Grandparenting, revisit

We’ve had two consecutive weekends of family reunion. This past Saturday, July 27 2019, my mother and her brothers gathered with their children and grandchildren. As we talked and laughed, I remembered my grandparents, the patriarchs of this crew, and the impact they had on me, so I re-share this post from March 2015 — my thoughts on grandparenting.

I have so many memories of my grandparents. I was blessed to have a great-grandmother until I was twenty-four, and grandparents until I was in my forties. Growing up, these three were central to my life. They were at every birthday and major celebration, and we often visited them since they lived just an hour away. Time with my grandparents was a highlight of my childhood; I eagerly looked forward to every visit.

Now, when my husband and I are anticipating a visit with our own grandchildren, I can clearly remember countless hours spent with my nose pressed against a window waiting for visits with my grandparents.

My husband asked me once, “Do you remember why you wanted to see them so badly?” Without hesitation I responded, “They were always happy to see me!” And that is the truth. Every time we visited our grandparents, they gushed; their faces lit up; and they hugged us exclaiming how much we’d grown — even if they’d seen us just a couple weeks earlier.

My great grandmother, who lived to be 95, would always meet us at the door smiling through the window with her sparkly eyes as she watched us climb from the car. She laughed as she hugged as at the door and welcomed us to come in, take off our coats, and have something to eat.  On special occasions, like Christmas Eve or Mother’s Day, the WHOLE family would visit her — that meant twenty or more people all squished into her small living room — on couches, chairs, stools, and the floor — listening to her share stories of days long past. I don’t ever remember being bored. I remember feeling enveloped in love. And I remember her sour cream cookies — oh, man, such melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.

My grandpa and grandma’s house was about five minutes away from my great grandmother’s. As a young girl I learned to recognize the signs that we were getting close — we crossed the draw bridge over the Saginaw River, drove past the huge houses on Center Avenue, then turned at the gas station on Pine Street. The anticipation built as we drove the last four blocks, and I could hardly wait to burst out of the car and run to the door to ring the bell. My little grandma (we called her that because, well, she was little, but also to distinguish her from ‘great’ grandma) was often already standing at the door, an apron tied around her waist. She dressed better than anyone I knew –color-coordinated and accessorized in classic styles– and was always cooking something fabulous for us. She would open the door, and right behind her would be grandpa. Grandma would give us a kiss and a squish, then we would get the same from grandpa. Whenever my grandparents hugged me, I felt like they had had their noses pressed against the glass waiting for me to get there.

I’ve seen my mother and father do the same thing with my kids.

My mother always fills the fridge and the candy dishes in anticipation of our visits. She has the beds freshly made and something special set on a table for each one — a set of towels, a photo album, a pair of earrings. She hugs each grandchild and listens to every little detail that they are willing to share. She watches at the window waiting for the grandkids get there and is always sad when they leave.

When we travel to see my dad, I always give a call as we leave our house. It has never been less than a four hour drive, but when I say, “We’re leaving now,” he says, “I’ll be watching out the window for you.” It doesn’t matter how long it takes us to get there, he is always standing in the door when we drive in. He laughs his soft laugh as he envelops each grandkid in his arms like he’s been waiting his whole life for that hug.

That’s what grandparents do — they love their grandkids like it is their sole created purpose. It’s innate — a grandparent does not need to be taught this behavior.

We were driving to Cincinnati to see our little muffin when she was just an infant, and I was watching the GPS from the time we pulled out of our driveway. The original ETA was projected shortly before 5pm, but the GPS didn’t know about the rush hour traffic in Dayton. We got stalled for a bit, and when the traffic started moving, I began to text our son updates: “We should be to you in 30 minutes.” “20.” “10.”

He replied, “Come right in, the door is open.”

He didn’t have to tell us twice. We burst through that door to find our sweet girl sleeping on his chest. We sniffed her, touched her, held her, hugged her. No script needed.

For almost forty-eight hours we took turns holding that little girl, talking to her, smiling at her, loving on her. We didn’t need a guidebook, a demonstration, or practice. We knew exactly what to do.

Driving away at the end of our visit, we were already thinking about how soon we could plan to get back. Since then, we take every opportunity to clear the calendar, load up the car, and drive to our girls — to see them, hug them, chase them, and just love them.

Grandparent love is possibly the purest form of love on the planet — it doesn’t expect or demand, it doesn’t judge or condemn, it just loves with no strings attached. It anticipates arrivals, waiting at the window, noses pressed against the glass.

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.”

Proverbs 17:6