The Joys of Being a Grandparent

It’s good to be a grandparent. It’s a little like Social Security, I guess. You put in a lot of hard work initially, and then down the road a bit, you get it back with a lower tax rate (no diapers, two o’clock feedings, teenage hysterics, or college tuitions) and get to spend it pretty much the way you want to.

We have been blessed with thirteen “returns on investments,” if you will, ranging from two to twenty-five. Some have finished college and are off on their own. Others are learning their ABC’s and starting school. In the summer of 2009, we had them together in one spot and for much of the time, there was this magical ebb and flow of young bodies where there were no ages, no genders, no big, no little. Aside from afternoon naps (the little ones) and evening pub crawls (the older ones), the days were spent wandering the beach, splashing in the pool, playing card games, biking, laughing, and eating. It sure was fun to be a part of—and occasionally, just watch.

The only downside of our particular situation is that none of the grandkids lives, or has ever lived, in the same area as we did. Thus, we’ve spend a good deal of time on the road, making Exxon and Continental very happy campers. We get up to Western New York pretty often, and make annual or semi-annual trips to the Northwest. We even spent a special two weeks in Italy when our Navy son was stationed there.

In the fall, we often find ourselves heading to Indiana, where four of the younger grandkids live. One of the trips traditionally takes place around Halloween, so one October, we stopped and bought several rolls of toilet paper and wrapped up Grandpa like a mummy. Then we snuck around to the back of the house and tapped on the window. Were they scared? Well, not so much, but they were surprised, and that was almost as good. And the germ of an idea was born.

The next time, we didn’t even let them know we were coming. In days past, without cell phones, it would have been almost impossible to pull off. Now, through constant communication with our daughter Anne, we were able to position ourselves in the cereal aisle of the local supermarket just as they stopped in to pick up some groceries after school. Pat and I were concentrating on the display of crackers opposite the breakfast food, when the four of them came pelting down the aisle in search of their favorite brands. As they stood there excitedly grabbing boxes off the shelves, Pat turned around and said, “Excuse me, but do you know where I can find the Cocoa Krispies?” The looks on their faces were priceless.

Since then, we usually do a surprise visit at least once a year. We showed up for a birthday party at Chuckie Cheese. Once, when they were on their own trip to Washington, DC, we were sitting in a booth where they stopped for lunch in Zanesville, Ohio. I like to think we keep them a little off kilter, wondering where we’ll show up next. Don’t spill the beans, but this coming weekend, we’ll be hiding in a corn maze in Indiana. I can’t wait.

Life seems to go by with the speed of light. These are precious times with the most precious gift God has given us. Family. May you and your loved ones hold your particular blessings in your hearts as you celebrate Thanksgiving.

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