Throughout our married life, we have enjoyed getting together with our siblings. When our children were little, their ages were close to the ages of the children of one of Susan’s sisters. Whenever the five cousins got together, they enjoyed each other and played together well. But there was plenty of emotional intensity about our gatherings. The adults were eager to share conversation. The children had different styles of playing. On one visit, I remember saying to the other adults, “Anybody can get one or two kids crying at the same time. It takes a real pro to get all five crying at the same time.” All five kids crying at the same time was a rare occurrence, if it ever happened. I don’t remember crying. I remember laughing. I remember family meals and happy children.
Of course, there is nothing particularly unique about a few children being together. For most of my growing-up years, we had five children in our household. Our parents seemed to be quite capable of providing for us all, keeping us well fed and clothed, getting us to school on time and helping with our homework, teaching us bout family life and going on some wonderful adventures.
The book I’m currently reading tells the story of a family that had eight children at home. They had a girls’ bedroom, a boys’ bedroom and a bedroom for the parents. Both parents were immigrants and new to the United States, and they endured a lot of hardships and forged a wonderful family life.
We never had eight or even five children, but we were blessed with two. Not long ago I was talking with someone about my age about raising children and the other person asked me what age I enjoyed the most. I didn’t have an answer. I enjoyed all of the ages of our children. That is not to say that there weren’t sleepless nights and worries. There were. And there were challenges with certain phases of our children’s development. Our two were so different from each other that every day brought surprises and unexpected moments. I can say without a doubt that being a father is on of the best parts of my life. Since it is so wonderful for me, I naturally wanted for our children to have the experience of being parents. And, selfishly, I wanted to be a grandfather.
Before we ever had children, I told my wife that I thought I could be a good grandfather. I like making toys and I am fascinated by watching children learn and grow. Being a grandfather, however, is far better and more wonderful than I was able to imagine.
I’m treasuring and trying to hang on to all of the wonderful days we are having right now. We have had both of our children and all of our grandchildren close for three weeks and we have just one more week before our daughter and grandson will board the airplane to fly to South Carolina to move into their new home. Our son-in-law has gone ahead, settled details with the house they are buying, cared for the family dog and begun his work. He is eager to have his family together again. I understand that. I want them to be together, too.
But for one more week, I’m reveling in the incredible joy of having family close. Four grandchildren make our home the best place to be. Since we cannot go to church together with the restrictions of a pandemic. We decided to dress up for Sunday dinner anyway. I haven’t worn a tie since I retired, but I figured out how to get myself gussied up. The kids all have different notions of what is dress up clothes. After watching church on the computer, we sat down to a “fancy” lunch with cucumber sandwiches and pigs in a blanket and a platter of fruits and vegetables on toothpicks. We had a cake for dessert. We spent the afternoon playing games. There were soap bubbles and a soccer ball and playing catch in the back yard. There were crafts and finger painting and I had time to work with our oldest grandson on a model airplane he is making. There was a silly charades game and a board game where marbles roll in a three dimensional maze. The younger children had a tea party and invited a host of stuffed animals and toasted with play dishes and imaginary food.
I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Since we all got dressed up, we took family pictures. These aren’t the kind of pictures that a professional photographer would make in a studio. These are family snapshots. Now that we all have digital cameras and phones that take pictures, we get instant gratification. For most of the afternoon, I had a slideshow of pictures we had taken that day to which I added images as I took them and as others sent me pictures from their phones. In the evening after our son’s family had returned to their house and our youngest grandson had gone to sleep upstairs, I sat at my desk and watched the images flash across the screen. It was the same screen on which we had watched church. Watching family pictures was a moment as sacred as worship had been in the morning.
I’m reluctant to post pictures of our grandchildren on the Internet, but I have permission from our children to do so in my journal. Still, I’m cautious. I’m not going to be a Facebook granddad who is constantly displaying images of his grandchildren to strangers. I think, however, that the number of people who read my journal is fairly small and most of them are our friends. After all, you have to wade through a lot of words to get to a small number of pictures in my journal. As I write this morning, I know that a couple of pictures from yesterday say more about my state of mind than any words I could find.
I am a very fortunate and privileged person, who is delighted to be able to live in a multi-generational family. And I’m a silly grandpa who is totally smitten by his wonderful grandchildren.