the foot of the slide before she commenced her downward journey. I needn’t worry about her speed. The pink boots she insisted on wearing (a gift from a church family that afternoon) dragged against the metal slide.

Once on the ground she said, “Do it ‘gain.” And so we did. Time and time and time and time again. This must have been an exciting adventure for her as it kept her attention much longer than I expected. Her brother kept belly swinging and only once joined us on the slide.

I smiled at those times, as her proficiency at climbing increased, when she didn’t ask me to hold her. Maybe she forgot as her confidence grew. Maybe she trusted me to be there. Maybe she realized she didn’t need the reassurance of my touch.

With each “Do it ‘gain” my joy at being with her and seeing her develop grew. I delighted in her growing skills.

If this is how I feel about my granddaughter, how does God feel about me? Climbing a ladder for me is a simple thing; for my granddaughter it was a momentous accomplishment. I delight in her. How much more must God delight in me?

At that question I pause. What does it mean for God to delight in me? Often I associate God with demands and judgment – not with joy and delight. I suspect this is my heritage of an intellectual theology. When I elevate the primacy of my mind, I focus on tasks and accomplishments. “Knowing” has become about the accumulation of facts and cultivating reasoning skills.

Yet, Biblically, knowing is more about relationship. Knowing God is not the accumulation of facts but the cultivation of relationship. Facts cannot delight in me. A loving Father can.

And does.

As I continue on this journey from my head to my heart, the similarity between my experience on the playground parallels my cultivation of spiritual practices (often called “disciplines”). When I discover joy in a practice and repeat it, not only do I develop proficiency I also experience the delight of God.

God who does not demand I develop any of these practices but stands close to me as I do, delights in my joy at drawing close to Him. So, I think I’ll …

… Do it ‘gain!

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I Want a Cookieeeeeeeee!

I Want a Cookieeeeeeee

The request from my grandson transformed into a wail. Not to be outdone his younger sister followed in syncopated distress. Distress the most for whom? The wailer or the wailee?

I am not sure exactly for whom cookies are necessity. And placing them on the arm rest where both children could see them was not wise. Not wise at all. And so the ensuing wailing. How could I be angry at my grandchildren when I, too, would like a cookie? Still I wanted the duet to cease.

I don’t blame my grandson. I blame the parent (I will not say which one). We had loaded up the SUV with our things for a weekend church family camp, secured the grandchildren in their car seats, and headed out. Only to be waylaid by a last minute stop at Wal-Mart for necessities.

I pride myself in being a creative grandfather so I said, “Don’t worry about the cookies, Grandpa will buy you a treat.” I’d already planned to stop for ice cream on the way. This failed to quell the wail, which instead it intensified. “I want a cookieeeee….”

Fortunately the fast food restaurant was just down the street. The chorus from the back seat silenced as we ordered hot fudge sundaes for the grandchildren. The silence descended as they devoured the treat. I enjoyed a cone. For the remainder of the trip not another word about cookies.

After a stop at a rest area we settled back for the balance of the trip.



“You’re the best grandpa ever!”

Ah, the joys of grandparenting.

And then I thought about delayed gratification. After my grandchildren saw those cookies, all they wanted was a cookie. The possibility of something better if they waited was unfathomable. The cookies were there to see. What was a treat? How quickly that changed when they discovered what the treat was.

My grandchildren aren’t the only ones who struggle with delayed gratification. I, also, want things now. That’s what makes a credit card dangerous for me. I don’t have to count the cost ahead of time when I put the purchase on plastic. That’s a weak area for me, one on which I am working.

In my spiritual life I see that so much is about delaying my gratification. When I engage in spiritual practices – worship, prayer, Bible study, meditation, silence, solitude, retreat – the benefit I receive doesn’t come immediately, nor do I see results every time. The benefits enter my inner self as food enters my cells – by slow digestion and in small amounts. Then over time I feel the cumulative impact.

Recently I spent almost a month meditating on a passage from Colossians. Day by day, little by little, God opened my heart to examine His love for me and reinforced my desire to be like Him. By the conclusion of that time I released a thirty year-old resentment.

Had I said after day one, or seven, or fifteen, “This meditation isn’t doing anything for me,” I would have lost out on what God wanted for me.

And so, when I recall the wailing incident that day – when I want whatever “cookie” it may be – I’ll remind myself. “It’s not about the cookie; I’ll wait for God’s treat.”

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Grandpa, Don’t Go!

“Grandpa, don’t go.”

I couldn’t quite grasp what my grandson said from the back seat. “What was that?” I said over my shoulder.

“Grandpa, don’t go home.” I understood the words. Still the statement didn’t make sense to my adult mind. I’d only minutes before stowed my suitcase in the trunk and situated myself in the front seat. The airplane ride had ended. I had arrived and now we were on the way to my daughter’s house for my Labor Day weekend visit.

“But I haven’t gotten to your house.”

“I don’t want you to go.”

I smiled at the simplicity of his request. How he must have looked forward to my visit and planned to have fun, so much fun he didn’t want me to leave before I’d arrived. “I look forward to playing with you and your sister.” I responded.

“Grandpa, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

There is power in anticipation. My anticipation meter had been high as well. It had been two years since I’d made the trip to Oregon and I’d last seen my grandson around Father’s Day the prior year when his family came to Illinois for a two week visit. As the day of my westward flight approached I increasingly focused on my upcoming visit.

That my grandson had this level of anticipation that he didn’t want me to leave before I’d actually arrived showed either a childhood naiveté or he had good memories of our last time together. Or is there greater power in playing peek-a-boo over skype? I wonder. He doesn’t know me well – at least not as well as my other set of grandchildren. In trust he believed he was going to have a good time with grandpa. In anticipation started the visit with the declaration of keeping me around permanently.

What a longing for relationship!

When I think of my relationships, I wonder how much longing I exhibit in them. Do I long to return home to my wife after a day’s work? Or do I simply desire to get away from work? There are days and there are days!

On another level how deeply do I anticipate my time with my Heavenly Father? My goal is to journal my prayer time, reflect on God’s involvement in my day, and read centering meditation books. Often I do this out of habit, or out of obligation, or out of a challenge (like this year when my wife bought a meditation book so we could have a common daily reading).

But when was the last time I engaged these practices out of anticipation of time with my Father? Have I ever begun my time by saying, “I don’t want You to go”? Sadly I have not exhibited the same level of intensity as my grandson in his greeting me at the airport. Still my desire for a deepening relationship with God remains. I want to spend time knowing God and following Him.

And, so, during my visit we went to my daughter’s church’s family camp. There I woke early still on Chicago time. I trekked down to the dining hall in the quiet cool darkness, fixed a cup of tea, journaled, and read my meditation books. My grandson’s simple statement plucked a cord of my heart. The vibration lasted much longer than the visit to his home.

It’s still vibrating ever so gently.

“I don’t want you to go.”

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