Thursday, September 5, 2013

Grandparents Day -- Hype or . . .

Sunday is Grandparents Day. Big deal, right? Just another excuse for the card companies and florists to make some money.

Yeah, that's the way I used to see it, too. But lately, I've been thinking about what a gift a grandparent truly is. My maternal grandparents died before I was born and my paternal grandfather died when I was a baby. The only grandparent I knew lived in Finnish Harlem in NYC, which was about a three-hour drive from our house. We spent weekends there, so it's not like I never saw her, but I never really felt as if I knew her. Her name was Johanna Wayrenen Haatainen and even though she immigrated to America when she was just 13, she never really mastered the English language. She spent her time with other Finns, so I guess she didn't feel a real need to do so. It made communicating with her a challenge. Although she could understand me, I often couldn't understand her. Even her parakeet, Pikkulintu (Little Bird), was bi-lingual. 

I never remember feeling loved by my grandmother. 

My children, on the other hand, had grandparents who adored them, especially my mother, who spent a lot of time crossing the Pennsylvania turnpike just to see them. She took them on vacations, to Hershey Park, on walks . . . she made them feel important to her. My father died exactly one month before my daughter, Bethany, was born. When my mother remarried, my girls were 14 and 12 and their "new" grandpa doted on them and made up for their lack of a grandfather during their younger years. 

After my husband died in 1989, I married Bill, whose mother had 13 grandchildren of her own. Yet, without hesitation, she embraced my children as if she'd been part of their life all along.

My children were blessed. Grandparents Day? Yeah, it was worthy of noting. Sadly, my mother was the last surviving grandparent for them. When she died in January, she left a void in their lives that few can understand. They were that close to her.

Bill and I were talking about grandparents the other day and I mentioned how blessed our own grandchildren are to have us. I don't mean to sound boastful with that statement. It's just that we adore our grandbabies, and they know it. It's a mutual admiration society, which is evident every time Laura or Lincoln hug us, or a smile breaks out across baby Marley's face. We not only love our grandchildren, but we genuinely like them. We worship together every Sunday. We go out to eat. Bill takes them down into his train room and entertains them with his display. I read to them and cook with them. I teach them things. We explore together. Heck, I even feature them in my Lincoln and Laura series of books for Marvel's iStorybooks line. 

 Yeah, our grandkids are blessed and I have to admit, I'm a bit envious. I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with grandparents who were also my friends. I wonder how different my life would have been.

Grandparents Day. It's worthy of a celebration.

What about you? What's your grandparenting story? I'd love to hear it.

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