By Karen O’Connor
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts (Psalm 145:4).
I remember as a child standing outside my grandfather’s bedroom door (he lived with my family at the time) watching him read from an old black book. “What’re you reading?” I asked one day, feeling shy, yet curious.
“The Bible,” he answered, his blue Irish eyes shining. “Want to take a look at it with me?”
That was my first introduction to Scripture—and it led the way to a close and personal relationship with my grandfather that lasted until his death at age 90. We took walks together, shared stories, and played checkers. He paid for me to be on the high school bowling team because bowling was his favorite sport.
As I reflect on those special times now that I have grandchildren of my own, I see what a positive influence Grandpa had in my life. This memory led me to interview six grandfathers and friends of mine about their role as grandfather and the legacy they want to leave their granddaughters and grandsons. Here’s what they shared.
Superheroes and Princesses
Nick is a babyboomer who admits the era he couldn’t have imagined a few years ago, has arrived. He’s now a grandfather and on diaper duty all over again—but this time with a new generation of babies and toddlers.
His favorite topics of conversation these days are Batman and Superman—his two grandsons! He recalls, “The other night I was babysitting Batman and after watching Finding Nemo (again) and turning off the DVD player, a TV channel came on featuring some oldies. What a surprise it was to see the original Batman TV series starring Adam West. To my 4-year-old authority, however, Adam West didn’t make the grade.”
Of course Nick cannot ignore the two female grandchildren in his discussion. “They are princesses,” he said, “so in addition to the superhero factor, we now have royalty in our lineage—downline, that is!”
It seems playing games goes both ways with Grandpa Nick. “Hide the Bell is a fun one at our house,” he said. “At their house, the boys like to play ‘Let’s teach Grandpa how to use the two remotes again.’ I don’t enjoy that game.”
Being kind and “supporting them as they grow in the love of God” is of utmost importance to Nick. When the kids were in the midst of the terrible twos, he said he was too harsh with them. But then he quickly decided, “I don’t want my grandchildren to remember me as old and crabby, but rather as a happy man, especially one who was happiest when I was with them.”
Charles says his goal is to instill something of himself in the lives of his grandchildren and to offer them what he refers to as the “costly wisdom” he’s accumulated over the years. “I want to listen, encourage, and compliment them on their efforts and achievements and share some stories about my life at their ages so they’ll know I can relate to their dreams and struggles.” Charles wants to be remembered as a grandpa who was available, honest, and kind. He wants his grandchildren to know he loves their parents and their grandmother, that he always hopes for the best for them, and that he’s a person they can count on.
Here Comes Papa!
Jim says, ”I could write a book on the pleasures of being a grandparent, but since I don’t get much of a chance to visit them, the most special thing to me is the sound of the word Papa when they see me coming. It sends a feeling through me that I wish I could bottle.” To watch the grandkids “grow into beautiful, talented, and intelligent people is a blessing I cannot express. As they look down on me on my last day, I pray they remember me with a smile, knowing that my love was always there for them, no matter what.”
Devoted to Christ
Jay expressed his gratitude that his children have given him grandchildren. “They are blessings from God. I love to see their active lives and to let them know how proud I am of their accomplishments and their skills. Most important, I want them to live lives that are devoted to Jesus Christ.” Jay hopes they know that he loves them deeply and that he loves the Lord and has chosen to serve him.
In a card for Jay’s 75th birthday, he received a note from his 13-year-old granddaughter saying she wanted to see more of him and his wife, Linda. “This touched me deeply,” said Jay, who’s been in a lot of pain the last few years, which has made it difficult to spend as much time with his grandkids as he’d like.
Roy believes it’s important “to take time to be with my grandchildren, to share stories, and to view God’s amazing creation with them. It’s very difficult when separated by many miles, so I know I must seize the moment when it’s there. I want to be a Christian example of a godly man in every area of life,” he added. He’d most like to be remembered as a person who would “talk and pray with them at any time, in any place. And I hope they will see me as a man who knew Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, one who walked his talk.”
A “Wolo” to Remember
Dan never knew his grandparents, so being a grandfather is very special to him. “My grandchildren know me as Lolo, which means “grandfather” in Filipino. But since at an early age the kids pronounced the first L as a W, I became Wolo––and that’s fine with me.”
Being a grandfather is, for Dan, “God’s grace in my life. I now have that opportunity to stop and smell the roses. Dan and his wife, Alicia, have six grandkids––three girls and three boys, and another on the way.
“The love and adoration I experience when we’re together is thrilling,” said Dan. “When I consider how much I love my children and grandchildren, I realize that God’s love for me is even greater.”
Dan keeps his relationships alive with special celebrations for birthdays and holidays, weekend BBQs, drop-in weekday dinners, or overnighters. “It’s in those moments I can impart some wisdom as a grandparent. I find the most precious times are when they stay the night. I make popcorn and Alicia makes cookies to enjoy as we watch their favorite movies. Later, when they’re lying with us in bed, we have a question-and-answer time. Sometimes they share their deepest thoughts as I stroke their hair, sing a lullaby, and pray to Jesus. I’ll usually whisper, “Don’t forget to sleep with your eyes open.” Of course they drift off within moments.
“At those times I can plant trust, safety, and love along with a knowledge of Jesus Christ. I feel I’m investing in the future, for times when they need someone to talk to. I want them to know they can turn to me in times of trouble and I’ll help them get straight with the Lord.”
More than anything Dan wants to be remembered as a Wolo who was first and foremost “a man who loved the Lord, who had a sense of humor, and was always loving and giving.”
Karen O’Connor is a freelance author (and grandmother) living in Watsonville, California.
Wisdom from Real-Life Grandpas
Spend quality time with your grandchildren, even if it means being involved in activities you aren’t particularly interested in.
Treat your grandchildren like you would want to be treated.
Keep in mind that you still need to honor the wishes of the parents no matter how much fun you might be having with your grandchildren.
When your grandchildren are visiting for a day or an afternoon, let them help you with chores around the house or yard—but don’t expect the work to be done as it would if you were doing the tasks by yourself. You can always come back to the work when you’re alone; their parents don’t always have that luxury.
Tell stories about their parents when they were kids. I believe it helps the children see their parents as real people.
Make sure they see not only how much you love them, but also how much you love their parents.
I think we may be in a unique position where we can be seen as an impartial voice of support for their parents. We can listen to what the grandchildren say about Mom and Dad with a sympathetic ear, then offer another perspective in a way Mom and Dad cannot.