Upon reflecting on spending Saturday morning with Great-grandparents, Grandparents, Parents, and child, the continuum struck me as profound. I now have five close friends who are grandparents. Everyone of them says being a grandparent is the best experience in the world–they don’t actually have to say that, the look on their faces says it all.
Perhaps it brings a sigh of relief knowing that you can pass the baton and let your child be the one who does all the hard stuff while you sweep in to blow raspberries on baby’s belly or to spoil a toddler with cookies at breakfast or let a ‘tween do something they’re not allowed to do with a wink and a shared secret never to be told to your children?
I am reminded of my own grandparents. My father’s parents were born before the turn of the century–the 20th, that is. My father was a late comer in their lives, born when they were in their 40’s. By the time I arrived on the scene, they were nearly 70.
They were still fun people, albeit moving slowly, until I was about 12 or so. We saw them twice a year, living about a 10-hour drive away. Grandma always baked for us. She made fancy homemade cakes for my brother’s birthday at Christmas. But what really got us excited wasn’t the cake. It was her marshmallow treats. We had never had them before my grandmother made them for us the first time. She set the standard.
My grandmother also made the best strawberry preserves I ever ate in my life. Grandma’s strawberry preserves were so darn good, I still drool whenever I think about them. I used to regret not learning from her how to make them, but now I think the memory of those preserves is sacred. Grandma’s secret ingredient in all her recipes was an infusion of love. Eating her goodies was like a sacrament–the embodiment of all that she hoped to pass down to us.
My grandfather did not bake. Rather, he was just downright silly. He was world-class when it came to horse play. Whether it was chasing us around the house (irritating Grandma with our shrieks of joy), bouncing us on his knee, or pretending to steal our noses, Grandpa’s genuine goofiness was a crowd pleaser.
The most poignant moment of visiting Grandma and Grandpa always came when we waved goodbye. Armed with a bag of candies to get us safely home again, we waved out the back window of the station wagon and watched Grandma bury her tear-streaked face in Grandpa’s shoulder as we disappeared from view. I asked my mom once why Grandma always cried when we left. Mom said something about Grandma missing us when we’re gone. I didn’t figure out until many years later that it was because every time she said goodbye, she thought it would be the last.