With the birth of my first grandchild a month ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about being a grandmother. I’ve also been pondering what it’s like to grow up without grandparents.
Thanks to being the last child of older parents, I had just one grandparent still living during my childhood. Grandpa John Wippel died at age 100, when I was 12 years old. My mothers’ parents and my father’s mother had all died before I was born.
When my mother passed away on Jan. 3, 2003, it meant that my two kids no longer had any living grandparents. They were 14 and 10, and I feel fortunate that they did have some time to get to know their grandma before she died in her sleep at age 79.
They say that grandparenting changes your life, and it’s true. There are no words to describe how I felt seeing my 28-year-old son — who in my mind was a baby not that long ago — with his newborn son in his arms. Ditto for the feeling of holding my grandson when he was just two hours old.
What I do remember about my Grandpa John is that he had a green thumb and tended to tomatoes and strawberries in our garden. He also liked to tell stories, and he always had a swig of whiskey before dinner to calm his shaking hands. He called it his medicine and it lived in a special cabinet in our home. I often was the one to bring the bottle to him and he would tip it to his lips, then hand it back to me.
I have often wished that I had been older when he was alive, so I would have asked more questions and learned more about him. But all that mattered at the time was that he was part of our family — and that he loved me.
And I guess that’s the best part about grandparenting. I’ve already paid my dues as a parent — from the early-morning feedings when my children were babies to the late-night worrying when they reached their teens. Now, as a grandmother, my “dues” are simple — unconditional love.
Because someday, all my grandson will have are memories — and knowing that I loved him will be enough.
Wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and grandmothers…
Teresa Wippel, Publisher