Author’s Note: Rummaging through my files the other day I ran across this memory, that I wrote years ago when my granddaughter Shelbi, the daughter of my oldest son Darren and his wife Terrinda, was the only little one for my wife and I to spoil. Now that Shelbi is a young lady entering her teens I want her to know that grandma and grandpa will never forget the wonderful memories her and our other grandchildren gave us through the years.
I am becoming reacquainted with all the little surprises around my house again, thanks to a 2-year-old granddaughter named Shelbi, who is in her, “What’s that?” stage. I follow her and her little index finger around the house saying things like, “That’s a vase, that’s grandma’s watch, and that’s a bug — don’t touch it!” I pick up the bug, and throw it out the front door after she has made several unsuccessful attempts to step on it, then we go on to the next ‘‘What’s that?”
The objects of interest change quickly, but the question is always the same. With 12 years between grandchildren I had forgotten how many questions a little child can ask in the space of a few minutes. They are like little sponges that have to know everything. The best part is they think grandpa actually knows everything; at least they do for a little while.
I think if I could have just one part of my youth back, it would be that ability to be fascinated and surprised by nearly everything the way small children are. I have found the next best thing to having that ability back, however, is following my grandchild around as she discovers all the wonders I had taken for granted for so long. I think anyone would find it hard not to be fascinated by the complexities of a dust mop, or surprised by the beauty in a roll of scotch tape, when viewed through the eyes of a 2-year-old.
Parents and grandparents waste a lot of money on toys for toddlers, because small children find just as much wonder and enjoyment in a rolling pin, or pots and pans, as they do in the dolls and trucks we buy them. I know this is true of the 2-year-old who delights in scattering the contents of her grandmother’s cabinets all over the kitchen floor at least once during each visit to our house.
Somebody asked me a long time ago, when my first grandchild was born, how I felt about becoming a grandfather. I don’t remember what I told the person back then, but if I were asked now, I would say it is like being promoted to a better job with all the perks and not a lot of the responsibilities. It is mainly an advisory position of course, which also means you don’t have to get your hands dirty anymore, the way you did as a father. As a grandfather you don’t have to concern yourself with things like discipline, or the importance of eating vegetables, because that’s a job for mothers and fathers. Grandfathers are in charge of things like pampering, spoiling and making sure there are cookies in the house, something I do well.
I have always enjoyed being a father of course, and it, too, is a wonderful job, but it is a lot more stressful job than that of grandfather. The worries of a father, which start the first day a child is born, and continues forever, is like working a double shift at heavy labor. It is satisfying and worthwhile work, but it can be exhausting too. Being a grandfather on the other hand is more like working part-time and only when you want to. I believe my children will agree with this analogy now that they have children of their own, and I know my mother will.
There is some work to being a grandfather, however, right now I am studying answers for Shelbi’s next stage, which according to the book will be her ‘‘Why?” stage. I remember that stage well, so I am looking up all the why questions I know will be coming one day.
I should have written them down when the other children and grandchildren asked them, but at least I have a computer now, and it shouldn’t be as hard to find out why the sky is blue, and the grass is green this time around.
I know from experience my time as the expert on what and why questions will be short, because my grandchild will learn to use computers and encyclopedias herself someday. This will leave me impatiently waiting for my next grandchild to come along. I just hope it doesn’t take another 12 years. That’s too long between surprises.
P.S. Since this original memory was written Marlene and I have gained two grandchildren, Aiden and his little sister Carrika, four great-grandchildren, Tommy, Kaitlyn, Jessica, and Jonathon. I am once again an expert on all the things grandchildren need to know. For a little while.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.