July 18 – Thoughts on grandparents

July 18. “Grandmother / grandchild relationships are simple: Grandmas are short on criticism and long on love.” (Anonymous)

Not so many years ago, I wouldn’t have had much to say about this quote, and I am not really sure I do today. This will be one of those posts where I start and have no idea where it is going.

I am the youngest in my family by 11 years. When I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to still have my great-grandmother living. She was quite a remarkable woman, and had a hand in the guiding and raising of my siblings because she had lived so close by. By the time I came along she was farther along in age, but still was amazing.

Gram Walker was quite a baker. If I think hard I can still taste her raisin cookies, even though I haven’t had one in almost 40 years. She was a dedicated baseball fan, and disliked football as too violent. MY siblings tell great stories of time spent with her in the kitchen, hanging out with her while she baked, with a baseball game on the radio.

My dad’s dad passed away even before my mother met my father, so none of us ever knew him. His wife, my father’s mother, lived into her 90s. She was quite a spry woman. She lived a distance away from us, so I would only see her a time or two every year. When we did, it was always a lively event. She was notorious for her playing of Tripoli. She would sport a visor as she played, and would stand much of the time because her diminutive size would limit how far she could reach.

By the time I was born, my mother’s mother lived quite a distance away. At best I would see her once a year. I never really got to know her well, but she wasn’t really the prototypic grandmother that this quote is about. She was somewhat reclusive, and had a bit of a surly streak.

My mother’s father was alive until just before I got married. He was a traveler, and would drive across the country to see his children. In his later years he flew, but the trips were always there. I have a few memories of spending time with him, and remember that he was quick with a joke, but also would challenge me. He saw something in me, even at a very young age, and pushed me to do well in school, respect my mother, have proper manners, and use proper English. I really enjoyed my time with him and wish that he’d been younger so I could have spent more.

My wife and I are not yet officially grandparents, but we are getting really close. In the last 9 years I have been saying that my wife is a grandmother in training. Some of our closest friends have children that are under the age of 10, and I have watched in amazement as she plays with them. The look forward with great anticipation to every visit from her, because they know she will have something fun in store for them. Whether she is crawling in the family room acting out the Billy Goats Gruff story (she is usually the troll), reading a special bedtime story, or baking with them at camp, there is always something fun when she comes around.

I have avoided thinking about what kind of grandfather I will be, because it implies something to me about age. Many of our friends are also grandparents, so I have plenty of examples from which to choose. As I am getting more fit, the idea of being the grandfather who is down on the floor, perhaps taking my wife’s Troll job away so she can be a Billy Goat, is quite appealing. I want to be the grandpa who encourages, teaches, cheers and loves his grandchildren.

Today my reflection is on how I will be as a grandpa. I am excited about it, and can’t wait to get started!

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