Of grandpas and their pictures

One of the gifts I received for my 12th birthday was a wallet. I was delivering newspapers and mowing lawns that summer, so I had a bit of cash to put in the wallet. The wallet was made out of leather and had a pocket for bills and another for coins. I quickly abandoned the coin pouch. It made the wallet uncomfortable to carry in my back pocket and to sit upon. I decided that carrying coins in my right front pocket was just fine. The wallet also had a set of transparent plastic pages for cards and photographs. I didn’t have any credit cards. I didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t have an insurance card. The only official card I had was my fairly new social security card which was in our family’s safety deposit box for safe keeping. I filled out the identification card that came with the wallet with my name, address and phone number. I made up another card with my social security number on it so I wouldn’t be able to forget it. I had memorized it, however, and never actually needed to refer to the card. My mother helped me find a school picture of myself and a couple of pictures of school mates for which I had swapped. It was interesting to me that the spaces in my wallet were quite a bit larger than the “wallet sized” pictures we had gotten. In those days school pictures were black and white. I still had some empty slots in my wallet, that I eventually filled up with pictures of classmates. The problem is that I never really found an excuse to show any of those pictures to anyone else. I noticed that my mother occasionally got out pictures of her grandchildren to show to others, but I don’t remember ever seeing my father taking out his wallet for the purpose of showing pictures to others. He, of course had a driver’s license and a pilot’s medical certificate and license to take up space in his wallet.

These days, my wallet is filled mostly with cards. I try to keep the number of cards to a minimum, but I have a bank card from the bank as well as a credit card and a bank card from the credit union. Then there is my insurance card and my prescription card and my dental insurance card and my medicare card. I have my driver’s license. The stack of cards comprises the bulk of the depth of my wallet. a few bills of cash are also there, but not much more.

Ah, but I do have my phone. And my phone has thousands of pictures on it. Most of them are of my grandchildren and I take it out frequently to show off those photographs. I’m not sure, but I’m beginning to think that my father missed out on one of the great joys of life. He loved being a grandfather and he loved spending time with his grandchildren and we have a few precious photographs of him down on the floor playing with grandchildren. But I don’t think he ever had pictures of them that he could readily show to friends and acquaintances.

It isn’t at all uncommon for me to get out my photos of my children and grandchildren as a way of introducing myself to someone that I have just met. And the pictures always come out when I meet up with an old friend with whom I’ve not seen for a while.

The other day, I was visiting with a friend who lives in Turkey but who has daughters and granddaughters in Rapid City and who visits regularly. I took out my phone to show him a couple of pictures of our newest granddaughter who was born since the last time I have seen him. He then pulled out his phone and showed me photos of his youngest granddaughter who lives in Turkey. As he showed me the pictures he told stories about her. She loves to visit his home. He has a big garden and a lot of fruit trees. She loves to just dig in the dirt in the garden. And, each time she sees him, she runs to him with her arms up in the air, yelling, Papa, papa! I loved the story because it reminds me of our grandchildren. Our youngest is still crawling and doesn’t run quite yet, but the middle one definitely runs to me with her arms up in the air. It is one of life’s sweetest gifts.

What was fun about sharing pictures with my friend is that the experience of being a grandfather and the miracle of grandchildren is universal. We grew up far away from each other, speaking different languages, though his English is very good and I’m impressed, given that I only know one or two words of Turkish. He worked in banking and I’ve never been good at finance. He grew up Muslim. I grew up Christian. You might think hat we would have little in common and would struggle with conversation. But we have an instant bond and connection because being a grandpa is something that transcends language and culture and religion. It is simply wonderful and all grandpas know it.

Last week he told someone else that I am his best friend in America. And he is my best friend in Turkey. However, to be fair, I don’t know very many people from Turkey. But we are definitely friends and our friendship is based, in part, on our appreciation for each other’s love of our children and grandchildren. The things we have in common are far more important than the differences we have.

I don’t know what became of that wallet I got when I was 12. I’ve had several different ones since. These days I try to be as minimalist as possible when it comes to my wallet. In fact I have a small case of extra cards such as customer loyalty cards, membership cards and the like that I don’t carry with me every day. But I don’t have a shortage of photographs. Thanks to the technology of digital photos and smart phones, I’ve got a few thousand that I’d be glad to share with you.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!