Grandfather tells all


We’ve often heard people say how lucky our granddaughters are to have two such wonderful grandparents.

It’s true that the two girls, Tanya and Cynthia, since they were babies, have spent a lot of time with us. Their only parent in the U.S. is a single mom. My wife Toni and I have gladly picked up the slack. Fortunately, we could afford to do things for them their mother couldn’t.

We’ve taken the girls on vacations to Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. They joined us for a trip to Washington, D.C. And for weeks at a time over the years, we took them to the Chautauqua Institution in western New York where they got to see Bill Cosby and other famous performers in person.

I hope we helped enriched their lives and broaden their education with visits to museums, water parks and theaters. And I can’t begin to count the hours we spent reading to them before they were old enough for school. Yes, I suppose you can say they’ve been lucky.

Yet I feel that Toni and I have been the greater beneficiaries. We’ve so much enjoyed having them with us, “just visiting,” as Tanya used to say when she was in elementary school, sitting with us on the back porch in a cool summer evening. They’ve taught us about listening to others. They’ve taught us about being patient with a child’s, ah, interesting preferences in food and about what matters.

If the girls have introduced us to a new meaning of puzzlement, they’ve also enlightened us, especially as they grew into adults, about the true meaning of humility. Between us, my wife and I hold six college degrees. We’re supposed to know stuff. Right? But since they were little, the girls’ questions never failed to stump me and, indeed, often surprised me.

“Grandpa, I’ve got a question,” Tanya used to say. And often, I wanted to say, “I haven’t a clue.”

The girls’ grasp of technology has always seemed intuitive and beyond my mortal comprehension. And we’ve learned to appreciate how two kids who’ve grown up in the same household can be such close friends and such different people. In personalities. In talents. In interests. So you don’t talk to them the same way.

Before they went to school, they had memorized the words in the stories we read to them. I recall, before she was in kindergarten, Cynthia reading from a paper or book just lying around.

“Well, so much for the importance of phonics,” Grandma said. At the time, Grandma was a school principal.

They loved sledding in our backyard which is mostly a steep hill. They have always helped Grandma Toni cook in the kitchen. They had learned early on the power of persistence.

Some years back, after her bath one evening, I was reading a story to Cynthia. “I want another bath,” she informed me midway through the story.

“Nah,” I said, “You’re clean enough now.”

“Por favor,” she said repeatedly in Spanish. (Her dad is Hispanic and her mother, my daughter, teaches high school Spanish.) I ran the bath water again.

It’s hard to imagine how much I would have missed without those girls in my life. I loved hugging them and kissing them when they were little. I loved giving comfort and wiping their tears. I loved laughing out loud at their impromptu dramas. I burst with pride watching them perform in high school choirs and plays.

My hope is that they remember the good times spent with us as fondly as I remember the many days and hours I spent with my grandparents. Such relationships never fail to bring me good feelings. And I just have to smile.

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