A happy father's day

Yesterday our son and his family came to our house for lunch after church. It always gives me a thrill to have our grandchildren burst through the front door yelling my name. Yesterday they each had a gift for a combined celebration of Father’s Day and my birthday. Our lunch plans were simple, just burgers and hot dogs on the grill. I waited until they arrived and took custom orders so each person got what they wanted. When the meat was cooked, everyone sat at the table, finding our places from the custom place cards made by our seven-year-old granddaughter. I passed out the meat and buns to each. A plain hot dog here, a bacon-cheddar-mushroom burger there, a burger with bacon only, a hot dog with cheese. Each person got what they had ordered. The last to be handed out was for my wife, who had requested a plain hamburger. I placed it on her plate and said, “And a plain hamburger for grandma.” The four-year-old looked at her and said, “You get what you get, so don’t throw a fit.” I burst out with laughter.

Later in the meal the four-year-old wanted someone to pass the sweet peppers to her. We were all talking and she got no response when she first asked. She asked again, a bit louder, and added, “I said it in English!”

There are real advantages to having moved close enough to pop over for Sunday lunch together. Seven at the dinner table is a great feeling. The picture with today’s journal entry is the banner that the children made for the occasion.

Our two children live a long ways apart. One in Washington, the other in South Carolina. So we had to be satisfied with video clips and pictures of the day for our grandson who lives in South Carolina. There were so many people making calls to wish “Happy Father’s Day!” that both Skype and FaceTime were buggy and slow when we talked earlier in the day, so our daughter made sure that I had a few cute video clips to remind me of our grandson and to brighten up my day. He is as talented at bringing a smile to my face as are the three who live here in Washington.

The biggest joy of holidays like Father’s Day is the joy of watching our son, who is a truly great father. We have a similar feeling about our daughter on Mother’s Day. He is a natural with the children, listening carefully to them, setting firm boundaries, and making them feel loved and secure. He has become accomplished at solving home maintenance tasks while keeping his sense of perspective. His job can be stressful at times, dealing with the politics of city government while trying to serve the entire community through the library, but he manages the stress of work and the balance of family life very well.

Being a grandpa, however, is pure delight. My life has a bit of stress, but less than was the case at some other points in my career. My relationship with our grandchildren is natural and their love is freely given. Even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, our family was within our bubble. We were careful, but we were given access to our grandchildren. Our daughter and her son were with us for a month in February as they were moving their household from Japan to South Carolina.

We know stories of others who are given limited access to their grandchildren. Sometimes it is just a matter of distance. People live all around the globe these days and there is no guarantee that grandparents and grandchildren will live close to one another. Even when grandchildren are in close proximity, family relationships can be complex. We know grandparents who are not allowed much time with their grandchildren. Fortunately for us, we have unrestricted access. We help with their schooling, share meals together, and visit their home whenever we want. They stop by our house whenever their activities bring them to town. One of the luxuries of this phase of our life is that we get time with our grandchildren individually. They can come to work with their dad and spend the day at our house while their siblings are back on the farm with their mother. We get to know them better and we can have adventures geared to a particular age. I have to admit, however, that grandpa is barely able to keep up with our ten-year-old grandson on a bike ride. Fortunately I happen to have a 21-speed bike and his is only 8 speeds. The mechanical advantage allows me to keep up for now. Among the gifts I received yesterday is a new bell for my bike, so I can issue a warning to pedestrians when I approach at the speed of a ten-year-old.

Decades ago, before we had children, when we were dating, or perhaps just newly wed, I once said to my wife that I thought I would enjoy being a grandpa. I could make toys and entertain kids. It was the kind of silly conversation that young lovers indulge themselves in. Somehow we both can recall the conversation. Being a grandpa isn’t quite as I had imagined it, but the basic idea, that being a grandpa would be fun has definitely come true. One of the great joys of life is the joy of growing old together. Susan, as it turns out, is a very good grandmother. It makes sense, she is a wonderful mother.

Out day yesterday was just right. After the grandchildren left we had time for an evening walk down a path under a tree canopy in the early evening breeze. We could tell our neighbors were celebrating from the number of extra cars parked at their house. The whole neighborhood seemed to be in a good mood with music and barbecue smoke drifting through the air. We miss our home and friends in South Dakota, but feel fortunate to be at this place in our lives. Our joy is a gift to be savored and will last long after the holiday has passed. It was a happy father’s day.

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