Being grandpa

We had most of the gadgets associated with babies and small children in our house when I was growing up. Since I had brothers 2, 4 and 6 years younger than I, I think of the others in the role of the baby of the family. I don’t remember much of those two and a half years when I was the youngest child in the family. For many years, we had a wooden high chair and a booster seat that was placed on a regular kitchen chair to enable the person in that seat to sit a bit taller at the table. I remember both devices well, but I don’t remember being the one who sat on them. I suppose that I occupied both at some phase. I do, however, have a memory of sitting on the Montgomery Ward’s catalogue at my grandparents’ home. We grew up in small towns, so the phone book wasn’t an option. In fact, it wasn’t until I was married and we moved to Chicago that I became aware of how big a phone book could get. And in those days there were two books: white pages and yellow pages. Where I grew up, the phone book was only about a quarter of an inch thick. The Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogues, however were maybe 3 inches thick.

The biggest book in our house was our dictionary, but no one would have considered allowing a child to sit on it and possibly spill food on it.

Now, as a grandfather, we have two boosting devices in our home. We have the wooden high chair with the flip-over-the-top tray that was used by Susan’s grandmother when she was a child. That piece of furniture was kept and treasured by the generations of her family and finally ended up in our home mostly as an antique and conversation piece. However, our youngest granddaughter finds that it works just right for her to sit at the dinner table. She doesn’t use the tray, but pulls the chair up to the table when she eats at our house. We also have a much newer, plastic booster chair that has a removable tray. It straps to a dining room chair and elevates the user at least 5”. It is made of moulded plastic, which cleans up easily. Our youngest grandson uses it. He doesn’t like the tray, so we pull it up to the dinner table. I remember purchasing the chair at a church rummage sale. We were not yet grandparents, but knew that we had a grandchild on the way. A friend pointed out the device to me and told me that we would really use it. I invested the 50 cents or dollar that it cost and it has turned out to be a very useful device. All four of our grandchildren have used it.

Many years ago, before we became parents, I once quipped to my wife that I thought that I would enjoy being a grandpa. Making toys and playing with children seemed like a good investment of time to me. As it turned out, I really enjoyed being a father. Although there were times when my job pulled me away from my family and there were many days and nights when I felt like I was stretched thin, having children in our home fascinated and delighted me. By the time we became grandparents, I was ready for that experience as well. It turns out that children don’t play with wooden toys all that much these days. I buy a lot of lego bricks, but I am not capable of making them. I have made wooden blocks for children and grandchildren and there is a children’s workbench set up in the shop I share with our son, equipped with scraps of wood and tools for hammering, drilling, sawing and gluing. Currently our garage has a folding table set up. The table is covered with rulers, markers, a hot glue gun and scraps of dollar tree foam board. It is our version of a production unit for model airplanes and gliders that I make with our oldest grandson. So, with a few modifications, being a grandfather is quite a bit as I imagined it might be. I get to make toys and play with our grandchildren with a luxury of time that I didn’t experience when our children were their ages. I have time to install a speedometer on a bicycle and repair a broken doll.

I have friends who aren’t as engaged with their grandchildren as we are, but I also have friends who are just as crazy, swept off their feet in love with being grandparents as we. If there is someone out there who can’t understand how someone can be so over the top with their grandchildren, I’m probably the kind of grandpa they point at as they scratch their heads. I simply love being a grandfather and can’t imagine how anyone would not find it the most fun in the world. I’ve gotten to do a lot of wonderful things in my life. Being a grandpa is right up there at the top of the list. How could you not love being greeted by a 19-month-old who runs at you full bore while yelling “Papa!”? How could you not love watching your grandchildren racing around the yard on their bicycles and then putting new tubes in the tires of your bicycle so you could join them? It is the most natural thing in the world for me.

Truth be told, I don’t mind the spilled milk or the food scraps on the floor. And we don’t have a dog to clean them up. Cleaning up after a meal is such a small chore that it seems to be so worth the joy of watching the youngest ones learn how to eat. Spaghetti is just made for little fingers and mouths, even if it all doesn’t make the trip from the bowl to the stomach.

Perhaps my constant chatter in my journal about our grandchildren is boring to some readers. I don’t know. Living my life right now is as far from boring as it gets.

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