The Blessing of Grandparents
I was born in the 50's, and back in those days, grandparents were a very strong presence and influence in the family. Sunday's were spent at Grandma and Grandpa's house eating pot roast and apple pie, sitting around the table or living room laughing and telling stories, and a lot of other family activities. Games were a big deal with both my sets of grandparents. The only real important thing to me was that they were present in my life regularly, they loved me unconditionally, and influenced me greatly on how to live and relate with others. They played a major role in how I felt about myself, and how I treated others. Though all my grandparents are gone, their lives still influence my life, especially as it relates to being a grandmother myself.
Mama Dolly and Grandpa Lyle
My maternal grandmother - Mama Dolly
My maternal grandmother was round and plump, with red lips, red hair, and an ample lap to sit on and listen to stories on. I sat on that precious lap and laid my head on the soft bosom more hours than I can count when I was really small. Her name was Dolly, so we called her Mama Dolly. She was a great story teller. Whether it was bible stories, made up stories, or old fables or folk tales, it was a time of learning about God, the world, the way my grandmother thought about herself, God, and others. It was a time of intimacy just between she and I.
A lot of my early nurturing came from Mama Dolly. Hugs and kisses and pet names (mine was "little Madonna") filled our days with her, and she would spend hours playing games with us. The only negative thing that I can say about Mama Dolly is that when my sisters and I were in our teens, she would still look over at our mother and say, "Can I give the girls some c-a-n-d-y?' I guess she forgot how much of a role she played in teaching us to read. Mama Dolly taught us a lot by example on how to have compassion for others and to make helping others a priority. She lived this every day of her life. She was a Christian Scientist by religion, a religion I do not hold to, but she was a "practitioner" and spent many hours a day on the phone with friends who were suffering. What I learned from that was to love and reach out to those who are hurting.
You listened to my childish talk,
found time to take me for a walk.
For memories both old and new,
Grandfather/Grandmother, I love you!
Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David" (Ruth 4:16-17).
My maternal grandfather - Grandpa Lyle
Grandpa Lyle was on the quiet side, but he was quite the tickler. He would get a hold of us in his arms and tickle us, giggling along with us. He had silly little terms of endearment for us. He called us names like Pickle Puss and Snickle Fritz. In fact, the name my Mom was known as, Bunny, came from Grandpa Lyle when she was a Baby. He used to call her his little honey, bunny boo. Eventually it became just Bunny, and it stuck. She switched to her given name, Marilyn, when she hit her 40's.
Grandpa Lyle loved to eat, too (don't all grandpa's), because Mama Dolly was a great cook. He watched a lot of golf and football on TV, but when Mama Dolly brought out the game board, he joined us from time to time. He would say silly, silly things while we played.
Most of the time, Grandpa Lyle was a quiet, loving presence when we were at their house. We loved his presence.
"My son and grandson say that if I only whisper fried chicken they come out of the walls." ~ Maya Angelou
Grandma Boo Boo and Grandpa Len
My paternal grandmother - Grandma Boo Boo
My paternal grandmother's name was Marion, but everyone called her Boo Boo. I think it was a nick name Grandpa gave her, but it was a bit of a secret why he named her that. We just called her Grandma. My children later referred to her as Grandma Boo Boo.
Grandma was tall and slender, gray hair, very few wrinkles, didn't smile much, but when she did it was Christmas. Grandma gave us a perfunctory hug when we came in and when we left. There was nothing in between. But her love language was not physical affection. It was time and attention, and food. If my little sister pulled my hair and called me a name, I went looking for Grandma. When I found her she'd say, "Let Grandma fix you a piece of cinnamon toast and a glass of milk or hot chocolate." If we fell and skinned our knee, it was fixed with a band-aid and bowl of scrambled eggs. If we were good, we helped her make and eat a batch of cookies.
Grandma's menu was the same every time we went over to her house for dinner, except on holidays, and that was pot roast with all the trimmings. We had the same thing every time because she knew it was everyone's favorite. We knew she loved us when we walked in and smelled that pot roast. We knew she loved Grandpa when she tossed him a roll across the dining room table every Sunday dinner. Strangely, not one person in the family had a weight problem at that time. Grandma's idea of playing games was cards rather than board games. Grandma liked to gamble, so she would get out her penny can that she and her friends used to gamble with (at least they weren't high rollers). Grandma was very competitive. We stopped being innocent children when the games began. However, her competitiveness was partly in fun, and while she was bemoaning her fate at one of our ill-timed victory plays, she would say way to go, your getting better and smarter all the time. At the game table is where we saw our grandma laugh the most. She laughed at everything we said and did. Not in a ridiculing way, she just enjoyed the funny things we said. Often our funny words and antics would remind her of a story from her childhood and she would enthrall us with her tales of childhood, which were quite funny.
I don't want to leave out the Dammit Doll. When we were older, grandma brought out the Dammit Doll. The Dammit Doll was a little homemade cloth doll. Whenever Grandma has a bad turn at cards she'd whip out the doll, whack it on the table. and say "Dammit, dammit, dammit." Mom didn't like it much, but she let it go.
Grandma used to love to dress up and have us all dress up and take us "downtown." We would go on a shopping trip once a year where Grandma would take us to get us a "good pair of shoes." This would be followed by lunch at her favorite cafeteria, which we believed had the best restaurant food ever cooked just because Grandma said so. These times with her made us feel very special.
"Joseph said to his father, 'They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” And he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them'” (Gen. 48:9).
My paternal grandfather - Grandpa Len
My Grandpa Len was a very attentive grandpa. He listened to us very carefully and commented on the things we said so we knew he was listening. This particularly had a positive effect on me. I felt of value when my grandparents responded to something I said or did because I knew they were listening and paying attention.
One particularly heartwarming memory of my Grandpa Len was when he took me trick or treating one year when my entire family was at home sick with the flu. He took me for a mile or more, more than my parents ever took us. What I remember so fondly is that Grandpa Len had the time of his life, which made it all the more fun for me. I felt so special that night and was absolutely thrilled to be with him all to myself. We had some very special time together that night and formed a special bond I have never forgotten.
We got home late that night, and my family even roused from their comas to admire all the treasure I brought home to share.
Grandpa loved Grandma's cooking. On the Sunday's we dined there for dinner, Grandma would always say to Grandpa, "Can you pass me a roll, please?" Grandpa would toss the roll across the table to her, which impressed my sisters and I a lot. When my mom and dad first got married my mom had Grandpa and Grandma over for dinner for the first time. She wanted so much to impress them. However, the roast got burnt and Mom was mortified. She served it with "The roast is a little burnt, I'm so sorry." Grandpa told my mom, "Bunny (my mom's name), I love burnt roast." Mom never forgot his kindness that day.
The most memorable thing that Grandpa Len did was his goodbye routine. He always stood on the sidewalk when we piled in the car to go home and put his thumbs on his temples, hands wide open and wiggle them goodbye. He stayed there doing that until we were out of sight. My sisters and I watched out the back window until we couldn't see him anymore. I was always heart broken when he disappeared from sight.
Grandpa Len was a keeper.
Grandchildren are the crowning glory of their Granparents ~ Proverbs 17:6
My life as a grandmother
Now that I am a grandparent, I want to create in relationships with my grandchildren some of the same things my grandparents gave me. However, I am not my grandparents, so I have to use my own personality and style. I do not make scrambled eggs and toast when my grandkids come to me with some poor misfortune. But I hug them, listen, offer comfort, wisdom, and a prayer. These are also opportunities to share some of my experiences as a grandchild that they could identify with. Grandchildren love to hear about the lives of their parents and grandparents back in the day. I think it is difficult for them to fathom what life was like in the day of their grandparents, and they are curious. When we tell them these things, it sparks their imagination.
I have eleven grands at this time and it is sad for me that I don't see them often because they are scattered hither and yon. Several were around me often when they were little, but now are not nearby. But when we do get together, the fun begins. I am a hands-on Nana. I participate in their play and read to them a lot. Much like my Mama Dolly, reading and storytelling is my favorite activity with my grands. It's a perfect opportunity to pass on what my grandmother gave me and form intimate bonds with my little darlin's.
We talk a lot as well. You know, when you go for walks and play with your grandkids you learn a lot about each other. There are questions and comments back and forth, and we learn about each other, in the unspoken as well. I love to take my grandson Max for a walk and ask him questions. One time I asked him on a walk what he wanted to be when he grew up, and his answer was "An adult." That wasn't an answer I was expecting and I found it quite amusing, but when you think about it, that's a reasonable answer.
I tend to be more like my maternal grandmother where affection is concerned. I am a hugger, holder, and kisser. That being said, not all my grandchildren are into that sort of thing, and that is okay. I don't believe in forcing children to be affectionate. It only alienates them.
I think another thing that I have learned the hard way, is to not interfere with the way your children raise their kids unless there is real harm going on. In other words, if they like to give their kids lots of sweets, that's their prerogative. It is they who will have to pay the dentist, not I. If they allow their kids to get up from the table with food still on their plate, that's up to them. I rarely challenge discipline methods. When I do have a concern, it usually has to do with the emotional health of the child rather than just being at odds with their style of discipline. If Mom and Dad are having a disagreement about their child's behavior while I am there, I keep my two cents to myself. That is a place I have no right to be and I don't want to be.
One thing I have to be careful with is not to laugh or show amusement when they are naughty in a humorous way. I hated it when people did that when my kids were young because it only encourages them. So if they do some cute, naughty thing and I feel a giggle coming on, I leave the room and let it out out of earshot.
"For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois..." (2 Tim. 1:5)
Passing on the Legacies of My Grandparents
Although my grandparenting style has some differences from my own grandparents', there are also many similarities. The important thing, is that their legacies live on. What legacies of theirs can I pass on? I can pass on the legacy of love, time, attention, kindness, listening, comfort, fun, and imagination. That's what I was given in different styles, but very effectively. My grandchildren all know they are loved and valued, no matter what they might do wrong. They know that Nana will listen, not condemn, and will pass on wisdom with gentleness.
Mama Dolly, Grandpa Lyle, Grandma, and Grandpa Len, I love you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving me so tangibly, and teaching me how to be a better person, better parent, and better grandparent.
More Family Hubs by Lambservant
- Humor and Reflections on Aging
These tidbits of senior aging will make you laugh with glee.
- Loving the Elderly: My Story
Memories of taking care of my great-aunt and grandmother in their last years. A bittersweet story. But I have found healing of the sadness and am able to help more elderly.
- A Tribute to My Mom: Encourager, Listener, Costume Designer, and Ham Extraordinaire
A daughter reminices on her unique and humorous mother.
♥ Walking With Grandma ♥
I like to walk with Grandma,
Her steps are short like mine.
She doesn't say, "Now hurry up",
She always takes her time.
I like to walk with Grandma,
Her eyes see things like mine do,
Wee pebbles bright, a funny cloud,
half hidden drops of dew.
Most people have to hurry,
They do not stop to see,
I'm glad that God made Grandma
Unrushed and young like me!
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
© Lori Colbo