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On Becoming a Grandfather

 I have two fine grandsons.  Ryan turned two in April, and we recently celebrated Will's fifth birthday in July.  It has been a great honor having two such wonderful grandsons.  Being a grandfather has proven to be even more rewarding than I suspected it would be.  My grandsons are truly a blessing beyond measure, and I am sure that they will continue to bless all whom they touch.  I was recently reminded of something that I wrote shortly after Will was born, and I want to share it.  Granted, the only way it relates to retirement issues is to realize that if you have grandchildren, you had better be making plans for retirement. Grandchildren are often one of the nicer things about reaching retirement age.  I know that is certainly true for me.


I recently became a grandparent.  How this can be I cannot fully explain, as only a few short days ago I was still playing ball and hanging out with the other kids in my little home town.  I was mowing neighbors' lawns for pocket money, and my parents were telling me that I could be anything that I wanted to be in life.  Then, just a few days later I married the girl of my dreams and went off to learn to fly Air Force jets. In short order the girl of my dreams and I were blessed with the perfect little daughter.  I flew airplanes, and that little girl filled our time together with joy and laughter.  All too fast, she was grown.  In no time at all she was marrying a fine young man, and thus it is I find myself in my 55th year a grandfather.  How this all transpired so quickly is well beyond my comprehension.  As I contemplate this change in my life, I feel a little out of kilter; a little off center if you will.  It's as if I missed something really important while my attention wavered for only an instant.  It all seems somewhat surreal.  Logically I understand this turn of events. Logically I am thrilled by these events.  Yet I must confess to feeling some trepidation and a general sense of inadequacy in the face of these new developements.

A grandfather! Can I be a grandfather?I am sure of neither the requirements not my readiness for such a role.  What are my new responsibilities?  Do I need to change my approach to life?  Should I be more serious?  Should I be less serious?  Will I be able to speak "baby talk" competently?  And this new one is a boy; I know something of little girls, but will I succeed in the little boy arena?  Have other "boomers" had these same feeling upon gazing into the fresh new face of their first grandchild?  And finally and perhaps most importantly, do I at long last have to grow up?  I certainly hope not as I have never proven very adept at that.  After all it will be with a little boy that I will want to converse and identify.  As I recall l little boys find frogs, dogs, and bathroom humor amusing;  I can proudly state that I too enjoy all three of those topics without ever having grown up.  Could it be that I will be okay in my current immature state?

In spite of my natural competence and confidence, I realize that I may need some guidance and new skills for this grandfather thing.  A merely adequate job of grandfathering will not suffice in this case.  I want to be the grandfather of legend; the one that future generations will cite as the role model for what grandfathering should be.  "Now there was a grandfather!"  I want to be to grandfathers what Robert Young was to fathers.  I want to be at least as good as the other grandfather.  You see, he is a talented and learned man.  I could easily suffer in comparison when my new grandson eventually sizes us up.  That would be painful.

On more occasions than I care to admit I have wandered into various roles under perpared and over confident and allowed my natural talents, charm, and good luck carry the day and keep me from looking like the incompetent that I may have actually been.  On rare occasions my natural talents and good luck were not enough and I was exposed.  This is very embarassing, and I sincerely do not want this to happen to me in this new endeavor.  This new role is much too important.  And of course there is always the other grandfather who will keep the pressure on me.

Thus, I have devised a plant to help me prepare for this challenging new experience.  I have already spent some time considering the grandfathers from my own life.  One of my grandfathers was a cold and distant man.  The most vivid memories I have of him is that he often scared me.  He probably did not intend to scare me, but scare me he did.  I suppose he loved me, as a grandfather should, but I cannot remember him ever telling me as much, so to say so would only be an assumption on my part.  He was a poor and uneducated man so I can forgive him his inadequacies.  He simply did not have the people skills to be a successful grandfather.  Althought my other grandfather was also poor and uneducated, he was a kind and gentle man with me, and I know that he loved me because he told me so.  Sadly though, we did not have much of a relationship when I was a very young child simply because he did not know how to relate to a little boy.  I think that this so because he had at some point grown up.  He had lived through the Great Depression, you see, and I am told that that experience foisted maturity on many an otherwise immature soul.  Once I became a teenager, however, we became fast friends.  It was a joy to be with him; besides he often allowed me to drive his old Plymouth around the country roads where we lived, and that greatly increased his stock in my eyes.  Both of my grandfathers were born prior to 1900, so they represented a time and a culture no longer with us.  Although both taught me much about being a successful grandfather, I do not think that I want to pattern my own grandfathering after either of them.

I have also been surreptitiously observing some of my friends who preceded me into this state.  Most seem to be handling their new roles quite successfully, but I remind myself, I want to excell at this so I have to choose my role models very carefully.  It seems that the really successful ones always have time to spend with their grandchildren.  It seems that quite often they are attending ball games, plays, picnics, and many of the other functions that children find so important.  I suspect that this characteristic is a "biggy," and I would do well to incorporate it into my repertoire.

I have decided to consult some of the foremost experts on gaining the love and confidence of my new grandchild.  I shall begin my search for knowledge by referencing the book of knowledge, the Bible. I am sure it has much to say about grandparenting, as it has much to say about all facets of life.  I have found an especially pertinent website, Grandparent's Magazine, that I will doubtless consult often.  I have already been the grateful recipient of a book titled Always Have Popsicles.  This book is filled with many great tips on how to grandparent.  Now I don't particularly enjoy popsicles, but you can bet we will always have them if the grand boy likes them.  I intend to purchase another book entitled One Hundred Jokes for Little Boys and memorize at least fifty of them.  One never knows when a little boy will require a joke, and it is best to have a few at the ready.  There is another book, Let Them Have Anything They Want as Long as It Won't Hurt Them, making the rounds.  I don't know much about it yet, but the title suggest that it will fit my intended modus operandi. I also expect to consult the writings of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie.  If these guys can tell me how to think positively and win friends and influence people, surely they can help me win the love of a little boy.  I may also consult the works of that famous American poet and philosopher, Jimmy Buffet.  Buffet has made a career of "growing older but not up," so he has that going for him.  I suspect, though, that I will have to be very discriminating with his body of work.

Finally, I intend to lean heavily upon the advice of the grandmothers.  I confidently expect a great deal of advice from the one who lives with me, but I will gladly accept it from either if offered.  I am well aware that when it comes to the art of grandparenting, women have it all over men.  It is a biological thing and not to be challenged or disputed.  It comes as natural to them as walking into a shoe store.  There are very few exceptions to this rule.  I am aware of only one study that ever found differently.  There was a study published by prominent researchers during the mid-70's regarding a situation somewhere in the mid-west, in Ohio I believe.  In this highly unusual situation, the grandfather was found to be a better grandparent than was the grandmother.  In this case, however, the grandmother was the CEO of a major mid-western corporation, and her corporate responsibilities required her to be out of the country a great deal.  When this study was reported in a major publication, the grandmother recognized herself as one of the principals, and immediately resigned her $500,000 a year job.  She then contacted the researchers and demanded that they review their findings in light of her new status.  They reluctantly did so, and determined that, in light of the new situation, she was indeed the better grandparent.  In doing so, they only narrowly avoided a nasty law suit.  I share this with you only to point out that althought I am setting my goals extremely high, I realize it may be futile to expect to be a better grandparent that will be the grandmothers.  But I have always believed that to succeed, a man's grasp should exceed his reach, so my lofty goals will remain steadfast.

So you see I am totally committed to being an exceptional grandfather for little Will, my new grandson.  I have a lot of research to do and other plans to fulfill.  There is very little time to waste.  He is here and now, and although he is as yet unable to laugh at any of my little-boy jokes, the little thief has already stolen my heart.  The love that I feel for him compels me to action.  I have to get really busy.  However, if time runs short, or if all of my plans for preparation do not come to fruition, I shall simply fall back on the natural talents and charm that have usually pulled me through in the past.  Besides, this time I have an extra measure of love to apply to the project and to offer in my defense.  Wish me Well!

Fly/Drive Safely

29 July, 2008

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Reader Comments (1)

Wow! Those are two blessed little boys....

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGinger

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