My grandson came over for a visit yesterday. That got me thinking about the relationship I have with him, and indeed the relationship I had with my own grandpa.
This is a picture of me with my grandpa circa 1955. I was a bit older than Teddy and Grandpa Hawley was probably 80 at the time. Fashions have changed a bit but the relationship is still fresh in my mind.
In fact I would say that many of the same principles apply today that applied 59 years ago.
- Grandpas are a link with the past. My grandfather was born in 1875 – close to two human lifetimes ago. He grew up in the woodstove, coal oil lamp, horse and steam traction era. He had personal memories of the Boer War, Victorian and Edwardian society, World Wars, the Depression. When I studied some of this in history at school, he was there to give a personal interpretation. In the same way if my grandson studies the 1950s, the JFK and Martin Luther King assassinations, the turbulent 60s, Woodstock, the Vietnam War – I’ll be able to do the same for him. Plus I remember all my grandfather’s stories so I can at least tell them secondhand.
- Grandpas are a treasury of stories. My grandfather was a farmhand, a teamster (with horses even), a garbage collector for the town, a rural mail delivery guy, a factory worker. He had many stories about growing up in a log cabin, walking miles to go home from the farm, working with mules, horses and ponies, steam threshing, railway operations, and on and on. He even had stories about his parents, uncles, even his grandparents. I never got tired of hearing them. Some of these stories will stretch back 6 generations for my grandson.
For my part I can tell Teddy about growing up without TV (and then watching black and white stuff on 4 channels), worries about polio and smallpox vaccinations, getting the measles (no vaccines then), seeing my first computer which was the size of a room, the end of steam on the railways, doing math without a calculator, etc. Not quite as cool as my grandfathers muleskinner stories but interesting enough for a 6 year old.
- Grandpas have the time. My grandfather was over 70 when I was born and spent a lot of time with the grandkids. I’m not living in the same town with Teddy but I’m close enough to see him once a week and I have the benefit of Skype which my grandfather did not. We always have time and we (usually) have the patience. I spent some time yesterday getting whipped in a Hot Wheels card game and I plan to teach Teddy how to play cribbage someday.
There’s a special love between grandpas and grandsons, largely because even a grandpa is a little boy at heart. The lack of pressure to be a totally adult presence (that is Daddy’s job) lets the little boy come out. One of my Grandpa’s favorite poems was called “I’m only a boy”:
I’m only a boy with a heart light and free;
I am brimming with mischief and frolic and glee.
I dance with delight, and I whistle and sing,
And you’d think such a boy never cares for a thing.
But boys have their troubles, though jolly they seem;
Their thoughts can go deeper than some people deem.
Their hearts are as open to sorrow as joy,
And each has his feelings, though only a boy.
Now oft when I’ve worked hard at piling the wood,
Have done all my errands, and tried to be good,
I think I might then have a rest or a play;
But how shall I manage? Can anyone say?
If I start for a stroll, it is “Keep off the street!”
If I go to the house it is “Mercy! What feet!”
If I take a seat, ’tis “Here! Give me that chair!”
If I lounge by the window, ’tis “Don’t loiter there!.
“If I ask a few questions ’tis “Don’t bother me!”
Or else: “Such a torment I never did see!.”
I am scolded or cuffed if I make the least noise,
Till I think in this wide world there’s no place for boys.
At school they are shocked if I want a good play;
At home or at church I am so in the way;
And it’s hard, for I don’t see that boys are to blame,
And most any boy, too, will say just the same.
Of course a boy can’t know as much as a man,
But we try to do right, just as hard as we can.
Have patience dear people , though oft we annoy,
For the best man on earth, once was “only a boy.”
To which thoughts I can only offer a profound “Amen.”