words are powerful
Like your parents, but the next step up, grandparents can instill a mixture of emotions. As a little one, they could coerce obedience by promising to tell your parents whether you had been good or not. It was only in later years that you realized they probably wouldn’t say a word if you had been bad.
As parents, grandparents probably raised their children with a firm hand, but with age tend to mellow which means grandchildren probably get away with much more than their parents ever did.
Some things never change though.
The mother who insisted she was not hungry when the last piece of bread, or meat, or even pie beckoned to the stomach of an eight-year-old is probably the grandmother who does the same when you went to visit them.
The father who was a military veteran and instilled strict discipline in the ranks is probably the same grandfather who will sneak with you out of the garage down to the local ice cream store or bakery after making you promise not to tell grandma that something has spoiled your dinner.
While some grandparents never learn, others have had the privilege of helping the next generation to learn and grow. Some grandparents undermine the parents, while others are careful to help instill respect, loyalty, and honesty.
Mygrandparents were the good kind of grandparents. I never knew my maternal grandfather as he passed away when my mother was only sixteen, I spent many years loving my maternal grandmother and the man she married after being a widow for 18 years. We called him Grandpa and he was everything you could ask for in a proper British gentleman.
A master electrician and professor at a local British college, I can remember visiting them and him asking me to help him “do some repairs up in the attic.” A stately man, he carefully took off his suit jacket and worked his way up the ladder still wearing a sweater, pressed dress shirt, and a tie (with a double Windsor knot). Knowing nothing about electrical wiring, he made me feel important as though I had actually done the work.
Grandma, or Nanny as she was preferably called, could bake up a storm. Tarts, sausage rolls, scones, and all things British helped keep appetites at bay. She always had a faint smell of lavender and she was meticulous about her clothing and hair. Til the day she died at almost 87, she had a full head of dark brown hair with no more than a handful of gray or white hairs.
My paternal grandmother abandoned her family when my dad was little, but we did know and spend time with my paternal grandfather. Distance and careers kept us from visiting as often as I would have liked, but he knew he was loved. Laying carpet, tile, and linoleum until he was in his 70’s, he taught me the importance of hard work.
On one visit when I was about ten, we drive across the US to visit him. While there, he kept us entertained while still working hard. In his 70’s, he could still run circles around what I can do in my 50’s. During the visit, my parents bought him a brand-new wallet as his was falling apart. I asked for the wallet, but my parents didn’t think it was of any value and it was thrown away. We left the next evening and headed back across the US. All I could think of was a wallet in the trashcan behind the house, but it was eventually forgotten.
Years later, I visited my grandfather down in Mexico with my own little family that we had just started. During that time, the previous visit when I was ten entered the conversation and it triggered the memory of that old wallet. I shared the story with my grandfather and we laughed about what makes a memory. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out a newer wallet and asked me if I would like to have it. I was very surprised, but insisted that I had a newer wallet myself and wanted him to keep what he had. He never had a great deal of money or possessions, but he was just Grandpa. He was the type of person that would give you what you needed and even what you wanted whether he could afford it or not.
My stories could probably fill books of all the things they did for us and with us, but the one common factor was their love for us. They didn’t always agree with our decision any more than our parents did, but they stood with us especially when life was difficult.
Asa grandfather myself now, I look at past generations and realize the rich heritage that was left to me. Sadly, we are not allowed to spend time with our grandson due to a nasty divorce, but I can only pray that one day that little fellow will know that we tried to be there for him. I hope that like my own grandfathers, and my children’s grandfathers, that I will be a rock to help guide through life but do so with as much graciousness and love as I was shown.
All of my grandparents are now gone, but their memories live on. I wish I would have taken more time than I did, but when you are young, you think that with a full life ahead of you that they do as well.
My goal is to be the kind of grandfather to my grandchildren that they will one day be to their own grandchildren. If I do it right and they follow in the footsteps that I have followed before me, then I will have succeeded.