Everyone knows Mother’s Day is in May and Father’s Day is in June. But I have to wonder, how many people know September brings National Grandparents Day? Since 1978, the first Sunday after Labor Day has had such a designation.
While certainly not as acclaimed as the others, Grandparents Day is worth celebrating. Grandparents play a big role in development and teach us a lot. Though my own grandparents are not around anymore, I know I learned much and have a lot of great memories from them.
My maternal grandfather was not in my life for long at all. He was already sick when I was born and died about six months later. I never had the chance to know him, a fact that bothers me from time to time. This experience has taught me what a void grandparents can leave if they are not around.
My maternal grandmother was a nice lady, but had health problems that affected her mind and ability to function. Much of what we did for her she was unable to remember because of her condition. Her repetitive demands and behavior posed challenges for everybody in the family. It was a personal challenge for me to keep my patience with her. This patience I try to carry with me in nearly all aspects of my life, so she gave me a chance to develop that aspect of my personality.
My paternal grandmother was a fun-loving lady. She would drive my sister and me to parks when we were kids, and enjoyed going to our sporting events. I still remember one New Year’s Eve where she gave us some pots and pans to bang at midnight. My grandparents were never too interested in going to bed early.
My grandmother really enjoyed one of our big family traditions. Each Christmas Eve, we would gather at her house and have a typical holiday dinner. What usually followed was not so normal. It involved one family member dressing as a wise-cracking Santa Claus to pass out gifts while drinking an adult beverage. Some might have discouraged this practice, but my grandmother was enthusiastic about it. I’m grateful for her contributions to many happy Christmas moments.
My paternal grandfather was one of my best friends. For two decades, he was my closest companion and he gave me many memories – far too many to fit into this space. But I can recall how he took spoiling his grandchildren to heart.
From our weekly trips out to eat and other recreational places in the community, to paying me for mowing his lawn, he seemed to have an endless supply of money. Of course, I learned the supply was not so endless when he needed medical care in his final months. Nevertheless, I did find a hidden stash of quarters in his car just last summer on the day before his birthday. I like to think of that as one last gift.
My relationship with my paternal grandfather was not just one-sided. I came to view him as my best friend as well as a grandparent. His personality rubbed off onto me and I began to see myself as almost an extension of him. I valued his company so much that when I was away at school, I would call him just about every other day. He deserved it. I never took him for granted. He is one of many great examples of why grandparents should be celebrated.